Arts Help is excited to welcome Haya Assem, our new Internal Marketing and Communications Coordinator. With her previous experience organizing events and creating creative brand images, Haya is a professional of communication and marketing, and will champion many exciting new initiatives. Managing Editor Hannah Chew interviewed Haya to learn more about her work.

What is your background/role with Arts Help?

I am the Internal Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Arts Help. I am also Co-Founder Sophie Brussaux’s Executive Assistant.

I come from a background of Marketing, Sales, and Communications, and studied Media Information and Technoculture at the University of Western Ontario. While studying, I worked at Western’s Fundraising Call centre, where we raised money for scholarships, mental health initiatives on campus, etc.

I worked as an internal Business Consultant, which is essentially an internal sales associate for a multinational HR and Health and Safety firm. I later worked as a Secretariat of Marketing and Communications for the Real Estate Sector. I helped coordinate UN World Habitat Day, and a number of forums for my prior employers. I later worked for a boutique luxury real estate brokerage, where I wore multiple hats. I was the marketing and client relationship management specialist, the deal secretary, and also overlooked all administrative activities as well.

How did you get involved with Arts Help?

I got involved with Arts Help in early February when I got approached by Adiam Gafoo, Arts Help’s COO. When I worked with Adiam, I also met both Sophie and Mo during an event, where they represented Arts Help.

How do you interpret the relationship between art and global activism?

Art plays a significant role in igniting global activism, and spreading awareness. Environmental and social crises in today’s world make art-expressed activism extremely relevant. There are complications with prevalent perceptions on art which deter artists from viewing themselves, their work, and their voice as agents of revolution and change. I believe that some of the current established interpretations on art must shift so that artists could become empowered, and realize the immense value that they hold. There are various ways of utilizing and applying art as a means of activism. The issue is that activism is frequently tackled using an ineffective and problematic light. An alternative approach that in contrast stimulates both compassion and empathy is an art-expressed method. This approach is positive because compassion is crucial when it comes to achieving social justice. In order to influence significant positive change, activists must plow through cultural and societal means. Art is a great tool to create real change because it is a product of cultural creation and construction. Globalization makes art, the product of culture-based engagement, extremely relevant in this day and age.

How does art play a role in your daily life?

Ever since I was a child, I have always been extremely creative. I would incorporate creativity and art in all of my school projects. My grandmother is an artist, and I have always been influenced by her work. My mother was also an artist, so being surrounded by creative artistic minds definitely yielded the creativity within me. Throughout my childhood I was enrolled in artistic extracurriculars including arts and crafts, fine arts, graphic design, Jazz, ballet, pottery classes, and even embroidery. In university, I chose art history courses and pop culture courses as my electives, as I wanted to continue learning about the arts. I would say that I use art as a form of therapy. I thoroughly enjoy listening to relaxing music or playing podcasts in the background whilst painting to escape from all my stress. In simple words, art plays a role of therapy in my daily life, and it is an escape from the fast past and hectic society that we live in.

What is your favorite piece of art? Why?

It’s difficult to say what my one favourite art piece is, as I think that each piece of art has its own unique beauty. I am, however, a very big fan of Claude Monet’s artwork. I am especially drawn to his piece titled, Woman with a Parasol, 1875. Looking at the painting just calms me down; I find it to be very serene.

I would say that I am naturally drawn to art that is created using the bright and cheerful colours that we see in nature. The way that Monet painted the sky and blended the woman into the sky, almost makes it seem as though she is one with nature. I personally feel happiest when I’m away from the urban city, and am surrounded by nature, whether I am laying on the grass, or laying on the beach and soaking up the sun.

The bright hues in the painting uplift my spirit. In the painting, the woman is going on a stroll in the fields with a boy that appears to be her son, and they seem to have no worry in the world. Looking at the painting makes me feel like I’ve been transported into that simple and happy world of theirs, away from all the worries that we face, especially during this chaotic pandemic.

While I am huge of Monet in general, I also love Georgia O'Keeffe's painting titled, Music Pink and Blue II, 1918. I actually tried to paint a copy of this piece when I was in school. I specifically chose to paint it, not only because I’m a huge fan of abstract art, but because I love the color palette that O’Keeffe used. I love the way that she incorporated the various colors; I am infatuated by how effortlessly she blended the colors into this piece. I find both Monet’s Woman in a parasol and O’Keeffe’s Music Pink and Blue II piece to be very relaxing to watch.

Of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which do you relate to most?

Out of all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, I would say that I most resonate with SDG goal number one, which is No Poverty. Being born and raised in a third world country, I have truly seen people suffer as a result of poverty. They suffer because they don’t have access to basic human needs which include shelter, food, water, access to proper healthcare.

I am not undermining that people in the West suffer from poverty as well, however, we have governments that support their people by providing the resources that will enable them to attain basic needs. Third world countries are not as privileged, meaning that the governments have less resources to help their people. I grew up in Egypt, and our population is over 100 million, the government does not have the resources to help all of its people. I have seen documentaries of my people going to sleep hungry and tying a stone to their stomach using a scarf just so that their stomachs wouldn’t grumble and they could go to sleep with an empty stomach. I have seen people that live in slums made out of recycled cardboard boxes with roofs made of hay/straw. These people do not have access to governmental resources that could help them sustain themselves, and that’s why I believe that this is the most important SDG.

Ending poverty would allow us to overcome SDG goal two which is Zero Hunger. Ending poverty would open doors including having access to SDG goal 4 which is quality education, that will in turn allow people to find jobs and make their own money to feed their families, and generations to come. By receiving Quality Education, people will learn about SDG goal 5 Gender Equality. By simply ending poverty, we can tackle most SDG goals and people will no longer live to simply survive, they will also live to learn, receive a good education, and in turn the world can accomplish all the following goals.

How can we help push forward the UN SDGs in our everyday lives?

We can push forward the UN SDGs in our everyday lives by helping spread the message, by creating awareness, and by educating others.

Any final advice for young artists and activists?

My advice for young artists and activists would be for them to continue to use their voice and their talents to spread positivity and awareness about global issues that need to be heard. You were born with this talent and creativity for a reason, use that spark within you to create a greater good.




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