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"I was able to think back to the Youth Collective, and was able to feel like ‘Yeah, I can transfer those skills'"

Being part of our Youth Collective helped Mendhi nail a recent job interview.

Why did you apply to join the Arts Emergency Youth Collective?

Arts Emergency - I always tell this to everyone - Arts Emergency has given me so much that I just felt like I wanted to give a lot back. And to work out how to provide more open discussions for young people, because I never knew that a career in the arts was a viable thing.

The Youth Collective started in the pandemic, so it was kind of hard to get up and running at first. But being able to be surrounded by a group of like-minded people, not just in the visual arts, but in other areas of the creative community, it was really nice. Seeing how other people's minds work inspires you a lot. We also did the podcast - I've never done a podcast in my life and I was doing some of the audio editing! Being able to work in a team was really nice as well, because for the most part I do things alone. We all have these big ideas, and we're all very different as well - so to get everyone's ideas in, listen to everyone, and just be a positive team was really nice.

What have you achieved during your time with Arts Emergency that you are most proud of?

It would have to be growing as a person. I started when I was 16, with the mentoring scheme, and it was really really nice having those meetings, and having someone cheer me on. And also, of course, Arts Emergency has so many amazing opportunities. At 17 I got to do part-time work at a Netflix studio, which is crazy when I think back on it. I was a baby!

I grew up in a family where there’s no arts connections or networking. I did struggle with a lack of confidence, kind of like imposter syndrome. So even just looking at an application or trying to put myself out there, sending emails, I probably wouldn't have done that. With Arts Emergency it's like there's a glimmer of hope. It's more accessible and easier than just being left in the dark.

It's just been such a good experience from the start. I've never had a horrible experience, where I'm like ‘Oh, I don't really like this’. Everything's been like ‘Oh, this is so interesting. I could never imagine this.' Arts Emergency has always been a very safe space for me, which I think is very important for a lot of kids that want to go into the arts.

How did your job at Autograph Gallery come about and what will you do there?

Essentially what I'll be doing is social media, copywriting, updating the website, interpreting audience data, and coming up with strategies to make it better. The gallery is very, very interesting, because it mainly focuses on contemporary artists from ethnic backgrounds. I know their recent exhibition dealt with South Asian diaspora, and patriarchal violence. It's very political, which is such an important thing for me because, well, why would it not be in this day and age! I can't deal with not caring about what's going on around me; everything that I do affects me, affects people that I know, my family, my friends. So it's nice to start to work for a space that elevates these voices.

I found the job through the Arts Emergency newsletter. I just thought, why not apply? If I get rejected, I get rejected. Then I got the interview. When they asked ‘what other experience do you have?’ I was able to think back to the Youth Collective, and was able to feel like ‘Yeah, I can transfer those skills that I've learned in the Youth Collective over into this’. The funny thing is, even after the interview I thought ‘Oh, I messed that up I'm probably not going to get a job. But at least I tried it.’ But I got the job so clearly they saw something that I didn't!

Arts Emergency has always been a very safe space for me, which I think is very important for a lot of kids that want to go into the arts.

What are your hopes and ambitions for the future?

I want to get settled into the job! But also - recently with uni, and just being busy, I stopped doing my own visual arts and design a little bit. It's really sad because I remember when I was younger I'd be so excited to paint a new thing or sketch. So I really want to get back into that. I want to find my inner child again.

What would you say to anyone thinking about applying to join the Youth Collective?

I would say do it. It's such a good experience and not necessarily just for your CV, but outside of that as well. You get to communicate and share ideas with so many other people and feel like a part of a little community, and it's just a nice feeling.

We want to build a better community with the young people in Arts Emergency. Being able to talk to people who look like you, who are your age, gender even, it’s just more comfortable. So it's worth doing it to help build that.

Who inspires you, in the arts or in your life?

My mum. Because she came from Bangladesh and has built a whole life for herself here. Everyone was always against them, especially with racism. It was very rampant. It still is, but back then it was a bit more, but she worked so hard. Every time I see her I’m like ‘that's the person I want to be’. I want to be someone who works hard, who wants the future for themselves, who doesn't care what other people say. They're just like ‘I'm gonna do this, I don't care what you say. I'm going to prove you wrong’. And she has.