Like most people in her position, Joyce Chow has faced her fair share of doubt from people who hear about how she plans to make art her career. She previously held that doubt herself, deciding to major in foreign affairs because she could not envision herself in an art-based career. Today, in addition to that undergraduate degree in foreign affairs, Joyce has a Graduate Diploma in Art and Design from the Sotheby’s institute of Art in London, and is completing a master’s in the History of Design at Oxford University. Obviously, the pull towards art prevailed.
A drastic switch in career post-undergrad might sound daunting and less-than-ideal, but Joyce handled the swap with tenacity and admirable faith in her instincts. While pursuing her bachelor’s, Joyce came to the inconvenient conclusion that she no longer wanted to be involved in foreign affairs. She decided to complete the degree a year early to recalibrate her trajectory. Despite finding herself on an uncertain and non-linear path, Joyce eagerly forged a new direction after graduating from the University of Virginia. She headed to Switzerland to serve on a mission trip before beginning her graduate diploma at Sotheby’s. Joyce says that this transitional period was key to solidifying her decision to incorporate her passion into her professional life.
“I think that year had been a very tumultuous year, and I kind of lost myself in a sense. I have always been a type A go getter, and that year became a tipping point where I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, what am I living my life for?’” She names Switzerland’s relatively laid-back atmosphere as a key factor in allowing her to sit and think about her goals and desires. “That was such a special time to just put my life on pause and, not trying to be cliche, but just really reevaluate my life,” she notes.
And during that time, Joyce’s wishes to pursue an art career reemerged. She described her love and drive for art dating back to her childhood, notably during her surprisingly favorite period of life: middle school.
Joyce knows her opinion of middle school is unpopular. “Most people hate middle school. People get bullied, people are going through changes, it’s a disaster! But I loved middle school. My brother went to high school before I did, so I knew the APs were coming. I knew the SATs were coming. So I thought, ‘these three years could be the best years of my life! I’m just going to do art.’”
Much like she found opportunity in the freedom of middle school, Joyce took advantage of the time she had to herself in Switzerland. Re-realizing her love for art and arts education, she launched her passion project, a non profit auction house and arts education foundation called I AM Art House.
“I met a lot of missionaries and artists in Switzerland who were really talented and very passionate about social causes. I thought it’d be cool to create a platform for them and their interests through nonprofit work,” Joyce explains. I AM Art House has now existed as a non profit organization for three years, supporting artists from all over the world through virtual galleries and events. Joyce continues to expand I AM Art House’s reach and will be launching its first virtual auction on October 9th.
Alongside its support for emerging artists, the organization also strives to champion arts education in a time where it is constantly threatened. Joyce teaches classes to young students, hoping to create an encouraging environment where each student is heard and seen. She strongly believes in the power of art as not just a creative outlet, but as a tool for self-discovery and helping kids define and establish themselves. “Art is really healing and powerful, and it’s also something that can help kids cope. When I was younger, I didn’t realize how therapeutic art is. It really helped me discover my identity better– and kind of stay out of trouble too.” She describes that the nature of her classes not only encourages focus and patience in her younger students, but allows them to sit with a kind of “forced mindfulness”.
As for restructuring arts education, Joyce hopes to merge traditional and modern practices. “Having spent time at Oxford, one of the oldest universities in the world, I’ve definitely learned a lot. But I’ve also learned a lot from Youtubers who are giving out information for free,” she explains. “I think there is value in fostering authentic creativity while keeping in mind the benefits of structure and systematic practices.”
For potential artists doubting themselves, Joyce has some simple and solid advice. “Be practical about it. Successful artists are very strategic in how they approach their practice, and how they network and develop their skills. Not everyone can be a successful artist, but there are successful artists out there.”
Joyce is the Founder of I AM Art House. She earned her BA in Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia. In 2019, she founded I AM Art House after her three months in Switzerland serving with Youth With A Mission (YWAM) Geneva and before studying at Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London. She earned her Graduate Diploma in Art and Design at the Royal College of Art and is completing a master’s in the History of Design at Oxford University. This year she will be earning her M.Ed. in Educational Psychology-Applied Developmental Science at the University of Virginia. She enjoys illustrating and writing children’s books as well as painting, figure skating, playing basketball, cooking, and making music.
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