Meet Angela Zhang, the founder of ArtVocacy! Learn about her experience with starting her artivist organization while in high school. She combines her passion to raise awareness on important issues with uplifting young voices!
Angela thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us! To start off....
Tell us about you!
Yeah, for sure. Well, first thank you so much, Diondraya for having me. I feel so inspired by you and and just by having this conversation. My name is Angela Zhang. I am 16 years old. I'm a junior at the Geffen Academy at UCLA, first graduating class! And I am an "artivist", which combines activists and artists together. I am the founder and CEO of my organization, ArtVocacy, a platform for the youth to create art on issues that really matter, and just spread awareness on the global situations behind those issues..
Activism is so important in general, but I love making use of creativity as a medium to share information and perspective to hear younger people using their voices. I’m so curious...
What first sparked the ideas for your business?
In my mere 16 years of life, I have always been into art. I've been drawing since I was very, very young and what started out as a hobby became a really fervent passion for me. That continued on when I was in seventh grade and I decided to first join my school's model United Nations club. I was pretty young and that was when my eyes were open to the amount of global issues in the world and really the magnitude of how much it affects people. Helping people was always something that I've wanted to do. So along with my artistic mind, being introduced to international policy issues, and wanting to help others, I really thought to myself "how can I combine two of my greatest passions” which are international relations and art, into a movement. That is where I found the term "artivism" which is art as a medium for activism. I did some research and after countless ideas and really solidifying - clarifying those, I decided that I thought an amazing opportunity for the youth would be for them to truly show their voices and to speak on what matters to them.
I love the concept of combining two passions and creating an opportunity for yourself and others to make change while doing what you love. After getting inspired...
How did you transition from an idea to a business?
I will say it was not super magical. I think generally it was a slow process, but one of the main things that really pushed me towards creating this was the fact that there were so many different artists and artivists that I've come across. I have been creating a community of those artivists to create art on issues that matter. That is a process that doesn't happen overnight. I actually owe it to my innovation capstone class in my school. The capstone class really was a great support network that helped my initial idea that I pitched, without really knowing where it was going, into a pathway, a direction. All of those critiques, all the advice and the people that I met and interacted with truly helped me solidify ArtVocacy.
How incredible that you had a class in which you got to explore this personal passion and create something real. Especially with the support of your teacher and peers, I'm sure it was really valuable to you. But even with their support…
Were there any obstacles that you had to overcome in deciding to do this?
In the beginning (and ArtVocacy still has a long way to go) especially as a young girl, who has gone through experiences where there's a lot of degradation with what you can actually do with your idea, I think that's something I've felt. Even in the business/entrepreneurship world or in the policy world or where both of them intersect, there is still a lack of women. Even in our class, there's only one other girl in our class of seven. While it's small, it essentially is a representation of how in greater society - that lack of representation. So I think that was initially a challenge for me. Another huge thing I would say is because as a young person you feel the pressures and the immense mental and emotional challenges of the world, sometimes you think to yourself, "what am I doing? What is this?" Those are definitely questions and internal conflicts that I have felt. It's a lot of self love and really inspiration from other amazing women like you, that helps me overcome those kinds of challenges, whether it be external or internal.
I’m so glad that I could be helpful to you because you certainly inspire me. And with, ArtVocacy still being new, you’ve already made progress. So,
What has been the most memorable moment of ArtVocacy thus far?
Oh, wow. That makes me smile. That brings back memories. That moment was probably the night of the launch on Instagram. It was the first time I really announced it to my network, my group of people, well, mostly GenZ, on these social media platforms. It was that night, in April, where I really spread the word on ArtVocacy. There was so much support and so much commentary, so much love and just inspiration. Just me posting something, "Oh yeah, I'm starting this." I think that was one of the most memorable moments I've had.
It's so important to just kind of congratulate yourself sometimes and take a few seconds to remember what you’ve done as you move towards the future. How special for you to hold onto that memory. You’ve created something that people can feel connected to and I’d love to know...
What do you feel makes ArtVocacy special?
Coming from a background or an environment where so many ideas are all constantly floating around, I personally think that every idea out there has a unique element to it and ArtVocacy is no exception. For ArtVocacy, I think it's the aspect of combination, of connection that really stands out. The combination of politics and visual arts. Also the opportunity for the youth to truly shine their voices on issues that are not seen in the media. I think that connection is what makes ArtVocacy, "ArtVocacy."
I remember reading, in a book "Innovator's DNA," that innovation is truly what makes the world go forward. I definitely agree that innovation, a lot of the time, comes from being able to connect so many different fields that might not be seemingly related. For ArtVocacy, that's arts, international relations, that's the voice of the youth. They all seemingly are separate subjects, different worlds, but once you put them together, there is truly something special that shines a different kind of light on the issues that we talk about.
Your organization speaks volumes about our ability to make impact in different ways and to create new spaces for things that have not been seen before. So in addition to being able to connect things that you are passionate about in ways that are unique to you and others,
What do you think is one of the biggest lessons that entrepreneurship has taught you?
I think entrepreneurship has taught me to never give up and to always persevere, even in the midst of all your mental and maybe external battles. I say this because I know there are teenagers out there who are entrepreneurs, who do venture out to create ventures, and who are passionate and socially aware and want to create real change in the world. At the same time, it might feel as if the world is against you because of your beliefs, because of that one comment.
There's so many comments out there that I know a lot of fellow youth entrepreneurs face, but in spite of all that, I think being able to create a movement, create a platform - that truly taught me to keep on going and to not give up in the face of everything that might convince you to. This entire journey of being an entrepreneur and artivist at the same time - I've definitely learned to persevere. No matter how different your idea may be, it can make a difference.
Absolutely. Perseverance and resilience I believe are some of the most impactful and transferable lessons entrepreneurship can teach us. I am so happy that you are getting the opportunity to learn it early.
So the last question I want to ask you is one that I feel is important to all of us and really important to what Mindset & Milestones does.
Why do you believe we need more girls in innovation and entrepreneurship?
Girls are so powerful. I can not speak that enough. As a teen advisor to the Girl Up initiative of the United Nations Foundation, I can say that girls truly are so brilliant, so incredible, so intelligent and anyone that identifies as a girl as well. Girls becoming entrepreneurs is important because entrepreneurship really is a platform for girls, even without as many opportunities as some others, to shine light on what they want to do, what they want to make real in the world - especially as the youth. Young girls out there are truly a catalyst of inspiration for other young girls in the world.
I couldn't have said it better myself. Thank you, Angela, for being an inspiration and following your dreams wherever they lead.
You all can connect with ArtVocacy using the links below. Find her on instagram or at her website, and if you need a logo you've got somewhere to go!
Connect with ArtVocacy!
Thank you so much for reading!
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