We had the good fortune of connecting with Yvena Despagne and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Yvena, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Taking risk in life is necessary, even when you are fearful. One of the biggest risk I had to take was leaving a stable job, in the medical field, to pursue my career as an artist. Although it terrified me I gained a lot of experience and became very confident as a creative. No one has ever taught me how to dream beyond becoming a nurse, lawyer or engineer. With most Caribbean cultures, to dream beyond becoming those things was a waste of time! When I found art, I realized I had to pull myself out of that way of thinking and take that risk. I had to learn how to stop caring about how others felt about my decisions, including my family. I had to break the ties that were holding me back from a career I knew I was destined for.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’m a Haitian artist and art curator, based in New York City, who has a focus on highlighting emerging and mid-way career artists and their stories. I am also the owner and Creative Director for Art x Ayiti, an online platform dedicated to highlighting and uplifting contemporary artists of Haitian descent and the Diaspora. My goal is to encourage and provide opportunities for artists, who are interested in intercultural collaboration, dialogue and to indulge in the culture, while expanding on their individual talents. I have curated art exhibitions throughout Brooklyn, NY, including my latest Esansyèl: Essential a solo exhibition by Haitian artist Phaidra Sterlin. I also curate in-house for Brooklyn cafes and restaurants including Drip Beverage Lounge and Lakou Cafe. Currently, I work with artists to assist with developing their individual careers.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
The most fun I have had these past couple of seasons were consistently visiting three of my favorite spots in Brooklyn, NY. Lakou Cafe located in Crown Heights feels like a secluded oasis. Once you enter from the busy street, the bright lights and tropical influenced furnishings has you believing you were transported into a different place. Their Haitian patties and vegan options are always a popular choice. Drip Beverage Lounge located at Rogers Ave is another great space where you can enjoy fresh juices and enjoy great art while you wait for your coffee. For an evening out with pleasant service, I would recommend Zanmi Restaurant. Not only do they offer delicious dishes with a traditional Haitian twist, they also curate wonderful live performances. Although the current pandemic has left these locations without frequent sit-in guests, these restaurants are still thriving in support from our Brooklyn communities.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I never realized my potentials of becoming an artist. I only created for myself, because I loved it so much. If it wasn’t for my partner Richard Rameau and other close friends for encouraging me to pursue art, then I believe I would have kept it to myself. Over time I began to meet other artists such as Steven Baboun, Saundra Heath, Patrick Eugene and Phaidra Sterlin that inspire me and motivate me everyday to remain focused in my career.