With a gallery that has hosted over 100 exhibitions featuring over 500 artists in the Southeast and beyond, Yu-Kai Lin (01C), owner and director of Atlanta Kai Lin Art gallery, has created a collaborative space that brings people together to appreciate art. 

Lin’s passion for the arts began at a young age. Throughout his childhood, he explored and developed skills in voice, violin and piano. When he arrived at Emory, he decided to major in piano performance while also being on the pre-med track to become a physician or surgeon.

Yu-Kai Lin (01C) has created a collaborative space for artists in the Southwest and beyond to display their art. /Courtesy of Yu-Kai Lin

“I just love everything artistic, and music is just one prominent for the arts,” Lin said.

The summer before his senior year, Lin decided to change career paths and pursue the arts instead of the medical field. At Emory, Lin was artistically inspired by many of his professors and classes. He noted that Professor of Art History C. Jean Campbell and her class on Italian Renaissance art was particularly influential in shaping the direction of his career working in art galleries.

“I like inspired people,” Lin said. “I love people who are inspired by whatever it is they choose to be inspired by, and I feel like I’m inspired.”

Outside of the classroom, Lin was involved in concert choir and Emory’s all-male a cappella group No Strings Attached, in which he contributed to the group’s production, recording and graphic design of CD covers. Lin stated that the photoshop and graphic design skills he strengthened at Emory, much of which he learned through trial and error at the Music and Media Library in the Robert W. Woodruff Library, have been directly applicable to his current job building the careers of artists by marketing their works. 

“All those tools in your tool belt that you’re learning right now through trial and error are going to take you to the next level,” Lin said.

After graduating and gaining experience at two art galleries in Atlanta and Santa Monica, California, Lin opened his art gallery in Atlanta in 2008.

“I saw a need … for artists that were creating in the Southeast to have a place to show and to sell their work and to create an environment for their art to flourish,” Lin said. “There is such a wide tapestry of creators that have something to say, and I am just a part of that.”

However, Lin’s impact goes beyond his artists. Caitlin Zelinsky, former director’s assistant of Kai Lin Art from 2014 to 2017, described her first impression of Lin as incredibly warm and welcoming. 

“[Lin] is always bringing in new people, and people just gravitate toward him and his artists,” Zelinsky said. “You can see his passion for the creative world, towards the community, and he greets that with everybody.”

Lin’s exhibit, “Imagine,” is inspired by a world of “chaos, change and flux.”/Courtesy of Yu-Kai Lin

Lin’s current exhibit, “Imagine, brings together the work of four artists: Elliston Roshi, Greg Noblin, Kevin Palme and Stan Clark. The exhibit was inspired by the turn of the decade in a “world of chaos, change and flux.” Lin chose the combination of artists based both on their individual merit and how well they complemented each other. 

“We’re trying to reach a sense of passion and expression [and] emotion,” Lin said. “So imagine what the world could be like if we were not in competition but were in collaboration. We are finding common ground.”

Though it’s been several years since Lin graduated, he continues to be actively involved in the Emory community. Lin coordinated creative arts events through the Emory Creative Alumni Network. For instance, Lin organized a program for alumni to participate in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Decatur Book Festival and hosted alumni gatherings at his gallery to encourage camaraderie and unity among group members. 

Carolyn Bregman, former senior director of Emory Alumni Association’s alumni career services, noted that the artwork in Lin’s gallery was always memorable in the color choices and the message it communicated. She said that she is thrilled that Lin continues to be involved with Emory so that students can benefit from his insight, wisdom and success.

“I think that it is a wonderful gift for students on Emory campus today,” Bregman said. “[Lin] is an engaged volunteer and leader … I’ve always found him to be engaging, energetic and energizing.”

More recently in 2018, Lin came full circle when he spoke at a TEDxEmory event. In his talk, Lin shared how he lives a life of creativity through art and music.

Outside of the Emory community, Lin has achieved acclaim and was awarded by the Atlanta Business Chronicle as a “40 Under 40,” selected by CommonCreativ ATL as one of the “Top 50 Most Creative Atlantans” and chosen by Emory University as Alumni of the Year.  Though he appreciates the recognition he receives, Lin said that he most values the difference he can make in the lives of others.

“Success is so much more than just financial success,” Lin said. “Wealth is so much more than a number on our bank account. … Wealth is the lives and the choices and the people and the experience and the institutions and the positive impact I can make in the careers of the artists.”    

As Lin plans to continue his gallery, he advised Emory students to find their passion and enjoy every moment.

“When you go with what you love … then you find your passion and then you become your passion,” Lin said. “Others who want to be a part of your passion come to co-create with, collaborate with and come to elevate you to become even better than you thought you could be … This gallery is a manifestation of those passions.”