East Meets West in Art at Viacom’s Vibrant Exhibit by Ogulcan Kush

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

The still paintings pulse with the hectic lifeforce of an animated GIF, seeming to burst from the walls of Viacom’s Times Square headquarters in a mesmerizing array of color and geometry.

“Kaleidoscope” by Ogulcan Kush. Photo by Studio Brooke.

The creation of Turkish-born, New York City based Ogulcan Kush (who goes by “OG”), the medley of precision-measured shapes and symbolism is a deliberate synthesis of Eastern, Islamic art and Western modern art. This fusion of artforms is both a tribute to OG’s principal influences and a therapeutic articulation of his frustration that his U.S. work visa will soon expire, forcing him to leave New York.

“I decided to be okay with leaving the U.S., and use whatever time I had left to react to the situation with my art,” OG told Art at Viacom, which is hosting the artist’s first solo U.S. exhibition, American Daydream.

“The American Daydream” by Ogulcan Kush at 1515 Broadway. Photo by Studio Brooke.

The exhibit is a nice compendium of OG’s work and style – it incorporates legacy pieces and several works created specifically for this exhibit, including a large piece that he painted live outside of Viacom’s cafeteria over several days.

I spoke to OG just after Art at Viacom unveiled his exhibition last month. The conversation below has been edited for clarity and length.

Stuart Winchester: How did you connect with Viacom?

Ogulcan Kush: Last year, I was working on Tahiti Pearson’s Art at Viacom installation, and I met the team at the press party afterward. We met for drinks one night and I showed them my  work, and they told me to come in for an interview. And I went in with my pitch ready and they were like, “So we would love to have you.”

SW: Take me through the process of working for Viacom from concept to actual installation.

OG: The people at Art at Viacom were super nice, super friendly. They couldn’t have been more helpful. After we booked the show, I finished two pieces specifically for the space. Then they wanted to incorporate a live painting into the show. They were really supportive of the art, not just established artists, but emerging artists doing a lot of work and trying to come up, so I really respect that.

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Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish Signs Open Letter From Leaders of American Industry Defending Dreamers

In 2012, the Obama administration passed a new policy called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA, sometimes called the “Dreamers” program, protects eligible young immigrants from being deported. The “Dreamers” are kids who emigrated to the U.S. with their parents. Many moved here as young children or infants, and some did not even know they were not Americans until later in life.

DACA opened the door for these kids to legally apply for their first job, to get their driver’s license, attend college and ultimately join the workforce as adults, contributing to the American economy.

Now, there is a movement in Washington to end this policy. If this happens, the lives of nearly 800,000 young Americans will be irrevocably altered. By March, they’ll be at risk of being forced to leave everything behind and move back to their native country—which many of these kids have no memory of.

On August 31, Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish joined President Barack Obama, dozens of university presidents, and a multitude of CEOs from major American tech and media companies in signing an open letter to the government leaders expressing their concerns about the devastating effects changing the immigration policy would have on the Dreamers living productive and happy lives in America, as well as the severe consequences it would have for the economy.

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Viacom Brands Unite for Hurricane Relief Telethon On September 12

After Hurricane Harvey left Texas residents reeling from one of the most devastating storms in U.S. history, CMT teamed up with other broadcast networks to air a benefit telethon on Sept. 12.

Since then, Hurricane Irma decimated entire islands in the Caribbean and left millions of Florida residents without power. The affected areas are still in “rescue mode” according to The New York Times, meaning we don’t yet know the full extent of damage caused by this colossal storm, but experts agree it will be extensive.

Now, the telethon has expanded to aid the victims of Hurricane Irma. Hand In Hand: A Benefit For Hurricane Relief also expanded its broadcast scope. Viacom networks MTV and BET will now join CMT in airing the special.

“Silence is overrated,” tweeted CMT. “Sometimes, music is the only thing that can get your mind off everything else.”

The hour-long special aims to do just that—use music as a way to bring peace of mind to those affected by the hurricane. And with BET, MTV and other broadcast networks now airing the event, Hand in Hand can reach as many homes as possible. This means more opportunity for people to make personal donations to assist hurricane victims. The telethon is predicted to be one of the largest benefit concerts in history.

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5 Questions With VH1 Save The Music’s Henry Donahue

Over the last 20 years, the VH1 Save The Music Foundation has provided millions of dollars in funding to music education programs at more than 2,000 public schools across the U.S.

We recently talked with Henry Donahue, vice president and executive director of the Foundation, about the positive impact the organization is having on students’ lives and how it’s celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

Here’s what Donahue has to say about his work with VH1 Save The Music Foundation:

Created by Viacom Catalyst.

The BET Awards: A Star-Studded and Socially Conscious Celebration

As host of this year’s BET Awards, comedian Leslie Jones had a vision for what she wanted the night to be.

Leslie Jones at the BET Awards in Los Angeles, June 25, 2017

“BET was the first network and place where I was on TV,” said Jones in a press release. “I am looking to turn this whole experience into a joyful homecoming.”

This year’s ceremony, which took place at Staples Center in Los Angeles, brought recording artists, athletes and actors together for an unabashedly jubilant reunion. Among the top talent in black entertainment present this year were Bruno Mars, Solange Knowles, Chance The Rapper and all six members of New Edition.

It was both a raucous party and tender family reunion, as you can see from these highlights:

Beyoncé shouts out her family, BET and “BeyHive” after winning five awards

Last year, Beyoncé stunned fans with a riveting, elemental BET Awards performance, dancing through fog, fire and water alongside Kendrick Lamar. The superstar did things a bit differently this year, opting to stay home with her newborn twins and enjoy the BET Awards from afar. She nonetheless still won a whopping five BET Awards—more than any other performer.

Her protégés, Atlanta sister-duo Chloe x  Halle (Chloe and Halle Bailey) accepted the Viewer’s Choice Award on her behalf, and delivered her acceptance speech.

“Thank you BET for this award and your tremendous support of Lemonade,” wrote Beyonce. “This has been a journey of love, of celebrating our culture, honoring the past, and approaching the present and future with hope and resolve.”

Watch the full speech:

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The Next Normal, AV Cues & Fans’ Brains, South African Youth: Viacom Global Insights Digest, August Edition

by Christian Kurz, Global Consumer Insights, Viacom

Welcome to the August issue of the Viacom Global Insights Digest, bringing you Viacom’s latest consumer insights from around the world.

This month, we unveil our latest project, The Next Normal: Rise of Resilience, as well as new research on how emotions influence viewing decisions, the effect of audio-visual cues on fans’ brains, and young adults in South Africa.

As always, the English version of our blog is home to these stories and many more. All stories are available in Spanish (LatAm) and Portuguese (Brazilian).

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Helping Immigration, Child Services, Hunger and Homelessness – Viacom, Catchafire Celebrate another Successful Year Collaborating

This spring, Viacom teams collaborated with nonprofit organizations from across the country and donated their time and skills through Talent for Good, Viacom’s skills-based volunteering program. These efforts culminated on July 10 when Viacom and Catchafire welcomed members from these four amazing nonprofits alongside the employees who volunteer with them in a celebration at Viacom’s New York headquarters.

This event, organized and hosted by Viacommunity, united everyone to share their experiences and celebrate their achievements. Adam Robinson, director of Corporate Social Responsibility, kicked the event off with a toast.

“Talent for Good gives our employees the opportunity to build and sharpen their skill-sets, and give back to the community in a much needed and impactful way,” Robinson said.

Adam Robinson, director of Viacom Corporate Social Responsibility, kicked off a Talent for Good partner event with a toast.

The first group to speak at the luncheon was a team of Viacom employees discussing how they banded together to create a pitch deck for L.A. based homeless youth shelter My Friend’s Place. As a native New Yorker, I felt a personal connection to this particular Talent for Good project. Manhattan, much like other large metropolitan areas, is riddled with homelessness. I see sleeping bags filled with tired bodies and men holding out cups filled with coins every day on my way to work in Times Square.

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Creating Reel, Impactful Films with Viacom and Reel Works

Any professional filmmaker will tell you that creating original films is a challenging process that requires great effort and skill. One may assume, therefore, that young high school filmmakers would find it an enormous challenge to produce quality, original work. However, walking into Reel Works’ Reel Impact event at Viacom’s 1515 Broadway headquarters two weeks ago, audience members would never have guessed that the nine students presenting their original work were relatively new to the world of film.

Reel Works is a New York City based organization that immerses young people in filmmaking programs free of charge. In the Reel Impact program – which was recently launched through a partnership with Reel Works and Viacom – students create original films examining social issues of their choosing. A heavy emphasis is also placed on marketing and finding a target audience for the student films.  Participants are given the opportunity to conduct research through focus groups and interviews to determine which audience facets best fit the social topics of their choosing. A mentor guides students through the filmmaking and post-production processes, covering everything from concept through promoting their films via social media.

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Jim Jefferies Thinks We Can All Do Better

I became familiar with Australian comedian Jim Jefferies after a college roommate showed me his now infamous 15-minute-long diatribe on gun control. It was a sarcastic, evidence-laden lecture teasing Americans for our wanton adoration of firearms.

“I am all for your Second Amendment rights,” said Jefferies. “I think you should be able to have guns – it’s in your Constitution. What I am not for is bullshit arguments and lies. There is one argument and one argument alone for having guns: F&%k off – I like guns! It’s not the best argument, but it’s all you’ve got.”

The New Yorker praised his “brilliant, hilarious, and astonishingly complete discussion” of the gun control debacle. Even pro-gun commentator Dan Zimmerman admitted, “This is best summary of the gun control lobby’s arguments that I have ever heard.”

GIF courtesy of Tumblr user Alan Macraffen.

GIF courtesy of Tumblr user Alan Macraffen.

Material like that propelled Jeffries career forward, and he is now part of Comedy Central’s stellar late-night roster, sitting behind the desk of The Jim Jefferies Show. Jefferies quips about politics, creates outlandish stunts and uses a mashup of news clips to highlight the ridiculous, repetitive buzzwords in mainstream news reports. One hilarious montage showed multiple news sources calling the GOP health bill “secretive,” leading to Jefferies’ astute conclusion that the bill is akin to the self-help pseudo-scientific book, The Secret.

Watch a clip:

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Viacom Signs Historic Legal Petition Defending LGBT Rights

No one deserves to be fired for their sexual orientation.

This is the logic behind Viacom and 49 other companies’ decision to sign a formal legal petition asking the U.S. 2nd  Court of Appeals to extend a federal law prohibiting employers from firing workers for being gay. This is the first time businesses have explicitly taken this position, according to Freedom for All Americans, a bipartisan campaign group that Viacom consulted with on this issue.

“All Americans deserve the right to go to work and provide for their families without having to fear that they might lose their job simply because of who they are,” said Freedom for All Americans Acting CEO Katie Belanger in an email to Viacom.

“Unfortunately, most states do not have laws explicitly prohibiting employment discrimination against LGBT individuals. That is why this case is so important. We are grateful for the leadership of Viacom and the 49 other businesses who have called on the court to ensure the fair and equal treatment of gay and bisexual employees,” said Belanger.

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