Wy Joung Kou is a queer, chronically ill, multi-disciplinary artist based in Toronto. With a body of work spanning mosaic art, poetry, sound, movement, performance, video, and installation, their work is often inextricable from queer, disabled, diasporic narratives. Grounded in a disability justice framework centering accessibility, community and interdependence, their artistic practice is interwoven with personal narratives of grief, care, and intimacy.
Kou’s educational trajectory as a professional artist has followed a path combining mentorship, formal apprenticeship, and community-models of learning, skill exchange, and collaborative process. They have had multiple opportunities to participate in incubator projects with other disabled artists, such as CRIP INTERIORS and The Inkling Project, where they have gained a strong sense of community and invaluable insights into the values and practices of creating accessible and multi-sensory artwork for a wide range of audiences.
As a mosaic artist, they consider themselves a poet turned visual-tactile storyteller. Their stories are ones told in languages of colour, texture, grit, and feeling. Kou first began learning about this work via a year-long community arts internship with Red Dress Productions (RDP) in 2015. Since then they have applied their artistic skills as well as facilitation skills with the RDP team on multiple large-scale, community-engaged mosaic works installed permanently in indoor and outdoor Toronto/GTA locations, including a 16 foot long mosaic mural of their own design at Street Health (2018). Kou’s independent mosaic work has exhibited in establishments such as Tangled Arts & Disability Gallery, The Gladstone Hotel, Critical Distance Gallery and the ArQuives. They began undertaking commission work in 2020, with their first commissioned mosaic piece now installed permanently at the recently re-built North York Women’s Shelter.
Kou grew up in Ottawa (ON) where they had the privilege to cultivate a movement repertoire rooted in over a decade of formal training as a competitive figure skater, all-star cheerleader, dancer and Taekwon-Do black belt. Their professional ventures in movement and performance now lie mainly in taiko drumming as a member of RAW – Raging Asian Womxn Taiko Drummers. As an apprentice from 2017-2019 and a member as of 2020, their participation in RAW is centered around performance, creation, and education. They took on a teaching role in 2019 for the Harbord Collegiate Institute Taiko Club where they have been teaching Naname and Miyake style drumming to the student club members. Kou's most recent participation in a large-scale production was in RAW’s highly praised 2019 concert at the Betty Oliphant Theatre, “Undaunted: Into The Open”.
Kou has also taken to the stage as a writer, giving poetry readings at events including Naked Heart Festival, Unruly Bodies, and Bricks & Glitter Festival. They have been writing poetry since their youth and began printing and distributing their first DIY zine, a poetry chapbook titled “Tigressbalm”, in 2018.
Kou is the founder and organizer of the Sick & Disabled Queer Zine Fair (2018-2019) as well as an Intergenerational LGBT Artist Residency alum. They were the inaugural winner of the JRG Grant for Artist with Disabilities (2018), and have been the recipient of multiple Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, and Canada Council for the Arts grants.