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Stamps Alum Yen Azzaro Launches Podcast for Creatives

Yen Azzaro and Hafsah Mijinyawa
Yen Azzaro and Hafsah Mijinyawa

Two Michigan-based creative professionals, Yen Azzaro (BFA 03) and Hafsah Mijinyawa entered the world of podcasting in 2024 with Cadence. Azzaro, Mjinyawa, and their peers share their experiences and perspectives on growing, living, and working in creative spaces, particularly as women of color in art and design. 

They describe Cadence as an exploration the sometimes mysterious areas between being an artist and having a career through the lens of our artistic labors and leisures.” Guests represent a wide variety of creative professions, and a recent episode included Stamps alum, photographer, and designer Pete Baker. 

Azzaro recently took a break from podcasting to answer some questions for her alma mater about this exciting new venture.

As a creative, you’re moving into a new realm with a podcast. What do you find exciting about launching this project?

I have yet to dabble in sound since I took Sound with Professor Stephanie Rowden in the early 2000s. It’s nerve-wracking to hear my voice recorded and interview others. But I’ve found that exploring this medium to inform others has challenged the exact notions that Hafsah, my podcast partner, and I are trying to explore: that we, as women of color, don’t have the loudest voice in the creative room or that we don’t have the knowledge. Producing and recording a podcast over the last four months has shown me that I’m an expert in my lived experience, and I hope that will prove helpful to others. 

You have this quote on the homepage of your website: The real talk we wish we’d had with creative professionals.” Can you give examples of the real talk” you will explore on the podcast?

Hafsah and I started this journey in Summer 2023 after we met with a group of high school students, all young women/​femme of color. We realized that we could give the typical talk about how to be a good artist/​designer, but we were also being thoughtful about their intersectionality and, in turn, our own. Our real talk” really centers around how we’ve had to navigate difficult situations but also how to find joy in the work we do. Our episodes are structured around Leisure, Labor, Tactics, and Homework. That format keeps us focused, but we hope it offers consistency to our listeners. Consistency is what builds a successful practice over time. The season is chock full of experts in their field, including Stamps alumnus Pete Baker, filmmaker Donald Harrison, printmaker Paloma Núñez-Regueiro, graphic designer Linette Lao, art professor Dr. Cam McComb, and creative insurer Christopher Johnson. They are all friends or colleagues we respect profoundly, and they shed light on many vulnerable parts of their work.

Cadence, A podcast for creatives

What space does Cadence fill that has been missing from the creative community across Southeastern Michigan and beyond?

In the first episode, Hafsah and I talk about our appearances, ethnicities, and perceptions of how others perceive us in work environments. There aren’t many spaces to broach that — and certainly not safely in the workplace. We also talk about meandering the creative path and what it takes to get up each morning and do the work. I’ve recently listened to some inspiring creative podcasts like The Truth in this Art and Creative Pep Talk, but we’re hoping to offer an obscure voice that uplifts minority, female/​femme voices.

Other than the podcast, what are some of the other projects you are working on?

We’re already gearing up for season 2, where we interview people on how they do their jobs, from when they wake up to how they end their day. As young people, we have a sense of it, but we want to shed light on the daily habits that build the practice. That’s not something that has been offered in a comprehensive way to the emerging creative community.

I’m working extensively with environmental justice and racial equity clients through graphic recording. I’m excited about the Biden-Harris administration’s Justice40 Initiative, which has a goal that 40 percent of the overall benefits of certain Federal investments flow to disadvantaged communities that are marginalized, underserved, and overburdened by pollution.” No other administration has prioritized this kind of work before, and I’m lucky to work with adjacent organizations that have been charged with pushing out this messaging.

I’m also collaborating with students at the University of Buffalo on their Mozilla Impossible Grant. They have been challenged to imagine what it would take to build a world in which computing could become anti-racist.” I’m in awe of the kind of responses and ideation they do in a short amount of time. It keeps me on my toes! My 2024 travel schedule includes Detroit, Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; Wilmington, Delaware; Buffalo; and my beloved alma mater of the University of Michigan, where I work extensively with multiple schools and departments across campus.