BEA YING PROJECTS
I have to say that sometimes I feel like a floating eyeball. Yes, I understand that doesn't immediately make sense but think of it this way... Since I have moved to Houston I have seen many different creative lives come and go and sometimes come back again. My new way of describing this is basically "witnessing" and in a city of millions people, it can be hard to wrap my head around the amount of new faces I see. My goal for this year was to archive every important connection I come across.
If my memory serves me correctly, I think I first met Arie Thrasher through her sister Lauren. Although I totally remember seeing her in a yoga class once at the UH Campus Recreation Center and I'm almost positive that I met Lauren at Black Hole. I guess you can describe the mantra of my early college years as "meet lots of people" and "seek lots of knowledge." Lauren was one of the most brave people I had ever met in my life. She was liberated, happy and gifted with so much creativity! I remember going to her house in the Third Ward and being taken by everything: collaged paintings on the walls, poetry flooding the journals on the table, Cocorosie in the background, vibrant colorful produce covering the countertops and stuffed vegan pasta shells in the oven. She shared the house with a roommate and her older sister Arie, who she said was studying business at UH.
Lauren moved to Seattle and I kept in touch with her life virtually. This is when my "super community" started to form. Lauren had posted a picture of her sister on Instagram and I remembered seeing her from the yoga class and I think once from The Honeymoon. I learned later that Arie was good friends with my actual next door neighbor and I was able to reconnect with her again this past November.
After following her on Instagram, I quickly realized that she was the founder of Bea Ying Projects and the alternative art studio space Common House Studios. Instantly intrigued, I clicked through to the website and found myself impressed not only with the work being showcased but also with the overall mission "to provide a platform for early career visual artists of generation Y by producing and promoting group and solo pop-up exhibitions, providing affordable studio space and brokering artwork." As I continued to scroll through the photos, I began to recognize many familiar people ... these were the contemporary artists of our community's next generation.
It is with a very excited heart that I say these last four years I have watched Arie create this moment for herself and her passion. I am beyond excited for what's happening now and what's next for her.
Who is this ambitious hardworking hustle queen you should know? Read on to find out.
You studied business, how did you become interested in the art field?
I first became interested in art as a kiddo. My mother is a multi disciplinary artist and always made sure my sister and I were engaged in something creative. I also consider my father an artist in a sense. He's the most epic story teller I've ever met. They both also encouraged me to be myself and follow my heart. So I think my upbringing put me in an open enough place to appreciate art.
Studying business seemed to be the most practical route for me at 18, a young woman still getting to know myself and what I wanted long term. It turned out that studying entrepreneurship at the Wolff Center was the key experience that opened my mind to realize that anything is possible, including thriving and having a fully engaged, rewarding life while working in the arts. Plus, I see business as the rules and guidelines for surviving in modern society. I think that any artist who wants to be a full time professional, absolutely must be an entrepreneur and wear all the hats (at least in the beginning).
I love your unique name! Where did you first come up with it?
Thank you! It was created while writing poetry. Bea was the name my father wanted to give me but was over ruled by my Momma. I started signing my journals with Bea about 3 months before I started Bea Ying Projects. Then one day I just spontaneously threw the Ying behind the Bea, which was to be pronounced the same as 'being'. (I also was an ignorant American and thought that the 'Yin' in 'Yin Yang' was spelled Ying and I wanted that to imply balance.)
In general, I believe all human beings/beayings are all creators in some shape or form and that's expressed in many ways. Artists take responsibility for that and choose to take conscious action with that creative power. They bring ideas into physical existence and open up, making themselves vulnerable. This is why i'm passionate about art, because of the artists behind it, who have something to say and contribute to the world. There is something we can learn about human nature from every single human creation.
It felt appropriate to name my arts organization Bea Ying Projects because I wanted to create a platform where artists of our generation could explore, develop and display their work and careers without too many unnecessary boundaries. Therefore the name is meant to be very general yet meaningful to my perspectives.
How did Bea Ying Projects start?
When I was 15 I started the art club at my high school. I don't think I knew why at the time, I hardly ever made anything, I think I just liked getting all the artists together in the same place. We would take field trips to DiverseWorks and we even went to an art show at the old Super Happy Fun Land. At the end of the year my friend Leah Gilman and I planed a huge charity art show at the local VFW... and this is what started it all. It was the most fun and fulfilling thing i'd ever done but I didn't think I could make a job out of planning art shows, so I went onto business school.
Bea Ying Projects started 7 years after my first show, with a hunger for action and a seed of opportunity. I graduated from the Wolff Center for Entrepreneurship in 2014 with a fire in my heart to do something with what I'd learned and I knew I wanted to get into the art world somehow. So when I was given the opportunity to do a group show in January of 2015 at a friends loft, I took it and ran with it. It turned into a 100 piece show, with 28 artists, on two floors, an installation on the elevator, with a handful of sponsors and valet. I think around 400 people showed up. This one piece kept falling off the wall, but it was a blast. I did 14 more projects in 2015 and learned a ton.
How do you all select the artists for your studio?
Short answer: we select based on an interview process, to find out if our studio and their goals are in alignment.
Because of the studio's guidelines, it almost works as a 6 month program of sorts. We only allow visual, early career artists who are serious about developing their work. We ask them to show their previous work and to set goals for the future. We ask them to contribute to shows every three months and to lease the studio space for at least 6 months. We ask them to engage and commit to a lot. And we hope that they are enthusiastic about working there. The purpose of studio is to create an affordable space for a motivated, ambitious community that inspires each other and that does as much as they can with what they have.
How do you find artists for your pop-up shows? What is this process like?
I find artists through friends, the Common House, through surfing the internet and then sometimes they approach me. There are so many young artists with so much talent, so I follow them on Instagram or friend them on Facebook and just observe. Once I see what lane they are in, I start to think of opportunities that would be a good fit for them. I do a lot of dot connecting and need to do it even more. I may explore an open call format in the future but have only done this once so far. I also accept project/exhibition proposals.
Who are your early influences and who are your influences now?
My mom and my dad are my earliest and most impactful influences. These days I try not to be 'influenced' by too much, although I understand it's inevitable. I try to pay attention to those that I know are smarter than me and learn from them. I definitely draw inspiration from the artists around me and that I see in the world doing dope stuff and living their dreams.
You seem to always have a project lined up. What keeps you going?
Passion and commitment to my dreams keeps me going. I genuinely love art and artists. I also have a tendency to want to push my self all the way to the edge of things and see what happens. You miss 100% of the shots you don't take. And experience is the best teacher. Last year I made plenty of mistakes, but feel stronger than ever.
What's next for Bea Ying?
Exhibition-wise, I'm working on a two week long group show with artists Liam Shaw, Rowan Liebrum, Yash Naik, Brandon Mahler and Jenaro Goode that opens at Tomo Mags on April 1st. Check out the Facebook event here. They're all good friends that have similar influences but work in a variety of mediums. I'm excited to see how their work relates and gels together in an exhibition setting. The next open studio at the house will be end of April or early May and we have four new artists in the house whose work blows my mind. There will also be some fascinating screenings and performances happening over the next 6 months at the house.
Behind the scenes-wise, I'd like to find a partner or intern whose interested in contributing 4-5 hours a week on things like, compiling photos of artists work, interviewing them, posting to social media, and miscellaneous help with exhibition planning. I also hope to do some meaningful collaborations with people that I admire in the community. I'd like to expose my artists work to new appreciators and I'd like to continue innovating exhibition formats of presenting art. Long-term I'd like to move towards carving out my niche and formalizing my business model. But first I plan on finding a solid mentor and dedicating some serious time to studying art history.