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Young creative puts her artcentricity in perspective

Carroll high school senior Bayan Yunis began this semester winning a trip to Miami for the National YoungArts Week.

As one of 10 students from around the country selected for this distinction, she’s only the 3rd student from Carroll to ever receive the honor and is now submitted as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts.

Here she discusses the experience with WBOI’s Julia Meek, as well as what drives her artcentricity and how sharply her perspective on creativity has come into focus.

You can connect with Bayan and view her work on her Instagram page.

Courtesy/Bayan Yunis

Below is a transcript of our conversation:

Julia Meek: Bayan Yunis, welcome.

Bayan Yunis: Hi, Julia.

Julia Meek: So you've been on an art centric role throughout high school. Before we discuss where this has all led you, let's start with where the patient all began.

Bayan Yunis: So my love for photography all began when my sister was photography student herself, and she would use me as her model.

And eventually when I got to high school, I realized I couldn't torment her with that same treatment, (chuckles) but I decided to to try out being behind the camera myself, and I really enjoyed it.

Julia Meek: And so once you did get the bug, what was it like? Passion totally unbridled, shooting 24/7, what? How'd it feel?

Bayan Yunis: I was always brainstorming new ideas of what I could photograph, what I could title them, what my new concept would be. And so ever since I started, I was always thinking of what my next thing would be.

Julia Meek: Never ran out of ideas. You're still having plenty of them?

Bayan Yunis: For the most part, yes.

Julia Meek: That's fantastic. And what did the formal scholastic commitment net you once you to do get into high school and start developing that? How was the high school experience for you?

Bayan Yunis: I really enjoyed being able to be in multiple art classes in high school. Every year, I've taken at least one, but when I realized it was something I really enjoyed indulging in, I started taking more and more.

Julia Meek: And generally speaking, you do like art, but the photography is what calls your name?

Bayan Yunis: Yes, yeah.

Julia Meek: And you knew that by then anyway, so you really were ready to devote, well, four years of high school activity to it. Is that fair to say?

Bayan Yunis: Yeah, but that's not to say I'm not open to new mediums.

Julia Meek: Are you competitive by nature?

Bayan Yunis: Um, yeah, I'm very competitive, yeah! (laughs)

Julia Meek: Okay, good. That's not always there in a high school student, that's to be sure. Were you ever daunted by the local, regional, national competition that you did find yourself in with the photography once you got into that pursuit?

Bayan Yunis: When I was first, starting with putting myself out there, I was daunted by like scholastics and like local competitions, and for the most part until my sophomore year, I didn't get into any of them.

But when I did start getting into them, and especially when I got into YoungArts, my senior year, it was extremely intimidating. But luckily, I kept myself composed and was able to get the most out of it.

Julia Meek: What did it take to keep going into the abyss, if you will, as you saw what it was all about, knowing you loved it, but being that scary?

Bayan Yunis: Well, I never viewed art as my passion till recently. So my reason of maintaining this journey was, I'm just going to do this in high school then in college, I'll move on to something you know, quote, unquote, more serious.

Julia Meek: Well, quote, unquote, is that still the case?

Bayan Yunis: Definitely not!

Julia Meek: (chuckles) Good for you. Through all of this experience, then, did you know this was a path you were meant to pursue even though you were thinking it was not going to last forever?

Bayan Yunis: I didn't fully realize that it was my passion until November of 2022, easily less than six months ago. So it's pretty novel thing, but I'm sure it's gonna like stick.

Julia Meek: Was there an actual light bulb going off above your head? Aha moment, any of that?

Bayan Yunis: There was. When I saw my email that I was selected as a finalist in the YoungArts competition. I was like, wait a second, you know, I could make it I could do this for a living.

Julia Meek: (chuckles) Good for you. And how did your instructors feel about all of that?

Bayan Yunis: My photography teacher, Nicole Croix, she was very excited for me. She kind of treats us like her children in the sense where she wants the best for us.

And so she was very happy to see more for students going down that path.

Julia Meek: So happy to hear about about your teachers, you go to a great high school, that's for sure. Did it surprise you how excited your teachers were for you?

Bayan Yunis: I wasn't necessarily surprised. I feel like if anyone were to receive that sort of achievement, they would react that same way no matter who the person was. But I was very surprised that I was one who is receiving that attention. (chuckles)

Julia Meek: It's kind of fun to have an unbelievable moment like that, especially at your young and tender age.

Bayan Yunis: Yeah, for sure.

Julia Meek: And okay, you National Young Art finalists actually spent the week in Miami doing masterclasses and exploring the local artcentricity as you describe it. What kind of a rush was that?

Bayan Yunis: It was very much go go go. We were up from 8:00 and we wouldn't go back to our rooms until close to 11.

We were always doing something from watching performances to like photographing the sky, or having a shooting assignment that we'd have to shoot and edit within an hour. So it was definitely like a constant adrenaline rush.

But I am very grateful that I had that experience because it opened my eyes to like how to view the world more as a photographer than just as I was before. If that makes sense?

Julia Meek: It certainly makes sense and being in Miami that had to be almost larger than life--your first time there?

Bayan Yunis: It was my first time, yes.

Julia Meek: And your first time in a situation with just you and a bunch of students you didn't know before?

Bayan Yunis: Yeah, most of them were from the west, so I had no chance of even crossing paths until that week.

Julia Meek: Did it ever seem, well of course too good to be true, but it was happening. Were you ever fearful you're in over your head? Did it ever seem like too much?

Bayan Yunis: Um, I didn't did kind of feel like too much. I definitely felt like I had a place there. But I do suffer from imposter syndrome, which, you know, I say this with a little bit of cockiness.

But when you get as many stuff, as I did, as I have, it has definitely eased that up. So I feel more deserving of everything that I've gotten thus far. But sometimes it has felt like a lot.

Like whenever they presented us with a challenge, like do I have what it takes, you know, make something really good? And when I feel like I haven't, the judges, the panelists, their commentary contradicted what I thought.

Julia Meek: So you were getting in-depth instruction, and certainly in-depth exposure. That's great. How would you say it changed, broadened your perspective on photography, and general artcentricity?

Bayan Yunis: So at the beginning of the week, we were able to meet with professionals of different mediums as well.

And so we were able to like jump into what the foundation of art is, besides the principles of design and stuff, but like, of all mediums of like dance, music, you know, visual arts, writing, and what drives all of us to create or produce, which is an intrinsic love for like creation, and self-expression.

And so I definitely learned that that's what art should be about. And that's what art is about and that's shifted my view of whether or not I wanted to do art.

Julia Meek: It kind of showed you your place in that world if you wanted to be in it?

Bayan Yunis: Yeah, yeah, for sure.

Julia Meek: And how do you rate the shared experience with peers from all over that you didn't know, as opposed to if it had been a class of your own friends and students from here in Fort Wayne?

Bayan Yunis: Being within a big group of people who had the same passion as me, and were incredibly talented, and they were all so supportive of everyone.

And having that level of support from people that I view as my equals, it was a very validating experience and I really hope in the future, I'm put in those kinds of environments again, because I felt like it was a time where I was able to grow and improve rather than, you know, just create and happen to win stuff. (chuckles)

Julia Meek: That's a great, a great perspective there. And now that you are back and back in the swing of things, how is it influencing your new work?

Bayan Yunis: So the panelists allowed me to see trends in my work that I haven't necessarily noticed myself. And from those trends, I'm doing this new series where I'm creating 100 pieces. It's actually a challenge between me and my photography teacher; so far, I'm winning. (laughs)

But a lot of my works stemmed from my own experiences, but I've moved on to like human experiences as a whole, which they've helped me identify might be more of my path, if that makes sense.

Julia Meek: It does. And in fact, you're starting out with experiences. Of course, it does make sense that you start out with your own, yourself as a subject. Did that make you feel vulnerable from being the subject end of things, rather than being the photographer?

Bayan Yunis: I felt like it was very vulnerable being my own subject, like I was very vulnerable doing so. But I've gotten more comfortable with my vulnerability and letting people in on the things that I experienced.

That's something photography has helped me do, which is something I'm very grateful for. And part of why I love photography so much, because it really just opens yourself up to what things are, exactly how they are.

Julia Meek: And do you find it easier to make your subject feel at ease, since you had to make herself feel at ease in that whole first round of things?

Bayan Yunis: I think for the most part, I'm not a big fan of like staging people. Like I just like to take pictures for them as they're an action.

So I'm just kind of like, just don't pay attention to me, (chuckles) like, I'm just in the background, do your thing. I just take pictures and edit from there.

Julia Meek: So far, so good?

Bayan Yunis: So far, so good.

Julia Meek: Good for you. Good for you. Did you expect to be this passionate AND this busy your senior year?

Bayan Yunis: No, not at all. (laughs) It came as a surprise in November.

Julia Meek: But once it came and did surprise you, did you find yourself able to adapt, maybe surprise yourself how well you could adapt to such a different and exciting and creative and extra load?

Bayan Yunis: I was definitely very surprised. In the past with the workload that I have now, I would have definitely gotten burnt out.

But because of how much I love art and photography, it's something I look forward to doing everyday rather than something that I just check off my to do list.

Julia Meek: It's great at your young age and at this place in your life to have it on your to do list gladly and be developing it, indeed. What kind of response have you gotten from your peers at Carroll that are not art majors?

Bayan Yunis: I think aside from the you know, congratulations, like I'm so happy for you, which I'm very grateful for-- something I'm even more grateful for is the fact that they still treat me the same and that I'm still an acquaintance or I'm still a friend or a regular classmate and it hasn't changed anything.

Julia Meek: That's great and social media being right there and such a good way to share all this, where do you like to share your stuff?

Bayan Yunis: So I like to share most of my stuff on Instagram. I post things on my story and sometimes owithf my close friends I'll post some things on Snapchat.

Julia Meek: And do you do exhibits already at Carroll High School?

Bayan Yunis: So we have a show coming up our Fine Arts night May 18. And so I'll have a lot of work there, along with a lot of my classmates and everyone else from the Art Department.

Julia Meek: That's great. Again, that is a wonderfully artcentric school and I'm sure everybody's looking forward to it.

Lastly, of course, in the poll about you and your artwork, what does your sister think about this turn, your course of study is taken?

Bayan Yunis: I think she doubted a little bit that like, oh, maybe this might just be a phase. But I feel like eventually, she has kind of come around.

And she's overall very happy for me and really proud. And so it's really nice to see that as someone who was once in my shoes, you know, have that reaction for me.

Julia Meek: Be so proud of you? Of course, of course. And what about you, Bayan? Could you have imagined that all of this would be yours, say back in middle school when you were just a kid? (chuckles)

Bayan Yunis: If my middle school self were to see me right now, I think she would be very happy that I persevered. Because even a year ago, I could have never envisioned that I am where I am right now.

Julia Meek: That kind of a turn of unexpected events for the crazy better is really quite something. And where are you headed now with that patience in your heart and all of those accolades in your hand, as you are ready to graduate from high school?

Bayan Yunis: I want to major in visual arts and college to further explore different art mediums and develop my technique. But I'm unsure of which college I want to go to.

Julia Meek: Well, good luck Bayan. And now I'm curious, Carroll High School is gaining quite a reputation in the arts departments, from fine to culinary to performance, as a soon to be graduating senior there, what's your take on those programs and the impact they have on all of your students?

Bayan Yunis: Carol has an amazing art department, whether it's culinary, visual arts, fashion. I feel like for the most part, anyone with any ounce of artistic interest, they can find it like a medium to explore that they would enjoy.

And it's just like a really nice outlet from the tedious academic classes that you're forced to take every year. (chuckles) It's a nice outlet and sense of like exploration and I think everyone should at least take a class, which I think most people do.

Julia Meek: And so last question, Bayan, what word of advice would you give every young artcentric out there your age who might be considering such a wild and crazy pursuit?

Bayan Yunis: So put yourself out there. I would not have gotten to where I am without seeing the reaction of outside, like external figures, see my work.

It's one thing to have your teachers and your fellow classmates in your work, but to have outside organizations or art museums or colleges, seeing your work in shows? It's definitely a really nice sense of validation.

And even if you don't receive anything like I did for the first few years, just keep working at it if it's something you really want to do, because a lot of people don't gain success until later on in their lives.

And they work all this time. But then they become very successful and they find their niche in the art world. And so you know, do that. (chuckles)

Julia Meek: Bayan Yunis is a Carroll High School senior, National Gold Portfolio recipient and finalist in the National YoungArts competition. Thank you for sharing this most artcentric story with us, Bayan. Many blessings on your journey.

Bayan Yunis: Thank you.

A Fort Wayne native, Julia is a radio host, graphic artist, and community volunteer, who has contributed to NIPR both on- and off-air for forty years. Besides being WBOI's arts & culture reporter, she currently co-produces and hosts Folktales and Meet the Music.