Co-founder of In Progress, current board member, and guest presenter
1. Considering all your experience with In Progress, what is one achievement that you personally are most proud of? Why is this achievement important to you? What does it represent?: Seeing how the organization developed over the years: I’m very proud of that. I’m proud of everything In Progress does, but the Hmong Film Festival in particular shows a lot of forward thinking on the part of young artists, as well as Kris and the board.
2. What did it take for us at In Progress to achieve this accomplishment? What strengths do we have that helped us succeed?: Lots of laughter, lots of tears. Everyone’s tenacity in making this work. I remember having a meeting long ago with Karen Starr and Kris about what the organization would look like. Karen suggested to keep it under the radar -- not how nonprofits were normally developing. There are a lot of laughter and a lot of tears in that approach. I’m also impressed by Kris’s devotion to young artists and how non-judgmental the whole thing is. A young person comes in, wants to pick up a camera, no one says what makes you think you can do this. There is no gatekeeper as in other organizations. Come in and show us what can you do and how we can help you grow.
3. What do you think makes In Progress unique? What 2-3 things are at our very core that make us stand out from other arts programs or youth development programs?: Kris’ leadership and how she has developed what I call a one-room-classroom school, working with young artists at all stages of development, both personally and artistically. Individual attention.
There is also a continuity of care that doesn’t happen in many youth oriented organizations. In many places you go through a program and you’re done, you age out. At In Progress, no one ever ages out; there is always a new way to incorporate yourself into the organizations, as an artist, an intern, even a board member. You can always find a way to connect to the organization.
What is unique about the board is that everyone there is supporting Kris and young art makers 100 percent. I’ve never heard a board member say “You have to come to my town to do some programming. There aren’t territories. In another organization I’m involved with, some people focus on television, some on documentaries, some on feature films; a new board member might come in and insist that we need a program for mid level film executives. At In Progress there is a different dynamic.
4. As you think about In Progress, what do you value most? What keeps you engaged here?: The leadership keeps me engaged. And the fact that I’m being challenged about the filmmaking that I do. I get support for my own personal work. I haven’t aged out.
Seeing and talking to young artists. Seeing new ways of doing things. I remember when websites started up, I told Kris we need a website; she said, “We don’t have time for one.” Then one young artist came in and was struggling to do his own website, and that led to now we have a beautiful website. It’s that ability to always bring in new technology, but always in the service of storytelling, not just for the sake of new technology. The same way we incorporated music into the programming.
Why In Progress? Because young people need a space where they can explore the arts and their ideas. Because parents, family members and friends need to know there is a good space, that goes beyond a "safe"space, to explore how we engage with the world around us that seems to be always change but still staying the same. Because the work done at In Progress many times does not transform the artist or viewers immediately. It can be a slow progress where we see the changes or impacts years later. Because we need a space - either physical or cyber - where we can laugh, cry and share who we are. There are so many positive "why in progress." The name does say who are are and why we are "in progress."