Yuko Kudo, Founder of I AM Series
What is art? It’s subjective in our opinion, but, the woman we are featuring today encompasses the bulk of the definition. Yuko is the founder of “I AM” series set to empower artists and create a physical space that welcomes all types of folks for self-expression. Read how she got started using internal work and what’s next for art.
When we look at you, we see: a multidisciplinary woman, but how would you identify yourself and your career?
I try to stop identify myself by what I do. Trying to find the “right” title makes me feel limited almost. Because what I do looks depending on what I’m working on and who I’m working with. My creative brain won’t shut up with the ideas. At the end of the day it all circles back to people and art. If I have to choose, I’m a connector and an artist. I love people, people with mission and their story, I love creating.
In your I AM series, you talk a lot about art and creating a space for openness. And given the climate we are in, how do you feel art can influence social change?
Everything. Art can reach places and people that no other platform can reach. Art can educate people, challenge people by igniting curiosity, Art can be a healing tool. Art can give us the opportunity to connect with others. Art is Universal. And when we are experiencing art, we are not looking for an answer.
Your interpretation is your interpretation. Is that the artist’s intention? Who knows? With the platforms we have nowadays, it is so much easier to reach people in the other side of the world. We experience an art and we discover differences and similarity. The details might be different, but we are experiencing the same pain, story and desires… We connect because of art. We may go the other way because of the difference of interpretation. But it allows us to start connecting with ourselves. We start asking ourselves questions. This is the BEST TIME to create more art and bring change on this planet.
In addition to producing these series, you’ve discussed about changing artists’ mindsets from “starving artists to thriving artists” - what is the process and how has it been successful?
As an actor, I did lots of free work. “Do it for fun” “Do it for love”— getting paid $20 doesn’t seem much. When those celebrities are making bank. But, I felt so guilty for asking people to pay for the ticket. “Art should be available for everyone”, “I’m an actor, of course I’m broke”, “If you are not working hard and struggling, you can’t make good art”.... Those are some stereotypes. When the studio owner where I teach yoga hosted a free healing workshops for Broadway community, Nobody came. I see my friends going to their day-job instead of going to audition because they are afraid that they can’t pay the bills. I refuse that to be the norm of our artist community. We are doing what we can.
To educate our featured artists to show up to the gig with an integrity as if they are getting paid like a celebrity. We pay our artists. We also donate 10% of door sales to a different cause every month. It’s important to me that they are exposed to different perspectives and we speak their language. We are going to be doing more workshop and education in late 2019. I am so excited to be creating this shift.
What does “showing up for yourself” mean to you?
Showing up for myself means few things at this moment. Me showing up as an artist, as a leader, and as a student. I make sure that I perform each event and perform places that’s other than “I AM” Series, so that everywhere I go, I am a representative of our community. As a leader, I make sure to create a space that’s safe so that people can voice their opinions and ideas. Trying not to speak too much, that’s I gotta work on, because I love to talk. Lol. As a student, all the things that I talk about, whether that’s mindset work, or art work, I have to do the work first. I can’t tell people to do something and not do that myself. By me showing up, that’s the only way people would even consider listening to what I have to say?
For someone who does deep internal work, how do you find balance with the ego?
I love the internal work. As creative as I am, I intellectualize things a lot. So many energy healers have told me that I need to connect with my body more. I have to remind myself to stop, breathe, ask my body questions without looking for answers. “What do I want?” “How do I feel?” “Am I love?” .. Because I love what I do, I can get into the workaholic mode easily. Simplest things are often the biggest thing for me to keep me balanced.
How do you hope the I AM series evolve and you as an artist?
“I AM” Series is a movement. It’s a celebration. “I AM” is one of the most powerful phrase and we have a power to define who we are and also we can change and evolve. I want people to feel safe, seen and heard so that they can do what they do the best and shine. Their voices and missions to be spread where that’s needed and wanted. “I AM” Series to be the place where people can come and declare “I AM ME, unapologetically”.
As an artist, I want to be someone who breaks the barrier and help people see things outside the box. If this 4’10” immigrant Japanese woman can do what she’s doing, they can do it too. I want to keep telling the story. And that allows me to connect with myself and with in a way nothing else can. As my favorite song “Defying Gravity” says “I’m through accepting limits because someone said their so. It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes and leap”. I dare to leap with my eyes open. Because I want to see what’s beyond.
To learn more about Yuko Kudo, please visit her website here. To watch more of the I AM series, please visit the YouTube channel. To join the list, subscribe here. To follow of Yuko on instagram, follow @yukoislovelivelife
Interviewed by Chary + Emily