The Twitter Art Exhibit team conducted a brief interview with Anson Yew, MD, the owner of Exhale Unlimited Gallery, which hosted Twitter Art Exhibit Los Angeles from January 12 to February 10, 2013.
Anson Yew, MD,
Owner of Exhale Unlimited Gallery in Chinatown’s Arts District.
Photo courtesy of www.cartwheelart.com
T.A.E.: Hi Anson, thanks so much for donating your space to our exhibition, and for making this possible.
A.Y.: My pleasure!
T.A.E.: So, we’re kind of curious to find out how you felt about the concept when you were first approached by the curators to participate in Twitter Art Exhibit.
A.Y.: Initially I thought it was a great idea but I was a little apprehensive about the logistics. I wasn’t sure how it was going to come together, but I had worked with the curators before so I trusted them. I know they have a heart for helping those in need.
T.A.E.: You agreed to donate your space so 100% of proceeds could go directly to the charity, Art Division. What are your thoughts on Art Division’s program? Why did you get involved?
A.Y.: Art Division is an art program for at-risk young adults in central Los Angeles, an area where the population is critically under-served. I’ve had a chance in the last few years to volunteer with an art program that supports the mentally disabled, and although Art Division serves a much different population, I know first-hand that art can have a profound effect on people. It changes lives. Creativity is the basis for human connection and expression. I’m thankful there are organizations to partner with in the field of visual arts that are willing to work to benefit the world around us.
T.A.E.: Did you have any doubts or concerns along the way?
A.Y.: Any time you venture into something new, there are concerns. One personal concern was that Exhale Unlimited Gallery is open to all ages. There were questions as to what might happen if some of the work was (for example) inappropriate for young viewers. Artists can sometimes push the limits of what people are comfortable with, and it’s difficult to say what’s appropriate, what’s not… Having said that, the artists were overwhelmingly responsive to the fact that Twitter Art Exhibit L.A. was a show for charity, and that we were supporting an educational organization sheltering young adults from difficult situations. There were many beautifully executed pieces, and some highly creative work. All ages and segments of our audience were able to find something that they enjoyed.
T.A.E.: Did you ever think you would receive this many cards?
A.Y.: Neither I nor the curators ever expected the number of submissions we received. It was overwhelming to say the least. Being a bit out of the social media circles, I came to realize the power of the relationships that are developed online. It makes your heart skip a beat when you come in to find new mail form all over the world. Each card was like a special valentine from someone who cares about making a difference in this world. No matter how big or small the individual contributions are, when people come together in such large numbers, they’re making an actual dent in a broken world.
T.A.E.: What were your thoughts about the works coming in? Any comments on the variety of the work, styles, range?
A.Y.: The variety and styles represented were as colorful as the cultures that make our world. Everything from detailed portraits, to modern abstracts, Asian calligraphy, collages… it was wonderful. It reflected the vast beauty of our global family, a literal melding of worlds in one small gallery.
T.A.E.: What did you think the general impression of the public was on opening night? Did any thoughts or impressions stand out?
A.Y.: Everyone was impressed with the exhibit. Each card was identified with the artist’s name, Twitter handle and country of origin. This made the show immensely meaningful. When the public realized that each piece was sent directly to our gallery from all parts of the world, and that everyone came together through Twitter for a cause, they were touched. The cards themselves were beautiful pieces of art, but when attached to a story, they really came alive to viewers.
T.A.E.: Did any cards surprise you in terms of their place of origin?
A.Y.: So many countries were represented… we received several cards from countries where relatively little English is spoken. That was a nice surprise for me. It was also interesting that certain countries had similar styles or subject matters.
T.A.E.: Can you speak about the role of Exhale Unlimited in helping nonprofits and charitable organizations? Any thoughts on mixing art and charitable giving?
A.Y.: I started Exhale Unlimited to benefit charities and nonprofits by partnering on various projects revolving around design and the visual arts. We offer art exhibitions, as well as fashion, home and gift items, and a portion of the sales is donated to charity. So this particular exhibition was a nice fit. Art and charitable giving goes hand in hand, and of course there’s a long tradition for this. Everyone wants to own beautiful artwork, and if you can lend a hand by buying it, I think it makes the art even more meaningful. This may be an idealist’s view, but the massive response to Twitter Art Exhibit shows that the public is still interested in concepts mixing philanthropy and the arts.
T.A.E.: Where do you see Exhale Unlimited going in the next five to ten years?
A.Y.: Exhale Unlimited is going to go with the flow, and ride the next wave. We want to continue working with the many wonderful nonprofits and charities that benefit our world. These include those that deal with disaster relief, finding cures for disease, providing second chances (homelessness, mental illness, etc), providing basic needs to the world (food, water, shelter) and helping organizations that care about our ecosystems and the planet.
T.A.E.: The philosophy of Twitter Art Exhibit is that “art can change the world”. Do you think art can change the world?
A.Y.: Art is an outward expression of our creativity, and creativity is what distinguishes our humanity and where our soul finds purpose. Through art, we can glimpse the meaning of our lives on earth — and when we find meaning, we can change the world.
T.A.E.: Was this a positive experience for you? Would you do something like this again?
A.Y.: The exhibition was a reminder that the world is very small and that we all share a common desire to make it a better place. It was a meaningful exhibition that I would welcome again for different causes.
T.A.E.: Any famous last words? :)
A.Y.: Just a big thank you to the curators, Nat George and Virginia Arce. They worked very hard, both online and at the local level, to bring this entire exhibition together. They both have a desire to find ways in which art can benefit others. Their passion for curating exhibitions, especially for nonprofits, is inspiring - and it’s making this world a better place.
T.A.E.: Thanks for taking the time Anson, we appreciate it!
A.Y.: All the best.