Jung-Suk Ryu – The Desire to Create Better Societies and Communities Transcends Across Different Sectors




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Oct 23, 2017
by Oscar Tollast
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Jung-Suk Ryu – The Desire to Create Better Societies and Communities Transcends Across Different Sectors

Executive director of Indefinite Arts Centre reflects on his new position and multi-sector career Jung-Suk (JS) Ryu, executive director of the Indefinite Arts Centre, is also a classically trained pianist and founding artistic director of the Ottawa Symphonic Ensemble

Jung-Suk Ryu can’t think of a better job right now that taps into his passions. The 32-year-old is four months into his new role as the executive director of the Indefinite Arts Centre – Canada’s oldest
disability arts organization.

Ryu, who also goes by “JS,” took on the role having previously worked as director of external and community relations for the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, and director of public affairs for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). Ryu says, “Where I am now is [at] that perfect blend of both of those worlds that absolutely excites me.”

The Indefinite Arts Centre provides training, creation and exhibition opportunities for artists who live with developmental disabilities. Just over 200 artists visit the Centre’s studio space each week to take part in self-directed artistic programs where are they given the freedom to create whatever they wish.

Ryu, speaking at the fourth Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators, says, “Our organization helps them through that creation process all the way up to the exhibition where we exhibit their works both in our own gallery space within our facility but also within the city of Calgary, within the country, and also internationally.”

A whole new world opened up for Ryu during his time at CNIB, an experience he found extremely humbling.

“It certainly was extraordinary to realize the potential that is within countless Canadians across the country who happen to live with disabilities but are making tremendous contributions
in their own communities in their own ways.”

After two years with CNIB, Ryu moved across to the arts sector to work for the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. Here he oversaw the growth of the Centre’s public sector funding at a time of economic uncertainty. In his words, he was “the first sort of in-house lobbyist for this organization.”

Ryu focused on strategizing and developing ways to increase the organization’s awareness within the public sector, strengthen relationships, and present a stronger case. He says, “I just helped capture what I was seeing into something that did indeed resonate with both levels of government that would
fund us. That was really exciting to see.”

The experience Ryu has accumulated in his career spans across multiple sectors including health care, politics, and communications. When asked if transitioning between these fields can be challenging, Ryu replies, “Absolutely not.”

Expanding on this point further, Ryu says, “Everybody, in all sectors, we’re innovating. We’re trying to create a better community and a better society. We’re trying to address different gaps and means. What I’ve realized – especially with my career starting off in politics – I’ve realized that desire transcends sectors.” For Ryu, each sector is driven by the same thing. “Your staff is still tapping into that desire for all individuals to aspire to create stronger more resilient communities – whatever the audience may be, whatever that particular client group you’re working with. I haven’t really found it that much of a
challenge. I think it’s tapping into that desire for change.”

Ryu was one of five Canadians to attend this year’s Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators, whose presence was made possible thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts.

He was made aware of the opportunity thanks to a connection at the Council he made at a summit in Montreal last year. “If I had not gone to that event in Montreal, I would not have known about it whatsoever. It’s the same thing today. If I’m not here interacting with 49 other peers, who knows what kind of other opportunities I might not be able to experience?”

Ryu described his first few days at Salzburg Global as “overwhelming,” highlighting, in particular, the opportunity to hear about a wide range of different initiatives and take part in informative skill-building workshops with different facilitators. “It is an incredible, unparalleled learning and networking experience and something that is so relevant to me because of the stage that I am in my career….”

“These types of opportunities that help ground us in realizing that there’s tremendous potential to take pause and learn but to also take pause and make more and make friends and make networks, I think is so valuable.”

The Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators IV is part of a ten-year multi-year series. This year's program is supported by the Albanian-American Development Foundation, American Express, Arts Council Malta, Cambodian Living Arts, Canada Council for the Arts, Edward T. Cone Foundation, Fulbright Greece, Japan Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, Adena and David Testa, and the U.S. Embassy Valetta, Malta. More information on the session can be found here. More information on the series can be found here. You can follow all the discussions on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram by using the hashtag #SGSyci.

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