For Hollis Wong-Wear, hosting the 2015 Youth Speaks Seattle Grand Slam was a dream finally realized. The event, which sold out Town Hall Seattle last April with more than 800 people in attendance, features some of the city’s most talented young spoken word poets, and sends 5 finalists to represent Seattle at the Brave New Voices International Poetry Competition each summer.
“It’s hard to articulate what an honor it was to host [the Grand Slam],” says Hollis. “It was totally amazing.”
As a teen, Hollis participated in Youth Speaks Seattle and even made the team to compete at Brave New Voices in 2006. To be invited back to host the event was a testament to how far she’s come as an artist—and an opportunity to give back. “To just be part of the continuum means everything to me,” she says.
Hollis says that maintaining a connection to her community is critical for her growth and sustainability as an artist. Staying involved with Youth Speaks Seattle and Arts Corps is a big part of that.
“For me, there’s no art of my own without the community I’m a part of,” she says. “I don’t think I would be pursuing my career in the arts if it weren’t for Arts Corps and Youth Speaks Seattle. Arts Corps believed and invested in me for what I could be and do in the community. [They] gave me the confidence to believe that I could succeed in my pursuit [as an artist].”
Hollis’ creative voice and confidence have taken her far. In 2012, she co-wrote the track “White Walls” from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ break-through album, The Heist. She’s also featured on the chorus. Shortly afterward, she and two friends formed electro-pop band, The Flavr Blue, which released its first EP in 2014 and has another coming out later this year. Hollis currently serves on the 4 Culture board of directors, the Seattle Center Advisory Board, and the City of Seattle’s Music Commission. In all of her free time, she also manages an up-and-coming recording studio in Los Angeles, which allows her to split time between her two home states.
“Claiming myself as an artist was about fully believing that I matter,” she says. “It’s about fully embracing my creative capacity to leverage social change. By centering myself in my art, that is how I’ll have the greatest impact on the world. Creativity and art are fundamental to creating a just world.”
She continues, “Arts Corps and Youth Speaks Seattle ensure awareness of the connection between art and equity, art and politics. This serves as a guide for me. [The intersection of] creative capital and commercial enterprise can be disorienting and distracting. The influence of Arts Corps and Youth Speaks Seattle are my foundation and ensure that I create for a purpose.”