Meet our New Visitor Services & Volunteer Coordinator: Yexin Tan

We are delighted to welcome Yexin Tan to the KWAG team as our new Visitor Services & Volunteer Coordinator. Yexin has been working busily behind the scenes to welcome our visitors back to the Gallery starting this Tuesday 1 February while connecting with volunteers and planning new ways to connect with audiences. Read on to learn more about Yexin’s experiences in the arts and what she most looks forward to seeing and doing here at KWAG.

Photo of Yexin Tan, a young Chinese woman with short dark hair wearing a white shirt standing in the Corridor Gallery alongside a framed white Ron Martin workWelcome to the Gallery! How did you first get interested in art?

Thank you. I am very excited to be part of the team.

It’s a bit embarrassing to say that growing up on a family farm far from the city, I did not set foot in an art museum until the age of 19. I went on an exchange program in Paris and suddenly, art was everywhere. It was hard not to get interested in art. I remembered there would always be posters featuring new exhibitions in town every time you walked inside a metro station. After a year in Paris, it became inevitable for me to pursue a career in the arts. 

Your interest in art has taken you around the world – can you tell us a bit about your international experiences?

As a latecomer to the art world, I understand the importance of enhancing accessibility and participation in the arts. This has led to a two-year graduate study at Central Saint Martins - University of the Arts London, where I researched participatory and human-centered service design. Living in the center of the art world, I was fortunate to learn from top public organizations and was inspired by their public programs and visitor experience design. 

To expand access to art’s transformative impact, I worked with Paintings in Hospitals, a charity in the United Kingdom that uses art to inspire better health and wellbeing. Before settling in Ontario, I was a Public Engagement Coordinator at the HOW Art Museum in China.  

I find immense joy in supporting young and emerging artists. While in London, I dabbled in curating shows with multidisciplinary artists and even performed at some of their degree shows. 

What do you enjoy about living and working in Kitchener-Waterloo?

Kitchener-Waterloo is rapidly changing. The Region has welcomed an increasing number of settlers with diverse cultural backgrounds and is committed to promoting equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

Since living here, I started to reflect on the systemic barriers for those in underrepresented groups and what individuals can do to initiate organizational change. How cultural organizations are compelled to re-evaluate their structures and practices bears witness to the rising issues of the community in the past few years. I aspire to think critically when facilitating visitor services at the Gallery and challenge myself, in our Curator Darryn Doull’s words, to “think otherwise.” 

The Gallery is closed for now, but what are you most looking forward to when we re-open?

The upcoming exhibitions! I am most excited about the student exhibition Expressions 47 and At the far edge of worlds, which features a fantastic collection of contemporary artworks. 

As much as I enjoy working behind the scenes, I am so looking forward to welcoming visitors through the doors starting from the first of February! My colleagues at Public Programs are working hard to pull together so many events. I would love to see the Gallery filled with audiences again in time. 

Who are some of your favorite artists?

I’ve been quite into Milutin Gubash’s works lately. A Gubash work is simply fascinating to look at. I found myself puzzled by his multifaceted practice coded in video, sculpture, photograph, and performance. Memories are reconstructable, family stories are intertwined with fictions, and identities are a perceptive myth. Gubash investigates the realm of authenticity and invites viewers to construct a truth of their own. Come to see At the far edge of worlds: you will know what I mean. 

Another artist I admire is Taryn Simon. I had the honor of assisting Taryn during her exhibition An Occupation of Loss in London. It was an utterly beautiful experience to be part of the production. In this exploration of grief, Taryn gave the stage to professional mourners from less represented cultures to orchestrate a cacophony of sounds that lament in a vast underground cavern. 

I often think about what art is to people. Public art organizations tend to work with a strong sense of enlightening the public. While it stands true that education plays a big part, I would like to position myself as a knowledge facilitator who empowers our visitors. Inspired by Taryn’s exhibition, I will roll out the carpets for audience members and volunteers to define what art is and what art can be in our lives. 

Feel free to send a message to Yexin to introduce yourself, or learn more about volunteering at KWAG - we would love to hear from you!