Voices of Youth Inspire! "Being the only deaf person that doesn’t use voice as a tool to communicate, that scared me to no end."
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Name: Christine Sun Kim
Where are you originally from and where do you currently live?
Orange Country, California. I currently live and work in New York City.
According to your business card – what’s your job title?
Artist and Museum Educator.
And how does that compare with what you wanted to do when you were 10 years old?
I’ve always wanted to be a painter (and an actress) since I was little. In fact, I am now a painter, but in a completely abstract sense.
Give us 10 words that describe your typical work day?
Write emails, draft proposals for grants, and read comments on social news websites (that’s probably the closest way for me to eavesdrop).
In a nutshell, how did you get to where you are right now? Name some of the most important milestones.
A string of rejections and/or failures. They feed off my motivation to continue doing what intrigues me and I try to make art with integrity because that is often tricky. Also, I have learnt that facing my fears brings me much bigger results; for example, I was never big on writing but in the past several years, the more I write, the clearer my voice is.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to get to your current position and how did it help you to grow as a person?
When I was a MFA candidate in Music/Sound at Bard College’s Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, I was required to do three summer sessions in upstate New York. Being the only deaf person that doesn’t use voice as a tool to communicate, that scared me to no end. However, during the first summer, I managed to get past the breaking point and finally felt comfortable being among people who do not know sign language for an extended period of time. It was refreshing because I never had a chance to face that, as I always had deaf friends close by to go to. I also owe this experience to iPhone and iPad, they both are lifesavers. I used both handwriting and big text apps to converse with others with so little difficulty. Now that I’m done with graduate school, I still carry them both with me everywhere.
How important was your choice of degree/field of study at university for what you’re doing now?
It sure made a world of difference. I saw how necessary it was for me to be a better communicator, so that I could build relationships with non-signers. In order to do that, I stepped up my writing skills, enough to convey my visions and opinions as accurate as possible, through emails and writing/typing on iPad. The degree helped me become familiar with music history, contemporary sound art, and all those politics. Just enough for me to recognize the need to get out of that paradigm and create my own definition of sound, all on my terms.
What are the top three things someone needs to excel in your field?
1. Stay curious
2. Face your fears
3. Embrace failures
What do you think is the MOST important thing governments and/or companies can do to help young people with disabilities get started in their careers?
Come up with more solutions on universal design. Be our allies. Also, I truly believe that if everyone had an opportunity to learn a spatial language like American Sign Language, we’d come up with plenty of new communication tools and better visual systems. Trust me on that.
On a lighter note, tell us about the strangest day you’ve ever had at work or the strangest thing you had to do?
With a collaborator’s help, I made my very first vinyl record last year and I titled it “Panning Fanning.” It is actually a double vinyl 7” record, one for your left ear range, and other one for your right ear range. I also handwrote the list of instructions on how to listen in my way. I think that’s probably one of the strangest things I’ve ever done, and I’m extremely happy with the result. It felt like a successful attempt to convert my actual voice into a form of currency, as verbal languages have so much social currency.
Some words to youth out there: What advice can you give them when chasing their dream position?
Be smart with your decisions (big and small). Be a tough negotiator while charming their pants off. Be yourself.
© Ryan Lash
© Eugene Gladun