A lot goes on during Art Basel, but one event that stood out, in particular, was “RAW”, a 10-day pop-up exhibition created by Young Artist Initiative (YAI) and took place during Art Basel from November 30th to December 9th. 40+ artists and 20+ musicians were featured in the first and only art event to take place at The Historic Old Post Office, built in 1914.
“When we first saw the site it was in its ‘raw’ state, with no electricity, no air conditioning, or plumbing. We fell in love with what we saw, and used all our resources and the entire team to bring to life the potential we envisioned for the event”. says Sharit Ben-Asher, YAI’s Head of Design.
All of the artwork solicited for the event had to be made with tangible and organic materials which the crowd could interact with, not just visually, but where a spectator could smell, touch, eat, and engage their senses by feeling the art in a raw state.
We had the privilege of sitting down for a chat with Sharit Ben Asher, Yasmina Lyazidi and Tam Gryn, some of the creative talent behind this special project to learn more about YAI.
What is Young Artist Initiative?
We are the disruptive local platform which empowers emerging young artists. We are about producing large scale, site specific, immersive and interactive experiences which are for both the art world and the community.
When was Young Artist Initiative founded and what is the story behind the movement?
YAI was started three years ago by our founder, George Dufournier with the help of a friend, Julian Peñalver. The events began as nightlife parties where the DJs were the artists in basements and hotels, and one day they decided to bring a little bit of art into the events.
Now, the YAI events are composed of three components: the art, the architecture and the spatial experience, and the music. Now, the YAI events are composed of three pillars: site specific art, spatial experience and music.
Our first large scale event was in the Moore Building last year, where we had a one day exhibition spread out over four floors showcasing the work of over 40 artists.
How frequently do you host events?
We host pop-up exhibitions every five-six months, as that’s usually the time it takes to prepare everything for a large scale event.
Once a month we host intimate private gatherings called ‘YAI Unplugged’ at Deja Vu Audio South in Wynwood. It is a small venue with an incredibly unique spatial design and amazing sound system, where we listen to the performances of artists chosen by our Music Director, Mau Espinosa Tcherassi. In the future we hope to open these events up to the public.
Do you have a vision of having a permanent space for YAI? What are your goals for YAI this time next year?
We find charm in doing pop-up exhibitions, as no two events are alike. It is a challenge for our team and the artists to activate a new space each time, and it’s an experience for the crowds to discover a new place through art. Our goal for this time next year would be for the exhibitions to be ten times bigger, and find even more meaningful and engaging venues.
How is YAI advancing the careers of young artists?
We provide artists with access to the most important cultural spaces in the city to showcase their artwork beyond the typical white wall gallery. YAI has a large bandwidth which allows us to get the artists as much exposure as possible. We work with them to get press coverage, allowing them tell their story and connecting them to potential clients.
Our team collaborates with the artists to ‘take the impossible and make it possible’ and bring their vision to life.
Who is the biggest inspiration for YAI projects?
We don’t have any specific inspirations, we really try to do everything in our own unique way. Some organizations whose disruptive nature we admire are Meow Wolf and No Longer Empty. The first one started as an underground organization which then went on to create their own small immersive experience with a large number of artists in their payroll.
On the community side, “No Longer Empty” is an organization in NYC which takes over abandoned spaces. In their projects, incredible artists work alongside the different local neighborhood communities.
What is the mission of YAI?
What is currently your biggest challenge?
Funding is our biggest challenge right now, and we are always open to working with new partners who are aligned with our mission, what we do, and what we hope to achieve.
We work with a lot of sponsors who will provide the venues and set up, as well as brand names and alcoholic beverage companies to help cover a lot of the costs.
Based in Miami, Young Artist Initiative (YAI) is a movement which hosts large-scale pop-up art installations in unique spaces throughout the city, encouraging the community to engage with this generation’s artistic talent.
YAI creates multi-sensory immersive exhibitions in aspirational spaces and cultural landmarks, and work to provide artists with the resources to create the projects they envision and a platform for exposure.
All the events and installations are site-specific, with new artists, a new location, and a new thesis, creating a groundbreaking experience each time.