ICAI COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: An Interview with IAMP Mentors Aldona Barutowicz and Claudia Chagoya
What has your experience been like as a mentor to a newcomer arts and culture worker?
Aldona: Oh, my goodness, so great! I was absolutely thrilled about this opportunity. I'm actually an immigrant myself, and obviously, my personal story is a little bit different because I came to Canada when I was a child. I was ten years old, but the main thing that I dealt with was the language barrier because when I came to Canada, I didn’t speak a single word of English. So for me, I think because of my background and how I grew up, it's always been really important for me to dedicate myself to supporting women and being a mentor or volunteer in various capacities. So, when I heard of this Program I Jumped on it as soon as I received the notification because I think it's so important to support newcomers and immigrants coming into Canada. There are so many things that they have to deal with. And I couldn't imagine coming here as an adult and wanting to work within a specific sector, like arts and culture, and not really knowing where to start. I think it's so great that IAMP exists. I love how it's set up. And I'm really loving my time. I think ICAI did such an incredible job of how you put people together, like as soon as I met my Mentee, Ciza, I was amazed by the great connection. We have had such an incredible time working together. I hope that I'm helping her. But to be honest, even though I'm doing this to help her, it's actually helping me as well. Which is the beautiful part of being a volunteer or a mentor. I feel like I'm getting so much out of it. It's been such an enriching experience. I feel motivated and excited. And sometimes when I give her advice, I'm like, oh, mental note. I need to give myself the same advice because sometimes you forget, right? It's so much easier when you're chatting with someone to give them advice or tell them the things that you've learned along the way that you don't really think about it all the time. So this has really brought up a lot of wonderful things. I am so delighted.
Claudia: It’s been great. I really have enjoyed working as a Mentor for IAMP. It has been so gratifying. I have done this twice now, and I have really enjoyed just helping out my peers. I feel like that was something that was really important to me when I first came to Calgary. When I was starting to adapt. At the university, I was very fortunate as my peers and professors helped me a lot with adapting to Calgary, so it’s definitely something that I want to share and give back with the arts and culture community as well.
From this experience, how well do you think this program has impacted your mentee?
Aldona: I really hope that it's done a lot for her. The feedback she's given me is that it is working really well for her, and she's super grateful for the opportunity. I set up a meeting with us and with the executive director of the Calgary International Film Festival, which is one of my clients, because, you know, that’s similar to the work that Ciza wants to do. I think it's vital for me not only to give her feedback and mentorship through my perspective and my experience, but to also introduce her to other people within the community that I think will have knowledge that I might not have. And so I think those experiences have been really enriching. So I really hope that it's impacted her in a good way. I think she's learning a lot. Like I said, I'm also learning a lot. You know what I mean? We're delving into things that I don't necessarily do in my day to day work, which has been really exciting. I just hope that I'm able to open up some doors for her and make some connections that she otherwise wouldn't have had the opportunity to do, which I think is like one of the really thrilling things about a program such as IAMP.
Claudia: I think it has impacted my Mentee a lot. I can only talk about my experience, but I really hope my Mentee is getting as much from this experience and IAMP as I am. We have been working on different things with her including her website, so I think we are making great progress. I think this will be really good for her now and in the future.
Where do you see your mentee going from here?
Aldona: Oh, my gosh, I think the world's her oyster. Ciza is really smart. She has really great ideas. She has passion. She has determination. I honestly feel like this is just like a blip in all of the things that she's going to do and accomplish. She's setting up a really solid foundation. I highly support her. And to be honest, I do think that our work together is going to continue, which is something we've already talked about. I want to continue being her mentor outside of IAMP. And I've said to her, I hope to one day be on the board of directors of the organization that she wants to start. So, this is truly just the beginning for her.
Claudia: She has a lot of potential. Her work will definitely be shown more in galleries and shows. She has a business on the side for make-up at cultural events she does. I think with her business and her website, she will expand what she's doing and have so many more clients. I think she is going to go very far.
Any advice for newcomers and immigrants in this sector in Calgary?
Aldona: Oh, my goodness. Yes. Enroll in this program! I also think they should get in touch with Ciza, I think some of the work that she's planning on doing in the future is also going to be very helpful for newcomers and immigrants, especially within the arts and culture sector. I’d also say, if you have the means, take yourself to as many arts and culture events and shows as you possibly can. There are a lot of free things that you can join. There are a lot of communities and groups that you can join. I feel like you should immerse yourself in the art and culture world as much as possible. I think a lot of it really is about finding your community and networking to really find your people. I think utilizing as many offerings as possible in terms of programming that's available and again, just show up and see what happens!
Claudia: A lot! I would say definitely reach out to your communities and approach immigrant organizations like ICAI that will be able to help you more than you know. I think it is very helpful to connect with people who are like-minded, that are interested in the same things and that are willing to help. It is very difficult to try and learn new things about a new environment, so I think just connecting with your community is very, very helpful.
Any specific thoughts you would like to share?
Aldona: IAMP is amazing. I really love the program. Also, meeting in person with Ciza has been so great. That personal connection is so important and vital. IAMP helps build that personal connection, which is amazing.
Claudia: Newcomers should definitely apply to different things like IAMP. To approach communities or organizations like ICAI. As I said, finding like-minded people is key. Don’t be shy just to talk or approach people. That’s something I have to remind myself of! I just think it’s good to connect with new communities, specific communities. I think IAMP is a great opportunity. Not only for the Mentees but also for the Mentors. Giving back to the community through IAMP and helping specific individuals with their careers sets up a great community and eliminates the need for competition.
How do you think this program should be supported by the people of Calgary further and the government?
Aldona: I feel like the arts need to be supported much more in general. Programs like IAMP are instrumental and so important in our city. I think one of the greatest things about living in Calgary is the diversity in all of the arts and cultures we have. I love that IAMP is reaching out to so many great people to be Mentors. I think, as always, it would be great if ICAI had even more financial support from the Government and from the people, to grow IAMP even bigger. Going from ten mentees to fifteen or even twenty Mentees. I feel like IAMP is really great, and I think developing it further would be great and would help even more people.
Claudia: I think that supporting the people that are in IAMP is key. Showing support for those in the program, and also just immigrant and newcomer artists and cultural workers in general. And for funding? Give the program more money! It could be expanded even further with more funding and a larger budget to help those who need it the most. I think that is key.
Mentor: Aldona’s Website: www.aldonab.com
Mentor: Aldona’s Instagram: www.instagram.com/aldonabcreative/
Mentee: Ciza’s Instagram: www.instagram.com/dailydoseofciza
Mentor: Claudia’s Linktree: https://linktr.ee/ClaudiaChagoya
Mentee: Yu Chen’s Instagram:
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ICAI Community Spotlight highlights interviews with icons of Calgary’s Cultural arts community and gets personal on their journey, story, big mistakes, career goals, and other aspects.