radical art/work: meet advisor-speaker-writer-global citizen April Rinne
Welcome to the latest in our radical art/series.
Today's radiant spring weather suits the effervescent rockstar of a human being you're about to meet.
One of the joys of being a yoga teacher is getting to share space with a diverse cross-section of people every single day. In any given class, you might find a gazillionaire start-up founder to your left, a grad student dog-walker to your right, a pediatric ICU nurse behind you, and a pastry chef just up ahead — all disguised by the great equalizing power of sweatpants and bare feet.
The grace of this yogapant-populism is that those manifold folks oftentimes stick to your life, becoming kindred spirits who stay close even when thousands of miles come between you.
April Rinne is one of those gifts.
I first noticed April's strong, elegant, handstand-rocking practice when she took my vinyasa class at YoYoYogi, back in Portland, Oregon. This tiny powerhouse of a woman had the self-aware, steadfast flow of a dancer or a gymnast — and sure enough, when we chatted after class, I learned that not only was she a former gymnast, she was also a Harvard Law alum, an international speaker, a prolific writer, a respected advisor, and most of all, a global citizen traversing the world in service of joy, gratitude, and curiosity.
I thought to myself: "This woman is someone special."
April grabs life by the collar.
She's the consummate professional, a 21st-century Renaissance woman; a brilliant soul-worker with insatiable curiosity and a beginner's mind whose labor of love is rooted in interdependence, relationality, and wonder. April, too, is someone who lost her parents in her 20s, and used that experience of deep grief and loss as an engine for living a life of creativity and connection. Her effervescent, grounded prana (yoga-speak for "life force") is a testament to that work: a model of integration, wholeness, and flourishing. Whether she realizes it or not, yoga philosophy is infused in all that she does.
Listen to April's stories of her time yurt-to-yurt trekking in Mongolia, curating solutions in South Africa, studying with Elizabeth Warren in Cambridge, speaking in Estonia, building bridges in Macedonia, and rocking handstands on the Great Wall of China. She is so humble and bright; and yet, especially as a woman, consciously takes up social, intellectual, and physical space in the most inspired, authentic of ways.
Put simply: April is #goalz.
Meet her below, and then read April's latest article in Quartz, on how to build a portfolio-based bento box of a career.
What's your medium?
The world and its varied landscapes.
What's your latest project?
Bridging companies and governments, public and private sectors, different voices and perspectives around the world, to better understand the "new economy" and the massive shifts in technology and society that are underway.
Who's your target audience?
It depends. Often startups and policy makers ~ occasionally think tanks or impact investors ~ whenever possible, youth ~ and always, always global citizens.
Three key words that shape your art/work:
Non-linear. (Sorry, four!) :)
Who or what introduced you to this medium?
My father, who was a cultural geographer and my best friend. He taught me that the world and all its diversity were beautiful things, and that I should do all I could to explore and nurture them.
Where do you live and how does your home town/region affect your art work?
My homes are Portland, Oregon and the world. I work in about 20 different countries a year (typically spread among the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa) and I've learned to feel comfortable almost anywhere. But there's nowhere quite as special as Portland and the Pacific NW.
Public or private school education?
Entirely public school through high school. Private university and grad school.
Do you have any kind of spiritual practice? What does it look like?
Yoga, definitely. It goes far beyond the physical practice and has had a profound effect on my spirituality. I consider nature to be "church," so I often take long walks and commune there. Daily gratitude. I spend a lot of time in other cultures, and wherever I am, I try to go to the local religious center (be it a church, temple, mosque, tree, etc.) and simply be present and give thanks there.
Three books that changed your life:
(1) Motherless Daughters, which was invaluable in the aftermath of losing both my parents in a car accident while I was in college.
(2) Give and Take, by Adam Grant, on cultures of generosity.
(3) Lonely Planet travel books. I have traveled so much and for so long, that I have an entire bookcase full.
Three artists you admire:
Drue Kataoka (with whom I'm also lucky to be friends).
Three causes you're passionate about:
(1) Global citizenship.
(2) Economic empowerment, especially among women.
(3) Unlocking personal agency (that we all have superpowers).
Three teachers who taught you something important:
(1) My husband Jerry, who has maintained the curiosity of a five-year-old throughout life and sees every day as amazing, every topic as fascinating in some way, and every person as offering unique gifts.
(2) My Italian professor at university who is now, practically speaking, the person I consider as if she were my mom.
(3) Marti Spiegelman, a biochemist-turned-graphic designer-turned-shaman and expert in consciousness.
Virginia Woolf famously said a woman writer needs a room of her own. What do you need to create your art? Any non-negotiables?
Independence. Time on my own, to think and explore. Occasional long walks in Forest Park and adventures "just because" (most recently: a month in Albania, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia and Moldova...)
One thing that pisses you off:
The degree to which we've created a world from an assumption of mistrust of the average individual. Wouldn't most of us consider ourselves trustworthy? If so, then why don't we trust each other?
Shittiest job you've ever had:
Thankfully no downright shitty jobs -- even in jobs I enjoyed less, I always found something to learn -- though a few pretty crappy co-workers.
What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?
That inner voice you've got? Keep listening to it. Trust it.
Secret pop culture crush:
I have a crazy fascination with European royalty, even since my days living in London and reading Hello! magazine in the supermarket queue.
Biggest challenge of your art/work?
Staying continually comfortable with how "emergent" what I do is. I'm dealing with concepts, opportunities and challenges that are unprecedented. Often, it's pathfinding at its most essential: finding a path where none exists. (Also, being my own boss, sometimes it's hard to rein myself in from the many different things I want to do!)
In five years, what does your art/work look like?
Hopefully I've gone deeper, developed a crisper point of view and positively impacted a broader set of people and organizations than today. I really love what I do; I just want to do it better, smarter, and in ways that benefit society even more. Plus of course, more travels and adventures along the way!
Website and social media links where we can follow you and learn more about your art/work?
Whew. What a woman, amirite?
Take some time digging into April's website. I promise you'll walk away inspired.
In the meantime: thanks for reading. Keep making art. Keep raising hell.
We'll see you next week for more.
Rachel Meyer is a Boston-based writer and yoga teacher. Her work has appeared in The
Washington Post, On Being, Yoga Journal, Tricycle, Yoga International, HuffPost, and more. You can find her at www.rachelmeyeryoga.com or @rachelmeyeryoga.