Nancy Wong

Nancy has been on the fringes of our work with In Progress for more than a decade, but in recent years she has become involved as a photography mentor, and even a programming partner.  She is valued deeply by our In Progress artists, as a professional who knows what it takes to succeed and what they themselves have in front of them in doing the same.


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?: • Proud of our collaboration with AWUM. Professionally, it was a wonderful opportunity for 2 nonprofits that are of service to similar populations with different approaches. We got to leverage each other’s strengths. 
• AWUM wanted to engage young people with meaningful conversations about safe and healthy relationships; to up the social discourse. We asked the kids to explore what it takes to have a safe and healthy relationship rather than focus on abuse. We hoped the kids would be willing to share their learnings in a way that is of service. We really ask them to be of service. They learn better that way, and tie it all together. 
• In Progress knows how to help people develop stories from the heart with digital media. And Kris was totally open to doing this. It was okay to do this project on a small scale, too. We met weekly for 12 weeks with about 10 youth. AWUM gave presentations. IP gave training on media – how to create a digital story. At the end, the youth got to be the stars at a fancy event; they previewed their work at the AWUM From the Heart friend raising event at the Women’s Club. We encouraged the guests to talk with the youth. 
• Personally, I found the project really exciting; meaningful. It was everything I love to do. Talking about women’s issues, advancing women’s status, empowering people, developing friendships, and using digital media.

2. What did it take for us at In Progress to achieve this accomplishment? What strengths do we have that helped us succeed?: • Openness. Kris is very, very open to new ideas. She is kind of fearless when it comes to opportunities. Anything is possible. She’s done this so much that she thinks anything is possible.
• In Progress has the tools – professional level stuff. The thing that is challenging for me when working in the media arts is having the right tools. Shooting digital – it’s not just about having a camera. You have to have software and hardware. It’s an issue of access. For kids with families with resources, it’s not a problem. Kids may not even have a computer in their home
• How do you see yourself? One kid wanted to learn photography. Her mother is a professional, but not from a background of privilege. They probably could have afforded the equipment, but didn’t think of themselves in that light. And then imagine kids whose parents are not professionals. The mental constructs that we have about what we can access are huge and people don’t talk about it. In Progress has the tools there for kids to touch and not be afraid of. The environment tells them that they do have permission to have these kinds of tools, they can do this kind of art.

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?: • The idea of equality is quite apparent. In Progress makes an effort to ensure that all have access. I love how there is a respect that wherever you are at. Kris allows people to be okay with wherever they are with their art. I signed up for a digital story-telling. I sat next to a 7 year old (I was 41 or so). I loved it! So great to have that space for us to come together, wherever we are, to work on our art together. Equality doesn’t mean that you have the same skills. As souls, we are equal, even though we are different in our skills, etc. In Progress is really a community. The kids go there. There are parameters. But it’s not so strict that you can’t breathe. They get to interact with professionals while maintaining a sense of who they are. They bring in artists with experience to share. It’s never a one-way street. We all share.

4. As you think about In Progress, what do you value most? What keeps you engaged here?: • In Progress’s mission is basically to help young people and those marginalized to speak their voice through the media arts
• Opportunities. When Kris asks me if I want to participate in something, I do. Or if I have an idea and see an opportunity for partnership, I think about In Progress.
• I am part of the In Progress Facebook group. I hear about what they are doing. I am connected with the active members through that, just like a friendship.
• The Twin Cities is a small place. Once you are plugged into the nonprofit world, you see In Progress.
• There is so much integrity and transparency at In Progress. They do what they say they are going to do and reach the people who they say they are going to reach. Kris says what she is going to do and does it. There is a quality of relationships, authenticity. She’s not out there saying she is more than she is. Very lean. That is the hallmark of her success. 
• I remember being stunned at first at how Kris just checked out really good equipment to whoever. I was shocked. She says that things go bad sometimes, but if you don’t give people the chance, how will they learn? It pushed me. When I taught about photography at In Progress, I gave my own rules about using my equipment rather than lecturing. I never leave my equipment in the car. Or eat while using it, etc.
• My feeling about In Progress is really positive. I am so honored to be associated with them. I love that they are grass-roots, open and very creative. Especially in the media world –which can be intimidating because it is so highly technical. The technical part can be learned. Let’s look at creativity and expression!

5. What would you like to see In Progress do more of in the future? 
• They are already doing so much. I don’t even know what I could suggest. I would have said to open more storefronts. But now I think that big is not necessarily better. Keep doing what you are doing.