The Where Are You From? Collective (WAYF) is an arts-based activism program for Asian-identified youth that offers arts-based educational workshops, community events, and an online platform for discussion. Their work seeks to address issues of agency that Asians living on Turtle Island experience in defining their identities, visibility, and representation. Their mission is to operate from an intersectional, anti-oppression framework to empower Asian youth to develop critical art practices and build activist spaces that challenge dominant culture after decades of collective silence, to celebrate Asian identities and achievements, build capacity for Asian-identified youth, and connect diasporic Asian communities so that they can create intentional dialogue that disrupts status quo.
“When the co-founders of WAYF first met, we had been working separately towards a shared mission for some time: to use arts-based popular education and community events to engage Asian youth around issues of identity and oppression. After sharing our stories with each other at an Angry Asian Feminists Meeting, we formed WAYF with the belief that joining forces would allow our collective voices to be louder. We began to brainstorm ideas of what projects we could create to address the needs and concerns within our community, and to address our dissatisfaction with the racial discrimination and micro aggressions we faced on a regular basis within the artistic community”. In 2016 they launched their website, developed their programming, and launched their annual zine fair event.
Receiving a 2018 ArtReach grant, WAYF ran programming from July 2018 to May 2019 that furthered their objective to empower Asian youth to develop critical art practices; challenge dominant culture by centering the voices and creative expression of Asian artists; and offer tools of engagement for Asian youth that allow expansion of their networks within the Asian community. Team member Rain Chen notes, “ArtReach allowed us to continue to expand and explore our programming through the use of artistic and creative expression. Through ArtReach, we were able to offer zine-making workshops, comic-making workshops, and showcase our second Asian Zine Fair that attracted over 300 guests and vendors”.
When asked what the biggest change they’ve seen their project make in your community, the team shares, “Many Asian artists have expressed their deep appreciation for having the opportunity to participate in a space dedicated to showcasing artwork made by local Asian artists, and felt a great sense of community and belonging. They feel inspired and motivated to offer their artwork through our Zine Fair. The one piece of feedback that we received repeatedly from a number of participants and community members is that there are no other spaces like this in Toronto, and the Asian Zine Fair made many Asian youth feel seen, heard and celebrated in their artwork, cultures and identities”.
So what’s next for WAYF? “We would like to continue to expand our programming and explore other ways to offer workshops that address issues of racial discrimination and marginalization”, says Rain.
Keep up to date with WAYF’s opportunities on their website: https://wayfcollective.weebly.com/