Communication with a Cause
Communication with a Cause
Communications and media services agency managing director and former gallery owner, Joumana Rizk-Yarak, flies the flag for art, social issues and other projects that are close to her heart, with a passion that is both tireless and enviable
Photo Credit: Karim Sakr
Given that not many of us manage to combine our personal passions with an entrepreneurial endeavour, it might be fair to describe Joumana Rizk-Yarak, who has achieved that and much more, as one of the lucky ones.
However, while the former gallery owner-turned communications and media services agency managing director recognises her good fortune, Joumana, who studied marketing communication, is also quick to point out that life is hectic and entails a great deal of hard work.
The past few weeks illustrate her point perfectly; just recently Joumana’s agency, MIRROS, has been involved in a whirlwind of activities, communicating and raising awareness on projects that range from the BEIRUT ART FAIR (BAF) to the Teach a Child Association’s Art for Education event, while also preparing for upcoming major events, such as the Goethe Institute’s high-profile reopening.
“We also have the third edition of the Beirut Art Film Festival in November, which is very exciting, since it falls under the scope of projects we handle and care about,” she says. “Earlier this year, we highlighted the Beirut International Platform of Dance (BIPOD), now in its thirteenth edition, for the first time, which was a landmark for us, alongside Photomed, the Festival of Mediterranean Photography. These are incredibly busy and challenging times.”
While these names represent just a handful of MIRROS’s client base, they offer a telling snapshot of the fields that are Joumana’s main focus. “Our emphasis is on arts and culture, and the social and development sectors,” she explains. “I always wanted to be involved in these areas, since they are domains I feel passionate about.”
Other organisations Joumana has worked with include the Order of Nurses in Lebanon and NGOs, such as SKOUN, Lebanese Addictions Centre, The Brave Heart Fund, Georges N. Frem Foundation, Sciences Days and Save the Children. She has also played a part on projects and programs funded by the EU that promote social dialogue, vocational training and assistance for children with learning difficulties. Another field close to her heart is the support of female entrepreneurs and the empowerment of women, which she has done through a variety of initiatives, including the New Arab Women Forum- Entrepreneurs (NAWF).
Joumana admits, with a smile, that building a client base featuring only commercial brands might have been more financially rewarding. “However, I prefer to work with organisations who are making a difference for Lebanon and its people, those involved in issues I’m concerned about,” she says. “I’m ready to stay up all night and look at how I can relay their message or fight for their cause.”
In many ways, the move from gallery to agency in 2008 felt like a natural one, Joumana explains. “I was working with several young Lebanese and regional artists at the time, so was heavily involved in activities such as exhibitions, conferences, concerts, book signings and talks with individuals, universities and institutions,” she says. “I decided, when setting up the agency, that I wanted to focus on promoting the arts and culture, which were my passion, but also extend the remit to include social concerns and development.”
Ensuring messages are relayed clearly and give an accurate reflection of MIRROS’s clients has long been a priority for Joumana, something she even decided to acknowledge in the name of both her gallery, which was titled Maraya, the Arabic word for mirror, and the agency, whose name also means mirror, but in Greek.
The names also highlight the importance that Joumana attaches to the image of her ventures. “I care very much about our reputation and it makes me very proud to know that we’re a trusted source,” she says. “I’m incredibly happy when people approach us and say they’ve heard about our services. Clients tend to come to us, rather than the other way round, which is highly satisfying. Of course, having an excellent team in place helps hugely with that.”
Among her projects, Joumana is currently wrapping up the BAF, which is one of the biggest annual events on the regional art scene. The 2017 edition was deemed a huge success, with 51 galleries participating and visitor numbers reaching 28,250 up from around 23,000 last year. MIRROS was also in charge of the media communication for the first edition of the Beirut Design Fair, which took place to great acclaim at the same time.
Against this positive backdrop, Joumana says she’s confident that Beirut can maintain its niche as an artistic and cultural hub, despite growing regional competition.
“Everybody in the region still looks to see what the talent in Beirut is creating, be it art, design or fashion,” she says. “At every cultural event, the audience is amazed by the quality of the exhibits, the displays and the performances. These events show that Beirut is brimming with energy and creativity, but also highlight the wonderful will that exists in Lebanon to move forward. These factors combined will help the country maintain its status as a reference point for the Arab world.”