Comedy Gold Duo Serving as Gala Emcees!

COMPAS recently announced that Teaching Artists May Lee-Yang and Saymoukda Vongsay will be serving as emcees at our annual gala on Thursday, December 5th at the Hewing Hotel in Minneapolis. These two are comedy gold individually so as a pair they will be the ultimate hosts. Let’s a take a look back at their artist spotlights from a few years ago and rediscover how multi-talented they are. COMPAS is SO lucky to work with such incredible artists!

If you still want to attend the gala on December 5th, get your tickets here! You don’t want to miss out on the hilarity that will most definitely be had.

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Artist Spotlight: Multifaceted Writer, May Lee-Yang. August 24, 2014

* Hi May, can you tell me what your art form is?

I’m a writer—I write creative non-fiction, poetry, and dabble in fiction. I also do theater. In addition to playwriting, I sometimes play versions of myself on stage, produce shows, and have worked collaboratively to create shows from the ground up.

* Will you share a piece of advice for aspiring writers?

One of my favorite pieces of advice comes from a William Stafford quote: “If at first you don’t succeed, lower your standards.” By no means do I encourage low standards, but I often observe that people want to write the perfect thing. This sometimes means writing nothing. I encourage people to write, even if they write badly because it is easier to edit a page of mediocre writing than to edit a blank page.

* How does teaching your craft to youth affect your own art?

Teaching has influenced my artmaking a lot. It has forced me to be more conscious of my artistic process, so that I can teach it to others. For me, teaching is also about inspiring others to create. I find myself often inspired by the stories and ideas of students, and as I go through my own writing exercises with students, I sometimes even discover new things about my own writing.

* By the end of a week with you, what are three things you hope most students have learned?

A technical skill. This could include learning a new term, a structure for a poem, or an artistic process.

An avenue for accessing inspiration. We can’t always wait for inspiration to hit us, so being able to identify multiple ways to get in the creative zone is important.

More confidence in the stories they have within them. Students need to know that embracing and honing their unique voices will make them stand out from other artists.

* What does being a COMPAS artist mean to you?

It’s a great honor to be part of this community. I’ve appreciated the organizational support, in not just being a mediator between the artist and schools, but also the professional development opportunities. Through COMPAS, I’ve been able to shadow other artists, glean insights from Daniel Gabriel’s experience in this field, and get connected to other organizations.

* Why do you think arts education is needed in our community?

Arts education fosters creativity and nurtures people’s voices. This translates to the larger world in multiple ways: Many of the leadership programs I’ve participated in challenge us to understand ourselves better, so that we can impact our world more. Through creative fiction, I’ve spent a lot of time doing self-reflection and trying to make sense of the world around me. The arts are also an engaging way to discuss tough topics. Within my work at COMPAS, I’ve seen students use poetry as a way to talk about death, adoption, racism, diversity, and community healing. By sharing their own work, they invited others to write about their own struggles. Lastly, I don’t think every artist needs to be socially conscious. However, regardless of what you create, I believe the arts challenge us to think about our own voices: What do you believe in? Why do you believe this? And how will you address this issue?

* Do you remember how you first became interested in the arts?

When I was in junior high school, my parents were paranoid that my siblings and I would join gangs. This was the early 90s, and Hmong gangs were pretty rampant then. So, we were stuck at home. With nothing to do, I watched a lot of TV, played a lot of videogames, and I read a lot of books. Eventually, I felt inspired to write my own versions of the books I read, and I’ve also since then incorporated videogames and other pop culture references from that time into my art.


Artist Spotlight: Gifted Writer & Storyteller, Saymoukda Vongsay . January 15, 2015

* Hey Saymoukda, can you tell us what your art form is?

I'm a poet, storyteller, and playwright.

* Do you remember how you first became interested in the arts?

I was a skilled fibber when I was young, always telling stories. Lucky for me, my family nurtured the storyteller in me but the liar thing, they nipped that in the bud real quick. The first poem I wrote was about a man on a boat. That was in second grade when my English was still terrible. My English is still pretty bad but that's seen as creative license now.

* Will you share a piece of advice for aspiring playwrights or writers in general?

Sit down and write! If you don't start it, it will never finish! Accept criticism and use it to get better!

* How does teaching your craft to youth affect your own art?

Young writers are brave and creatively open and that's contagious and inspiring. They remind me that it's more than okay to break out of a construct sometimes because something innovative and interesting might happen to the poem or the play.

* By the end of a week with you, what are a few things you hope most students have learned?

I'd like for students to walk away with a better understanding of play-writing and poetry, to gain more confidence in their own ability and voice as a writer, and to realize that writing can be super fun - especially if there are kung fu zombies involved! Or slime-shooting crocodile robots! Or clumsy goblins! Or...or...or...

* What does being a COMPAS artist mean to you?

COMPAS is a respected organization that is a leader in arts education. Being on the roster has broadened my network of creatives - established artists, young artists, and folks who are also committed to regular art-making.

* Why do you think arts education is needed in our community?

There is a Buddhist saying that goes something like, "Your task is to discover your work – and then with all your heart to give yourself to it." I understand that sentiment as, "My gift is my creativity and I can live a fuller life by embracing it."

* How do you practice creativity in your everyday life?

I write a short-short story once a week, I take photos of moments that I'm touched by with my phone, I read a different book a week, and I hang out with people who I know can inspire me to think that new thought that would've never surfaced if not for their spirit. Also with four new plays to write this year, I'm in no shortage of creative opportunities!