Meet a Panelist: Bhawin Suchak's Inspiring Experience

Every year, NYSCA brings together hundreds of artists and arts administrators from throughout the state. At NYSCA's office, they convene to review applications, playing a vital role in the evaluation process. Panelists receive an honorarium and travel reimbursement in exchange for their service to the field, which involves reading all proposals in the Program they serve, reviewing support materials, and providing constructive criticism for each eligible proposal so that it can serve as feedback to applicants.

NYSCA spoke with FY20 panelist Bhawin Suchak, executive director and co-founder of Youth FX, a media arts organization focused on empowering young people of color in the City of Albany by teaching them creative and technical skills in film and digital media. Read on to learn why he considers serving on the NYSCA panel an enriching and inspiring learning experience, and his takeaways for future NYSCA applicants and panelists. Interested in becoming a panelist? NYSCA is now accepting applications! Click here to learn more and apply.

You were a first-year peer panelist for the Electronic Media and Film program (EMF) last year. What was that experience like?

It was an incredible honor and a deeply enriching learning experience for me to be a panelist -- not only to get in-depth insight into the work that organizations are doing, but also to see how leaders in the field are grappling with questions about racial and gender equity, and re-shaping to be more responsive to their communities.  I was also impressed by how proactively NYSCA is encouraging organizations to think deeply about the ways that they are reaching new and diverse populations. 

Did you learn anything new about the EMF field from your experience as a panelist?

Being a panelist is like doing a field survey, I have learned so much about organizations and projects that are happening across the state.  One of the things I've noticed is that there are some really incredible projects that are blending cutting edge techniques with traditional forms of electronic media.  I have also been really inspired by the work organizations are doing, seeing what best practices are being implemented across the state is exciting and energizing!  

How did your experience as an educator, filmmaker and artist help you prepare for your service as a peer panelist?

I think I bring a unique perspective to being a panelist as someone who is an executive director of an organization as well as an artist who is working in the field as a filmmaker.  Working with young people who are just getting their first exposure to film and digital media, I have been able to listen and hear some of the challenges they see as they consider a future in the industry.  I also understand the complexities of running a non-profit community arts organization, and have so much empathy for people in leadership and the multiple roles we all play in the running of our entities.  As an artist I feel moved to also ensure that other artists, who don't have the privilege of a 9-5 job as a backup source of income, are being advocated for as organizations receive funding. 

Did you know some of the other peer panelists before your work on the panel?

I didn't know any of the panelists, but knew of the work that some of them were doing, so it was a great opportunity to build connections.  My plan is to visit some of the panelists organizations in the future.

What advice do you have for applicants based on your panel service?

My advice would be to be bold and forward thinking, have a vision.  As a panelist when I am going through applications the ones that tend to stand out for me are proposals that are thinking outside the box, rooted in the service they provide to their community and thinking about sustainability and impact.   

Bhawin Suchak is an educator and filmmaker born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and now based in Albany, NY. He is the executive director and co-founder of Youth FX, a media arts organization focused on empowering young people of color in the City of Albany by teaching them creative and technical skills in film and digital media. Bhawin is the co founder and co director of NeXt Doc, a year-round fellowship program that amplifies the voices of documentary filmmakers of color between the ages of 20-24 years old. He previously directed the award-winning documentary, The Throwaways.

Bhawin was interviewed by Fabiana Chiu, NYSCA’s program officer in the Electronic Media and Film and the Museum Programs.