The National YoungArts Foundation is one of the few organizations that continually invest in their former winners. This strategy does not go unnoticed. This year, YoungArts brought Deana Haggag , an Afro-Arab wonder woman and founder of United States Artist to curate Within Interdependence, a YoungArts alumni exhibition on October 2. I had a chance to catch up with despite her schedule and get details on her relationship with the organization and why she’s excited to be a part of the growth of up and coming visual artists.
I’m interested in your relationship with YoungArts. How did it begin?
My relationship with YoungArts started in the best way which was through an alumni! My friend and former colleague Lee Heinemann and I have worked together in many capacities over the years—Gallery CA, The Contemporary, United States Artists, etc. He is a YoungArts alumnus and spoke so highly of the program. I was shocked to know it existed and was so impressed with how intentional the program was and how much care it took of its community. Since then, I’ve made sure to stay informed with everything going on at YoungArts. Additionally, I think there’s a lot of parallels with our work at United States Artists which is to support individual artists so that they can care for themselves and their practices!
You are working with YoungArts alumni. How did this initiate and complete your curatorial process?
I come from a very large family which comes from a very strong cultural tradition—one that believes the power of any individual is only as strong as the health of their tribe. I think this upbringing is why I was so drawn to the arts, because culture is inherently made together. It makes us interdependent with one another. And, lately, I can’t stop thinking about interdependence given the state of the world. Is it possible to abandon the notion of the individual in a global marketplace that wants to commodify us for the fantasy of eternal economic growth? Can we minimize our sense of self enough to acknowledge that we are just one species in a very vast ecosystem that we are knowingly and actively destroying? Can we turn back to the knowledges we kept before capitalism and colonialism—the ones that spilled out beyond binaries and did not depend solely on violent power structures? I’m not sure. But, I know I’m deeply devoted to the ideas and motivations that are in line with interdependence with people and the planet. And, I think, in small and big ways, each of the artists in the exhibition gesture to it too.
Visual art is popular, and now “curating” is a title that everyone wears- curating clothes, experiences, etc. However, there are young people that have a passion for art and have greater access to studying. How would you advise young curators start their practice?
Curating starts and ends with artists. So, spend as much time with as many artists as possible! Conduct studio visits often and regularly. It’s truly the only way to cultivate your sense as a curator and is the best way to hone your gut.
What should we keep in mind when we see Within Interdependence?
That there are an infinite number of ways to enter anything—an idea, a space, a question