BUSAN, South Korea – Since 1965, the Busan International Women’s Association (BIWA), a non-profit organization, has been raising money to help those in Busan and the Kyungsang-Namdo area that are in need – orphans, widows, the disabled and the elderly. Between helping the community throughout the year, the BIWA holds two major annual fundraisers – a Christmas Bazaar in December, and a Spring Event, this year on April 28 at the Grand Hotel.
In addition to monetary support, the BIWA provides a variety of social and cultural activities, encouraging cultural exchanges between its international and Korean members.
Russian-born Anna Girsova is currently the BIWA’s web coordinator, an editor of their bi-monthly Dove magazine and a creative woman who shoots photography when she’s not taking care of her own business. She’s been an expat for almost 15 years, having lived in Korea for 10 of those. Girsova is also a wife and mother of two daughters, one who is pursuing art as a career and another looking to start a career in music.
I met Girsova almost three years ago, when she was the BIWA’s president; through their online forums and I read one of her posts, entitled "Our creative BIWA members". Later, following several nice chats, we discovered that we both had the same dream of creating an art exhibition with and for BIWA members. In April 2011, this dream came true when the art show Embracing Our Creativity I opened to more than 100 guests. The project also generated some revenue for charity. Girsova was great at taking charge of the project from beginning to end.
Busan Haps recently had the chance to talk with Girsova.
How did you see the need of women to express their creativity through different forms of art, and why do you think it’s important to share our creativity with others and not keep it to ourselves?
Just recently, my younger daughter, who loves poetry, quoted Walt Whitman, an American poet from the beginning of the 20th century: “The powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse”. Walt Whitman might be known as a controversial poet of his time, but his words are exactly how I feel about exploring and fulfilling our own roles in our own lives. I believe that creativity is the reason why we are all here and, to a certain point, it doesn’t matter how you express it; what matters the most is that you do express it. Sharing is just a part of the whole process but nevertheless important. I think that creativity, a powerful energy in itself, cannot be, and will not be, kept to ourselves. Sharing is where further inspiration and progress are born and this is an eternal cycle.
Why is this exhibition and project important to you, as a participant photographer, and for BIWA?
There are so many reasons as to why it is important to me personally and to our association. Photography has been my hobby for many years and, like everything, has its ups and downs. This particular exhibition became a trigger, encouraging me to take a closer look at what I have accomplished as a photographer during the past few years. Examining my old and new works, I was able to see my own development and to realize what I wanted to do in the future.
As for BIWA, this exhibition was primarily designed as a fundraising event, where one of the conditions for participation was that all artworks must be up for sale, and all proceeds from the sales would go to BIWA charity. Also, some of the artworks displayed at the exhibition will be donated for a silent auction at the BIWA Spring Ball in April; this will definitely help BIWA raise more funds for charity. Secondly, I think the exhibition is a wonderful opportunity for BIWA members to show their artistic talents, to become inspired, to develop further, and to encourage others to try! Most artists at this exhibition are amateurs, so if this exhibition helps the artists to believe in themselves and motivates others to explore their own talents, personally, I will be very happy.
For a second year, Gallery Lee & Bae has opened its doors to such an important art and charity event. As a woman and an artist myself, I see its owner Bae Mi-ae as a friend but mostly a great role model. What can you tell us about her contribution to this exhibition?
I have known Mrs. Bae for many years and I was one of the few honored to see her private art collection at her home, years before she opened the gallery. To say that I was impressed by her passion for art would be an understatement. To me, her gallery was the logical result of her passion, many, many years of comprehensive art studies, and an impressive collection of paintings. I was very lucky to have her as a partner when she was BIWA’s first vice-president and her contribution to the association was enormous.
Now, even while being busy as a gallery owner, Mrs. Bae is still a dedicated BIWA member. Her support of the idea of the exhibition itself, donation of the gallery space, as well as her helpful staff and her knowledge and experience, are what actually made this exhibition possible. I think this is the most invaluable contribution. Additionally, this year Mrs. Bae has initiated the participation of renown Korean artists such as Kim Hae-jin, Kim Kyung-kyung, Cha Ji-yeon, Hwang Na-hyun; thus, BIWA artists’ artworks will be displayed together with renown ones! For most BIWA artists this will be a privilege and will be a very memorable event. Overall, I believe that this will add to the event tremendously.
You have been a BIWA member for 10 years and you were the president for two years. What is the most important lesson you have learned through your input into the organization?
The idea of giving and sharing is what fascinates me the most about BIWA. The lesson is simple and very well known: the more you give, the more you get. BIWA is a charitable association operated by volunteers and its whole existence depends on the efforts and the work of its members. Their job is not paid and requires a lot of time, but none of them expect to get anything in return. The outcome, however, is always outstanding both for BIWA and its members.
Another important lesson that I learned being in BIWA: embrace not only creativity but courage! I would say courage is the first, creativity is the second. To even think creatively you have to have a certain courage; nothing can be created without courage, and you just won’t “contribute your verse”.
This exhibition is meant to produce donations and art sales, a percentage of which will go to charity. What charity will be the beneficiary of this event?
Actually, half all sales at the exhibition and 100% from the auction will go to charity. Last year all funds raised at the exhibition were donated to SaeGil Women’s Shelter. This year the proceeds will be used for additional summer support to orphanages and low income study rooms; mainly for extra food support. This is what BIWA traditionally does during the summer time.
Embracing Our Creativity Series 2: Fine Art
Dates: April 25-28 (Opening ceremony April 25, 6 p.m.)
Gallery Lee & Bae
The gallery is located almost at the bottom of Dalmaji Hill a few meters from Café Opera: 1510-1, Joong-dong(Dalmaji), Haeundae-gu, Busan tel. 051-746-2111
Link to event is here.
To read an interview with the artist Gaby Berglund Cardenas, go here.