Storyboard: Youmna Chamcham

Space to breathe

As a creative person, I’m hands-on in every way. Too much time spent in academic circles, and I start to get antsy.

I grew up in Lebanon. There were no Lebanese students enrolled at ArtCenter when I was eventually accepted there. At least, none that I knew of. One of my art teachers from back home wrote a letter to the College admissions team. The process of immigrating to another country, even if it was to study at an elite art institution, was not easy for an 18-year-old. This was another continent. A vast ocean now separated me from the place I once called home.

ArtCenter orientation was a pleasurable, disorienting blur. To be honest, it freaked me out a bit. I was told ArtCenter would take over my life. I wasn’t going to sleep or have any free time to myself. What was I getting myself into?

ArtCenter students take pride in their affiliation with the school. It’s a name that comes with a reputation to uphold. “Well,” I thought, “it can’t be any worse than growing up in a war-torn country where work comes second to the struggle of daily survival.” I found myself fabricating stories about how miserable the workload was making me, just so I could fit in. Someone would ask me what I did that weekend, and I would tell them I had a sleeping bag stationed under my desk.

I still think of the four months I spent studying abroad in Berlin as the greatest time of my life; it was magic from A to Z. I settled in the great German city from September to December of 2012. We had launched Live Love, then known as Live, Love Berlin.

So much of Live Love is informed by Berlin’s exploratory urban spirit. For instance, one day, while out for a stroll, I found a single, errant shoe on the ground. I picked the shoe up. I read the labeling, which, curiously enough, instructed me to meet at an address in the city where an art exhibition was to be held. I then found myself at the gallery, where guests were hanging their own shoes on strings in the middle of the room. The night quickly turned into a kind of rowdy artists’ party. Berlin is full of transfixing detours such as the one I just described.

Shortly thereafter, I began immersing myself in Berlin’s “sharing economy,” considering how the modern online experience acts as a melting pot for communities looking to make a positive change in the world. I began shooting handmade documentaries about community gardens, makers’ spaces, and the like, having no idea that this would lead to a career. To this day, I have yet to forget about my time in Berlin. I had a bicycle and a tripod and a camera, and the city was my playground.

I co-founded Live Love, in a way, to deal with the pain of coming from a place defined by conflict. The magic that can be found on the streets of Lebanon, unfortunately, has no spotlight. Young people growing up there face a litany of external and internal pressures. The news is constantly making everyone aware of the world’s mounting injustices, which only exacerbates latent anxiety. We’re inheriting a planet that has been neglected, environmentally speaking.

So, what do we do? How do we arm ourselves with the resources required to address these issues head-on? How do we create communities that find shared solutions to shared problems? How do we mobilize people to take action?

These days especially, it sometimes feels like the world is ending. What Live Love aspires to do is say: “We’re all in a bad spot right now, but here’s what you can do to help.” Our aim is to point people towards solutions. Our aim is to generate hope. I give massive credit to ArtCenter, and the teachers who spent time listening, giving references, and encouraging me along the way.

Youmna Chamcham
BA 13 Graphic Design
Co-founder and Creative Director, Live Love
Former Creative Designer, Blockchain

ArtCenter students take pride in their affiliation with the school. It’s a name that comes with a reputation to uphold.

Youmna ChamchamBA 13 Graphic Design
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