How a New Partnership Led to Beautiful Insights




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Mar 07, 2019
by Lucy Browett
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How a New Partnership Led to Beautiful Insights

Salzburg Global Fellow Helen Yung collaborates with fellow YCI alumnus Nic Aziz after receiving a travel scholarship Helen Yung (center) and Nic Aziz (left) collaborate at a workshop with Nuestra Voz (Photo by Taylor Castillo of Nuestra Voz)

From one YCI Hub to another. Helen Yung is an interdisciplinary artist, researcher and cultural consultant working in Toronto, Canada. Using a travel scholarship, she was able to travel to New Orleans to collaborate with another YCI Fellow.

The trip took place through a travel scholarship awarded by Salzburg Global Seminar and funded by the Kresge Foundation to enable YCI alumni to continue collaborating across borders.

Yung, who attended the fourth program of the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators in 2017, collaborated with Nic Aziz, who participated at the YCI Forum in 2016, having met at the Americas Cultural Summit hosted in 2018 by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Discussing how this collaboration came about, Yung said, “Nic and I were introduced in advance of the Summit via email by YCI Forum facilitator Shelagh Wright. There were many participants from around the world, so if Shelagh hadn’t made that effort to connect us, we might not have met at the Americas Cultural Summit. When we did meet, Nic and I found we had a lot in common, a kind of immediate affinity. We even gathered a small group to participate a bit differently in the Summit proceedings, so engaging as collaborators was intuitive, organic.”

She added, “The fact that there a travel grant was offered by Salzburg Global soon after the Summit made it immediately possible for me to follow up with Nic to ask if he wanted to think about working together. He replied saying he had thought the same thing, and so, again, the rest developed organically out of our practices, networks, and interests.”

The Fellows led a roundtable discussion with Arts Council New Orleans, a workshop with Nuestra Voz at their monthly punta del pueblo (community meeting) and assembled a photo exhibition that Nic had curated for the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA).

Commenting on the Nuestra Voz workshop, Yung said, “They had never offered any artistic workshops before, so this was both a bold move on their part. After the workshop, which was very successful, the staff were delighted with the impact and invited us to come back any time.

“After this positive first experience, I think they will be very receptive to future opportunities to work with artists.”

Commenting further, Yung said, “Workshop participants had a beautifully positive experience. Very quickly, everyone was laughing and inside of a special experience. I think it surprised some people how engaged everyone was… They genuinely seemed to melt and glow a bit more each time we went around the circle, and no one felt shy about visualizing their thoughts on paper when we went to table work.”

Following Yung’s travel scholarship, Aziz and Yung were invited by the Toronto Arts Council to speak at Emergence, a community arts symposium, to share their experiences as collaborators. 

Discussing her and Aziz’s talks at Emergence, Yung said, “Both our talks were enthusiastically received. Many people came up to both of us afterward, wanting to connect and offer words of appreciation. We also shared it more informally in our internal YCI Canada Hub meetings.”

Yung has also found other opportunities for collaboration as a result of this scholarship. She said, “While I was in New Orleans, Nic introduced me to Bryan C. Lee Jr, one of the co-founders of Paper Monuments, and the former executive director of Arts Council New Orleans. It was one of those tired afternoons. Bryan and I had both been traveling for work. Nic had a lot on his plate too, on top of having to host me. But once we started talking, there was again a happy affinity, a strong sense of common values and interests, as well as an opportunity to be challenged by another’s way of working in the world. So we all ended up going out for dinner to talk more, and the YCI Canada hub ended up hiring him to come to Toronto to present a Design As Protest workshop, which was a sold-out affair.

“I’ve since helped bring Bryan back to Toronto again as a speaker at the DemocracyXChange Summit. While he was in [Toronto] the second time, I took him out to see Black Lives Matter Toronto’s new multipurpose space, which I had just signed on to design with Foundation Creative Studio. Bryan offered his architectural services, so now we are collaborating on that space transformation project as well.”

Reflecting on her travel scholarship experience, Yung added, “There is no question that being able to travel and meet others in person, and particularly in their home communities, is important. I appreciated the opportunity to develop more insights into creative, international, multidisciplinary collaboration and community-based work. In many ways, this is a practice of care. Collaborating through artistic practice, through the embodied enactment of one’s beliefs and perspectives - as opposed to administratively or financially - allows us to better see and understand the socio-political dimensions that shape and inform each other’s work. Being more aware of the invisible enables us to activate, transform or augment what is latent, stuck or underpowered. There is so much more that can be done.”

The Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators empowers rising talents in the creative sector to drive social, economic and urban change. Launched in 2014, it is building a global network of 500 competitively-selected change-makers in “Hub” communities who design collaborative projects, build skills, gain mentors, and connect to upcoming innovators in their cities and countries.

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