Young Miami artists say they’d rather co-exist than compete

Spatial designer Sharit Ben Asher with her message in a bottle installation at the SLS South Beach during a Young Artist Initiative event. Photo provided by Young Artist Initiative By Christian Portilla

A year-old arts collective has found a new way to showcase up-and-coming artists in the Miami area.

The Young Artist Initiative, or YAI, is a collective formed in 2015 with the idea of designing activations around Miami that invited the masses to curated art shows around different venues in the city.

George Dufournier, an entrepreneur by day and founder of YAI, came up with the concept of blending multiple multimedia artists under one roof and using their personal followings as a way to multiply the exposure each receives on an individual level. The team now has seven members, including a creative and music director and brand ambassador, and the productions are growing into monthly events.

Musicians, performance artists, live painters and even architects with ideas for creative installations gather to throw massive events. YAI founders believe there is power in numbers and say their idea paid off. With visitor capacities reaching more than 1,000, artists are now reaching audiences they would have not have attained outside of their network, Dufournier said.

“Our objective is to provide a platform for Miami’s young artists to co-exist, rather than compete. Where they can collaborate and feel empowered as a part of a collective of artists,” Dufournier said. “YAI perceived that the art world’s traditional model didn’t resonate with a large portion of artists emerging in our present context and circumstance. We sought out to create a concept that would be inclusive and open to any art form.”

Benoit Izard, a performance artist who splits his time between Miami and France, participated in one of YAI’s events at Basement Miami. He said the event allowed for him to share and create his art with the public.

Performance artist Benoit Izard’s known as Bizard in his installation at Basement Miami. Photo provided by Young Artist Initiative By Christian Portilla

“For the first YAI at The Miami Beach Edition hotel, I did a performance where I was ice skating with my head fully covered with adhesive tape. In May at the Lou La Vie venue, I created a collage over photography. The collage was a work I started recently, and the concept is about being inspired by light or God,” Izard said. “The piece was very colorful and involved an interesting gesture to watch while making. I thought it had its place in a live event like that. Artists have nothing to lose by participating in the Young Artist Initiative. It’s a big event."

For their next installment on July 15 and 16, YAI is collaborating with Miami Swim Week 2016 using the human body as the foundation of the project. The event will feature installations such as a play on human X-rays and other imaginative curated concepts to add another level of artistic depth and cool factor to the show. For past shows, they included concepts that focused on ideas such as climate change, rising sea levels, and cultural stigmas.

“Each artist was presented with the challenge of interpreting and redacting the context surrounding the modern perceptions of the human figure,” Dufournier said. “We decided to add curative depth to each event as the YAI concept grew to allow our artists to interpret the issue or topic creatively across their selected mediums by comprehensively fusing the visual and metaphorical facets of their work.”

YAI’s spatial designer, artist Sharit Ben Asher, volunteers with the group and for a past event created an installation of messages in bottles. The bottles hung from a tree and allowed visitors to write a message and place it inside. The concept highlighted the issues of pollution and garbage in the world’s oceans. She said she’s seen the potential of YAI since its inception.

Local singer Virgo performing at Cafeina a Wynwood venue in Miami during a Young Artist Initiative event. Photo provided by Young Artist Initiative By Christian Portilla

“When we started we only had our friends attending the events, but now we don’t know half of the people attending, which is great because it invites people from all over the city to come,” she said. “It’s such a nice feeling when people tell me that they loved the event and didn’t know this was happening in Miami. We’re really trying to grow the movement and have people know the artists and give them a great experience at the same time.”

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