Spring Campaign 2022 Featuring: Bernice Ye
As part of our annual Spring Fundraising Campaign we are interviewing Washington State artists about how they have embraced change during the pandemic and beyond, and what support from Artist Trust has meant for them. This week, we spoke with Island County performing artist and 2021 Grants for Artists’ Progress (GAP) recipient Bernice Ye about her journey as a comedian. Bernice shared, “The journey of artistic creation is often long, dark, and stressful… When I look at the opportunities, financial support, and exposure Artist Trust has been providing to Washington State artists, these are the exact type of lifts that could help an artist make their careers. Just think: If Van Gogh had Artist Trust, he might be alive to enjoy his success.”
Read her full interview, including a link to view her hilarious work, below!
Help Artist Trust raise $65,000 for artists by June 30 by donating to our Spring Campaign. Our support for artists like Bernice depends on you! Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have raised and distributed over $1.4 million to hundreds of Washington State artists, and reached thousands more through programming and resources. Your gift today, in any amount, will help us continue to provide critical support and resources for artists, including the launch of a new need-based funding program coming later this year. Donate here now– thank you for your support!
Tell us a little about your work/artistic practice.
I am a stand-up comedian.
What have the last two years been like for you and your artistic practice? How have you and/or your work changed in the pandemic?
The past two years have changed my work in so many critical ways. When the pandemic first happened, I was actually quite burned out from doing comedy and my day job. So many nights of me lining up at comedy club open mics after a busy day of work, only to see the “club favorites” get on stage and not me. When live comedy was shut down, it forced me into a much-needed break.
Then came the phase of Zoom comedy shows. A lot of comedians hated Zoom, but I actually enjoyed it. Of course, I wasn’t getting the adrenaline rush from a live show, but once the expectations changed, I realized I was getting lots of benefits I didn’t expect. First of all, I got to meet and connect with comedians from all over the world. Second, I got to perform in front of audiences in Singapore, Germany, England, and Spain. It was a great feeling to realize my jokes translated well to an international audience. Third, it saved me so much time, which enabled me to work on my craft. I used to need to rush from work and wait for hours to only maybe get 3 minutes of stage time… if I was lucky. Now I was able to do it at home and get the response I needed to hone my material. In a way, it leveled the playing field and created a safer and fairer environment for womxn to work on our craft.
I actually quit my day job to focus on comedy full-time in Feb 2021, in the middle of the pandemic. Many of my peers and colleague thought I was crazy… well, I saw an opportunity. Many of the veteran comedians and teachers from LA and NYC were offering coaching on Zoom. I decided, “I can use this time to hone my craft and make a ton of progress.”
When the world started to open in June 2021, I was ready to go. My new, polished jokes quickly stood out in open mics and shows, which earned me some of the biggest opportunities I had up to that point.
What are your hopes for the future of artists in Washington State? What would an ideal world look like for artists?
In an ideal world, I’d love to see artists in WA state have direct access to our audience. Meaning, either without a middleman, or having a middleman who actually helps us reach our audience, including potentially untapped audiences, instead of just acting as a gatekeeper.
There’s a reason why I’m suggesting this… any creative field is subjective. If a market or an audience is not already established, it’s often hard for one person, or a group of people to judge what is going to work or not. Many times, if profits and risks are involved, the gatekeeper tends to use their already established pattern to decide who gets the opportunity. This creates a bias against more diverse and emerging voices, but those are the voices that especially need uplifting.
What did the support from Artist Trust’s Grants for Artists’ Progress (GAP) mean to you? What did you do with the support?
Your support meant so many things. First, it gave me the affirmation and a vote of confidence for myself as I looked at my decision to pursue comedy full-time and all the hard work behind it. Second, it gave me the credit and recognition that opens opportunities that weren’t available to me before. For example, during the pandemic, I moved to Camano Island. There wasn’t any comedy so I started to produce my own show, where I brought comedians with diverse voices and backgrounds to an audience that was rarely exposed to them. When I contacted the local newspaper, I was able to refer to GAP as my credit and be taken seriously, which resulted in more press coverage for the show. This, together with the financial support from GAP, I was able to increase the budget for the show production, bringing in more comedians and compensating them better (especially with the travel distance and increasing gas price).
How is Artist Trust’s work important to Washington State artists, especially at this moment in history? Why should people support Artist Trust as donors now?
The journey of artistic creation is often long, dark, and stressful. No matter how good the art is, before an artist hits commercial success, this journey is filled with self-doubt, financial struggles, and social pressure. If you are a minority, then pile it on with more obstacles in your way. When I look at the opportunities, financial support, and exposure Artist Trust has been providing to Washington State artists, these are the exact type of lifts that could help an artist make their careers. Just think: If Van Gogh had Artist Trust, he might be alive to enjoy his success.