Artist of the Month: April 2023
Note from Artist:
Being featured as artist of the month is truly an honor, and I am excited about the opportunities that will come with it. Having my work recognized and appreciated by others is a wonderful feeling.
I hope this exposure will lead to new connections and collaborations with other artists and creatives. I am looking forward to the possibilities that lie ahead whether it's new opportunities for exhibitions, collaborations, or simply new connections with other artists and art enthusiasts.
I am eager to share my reflections and experiences as an immigrant woman of color, as I believe many others can relate to the challenges and opportunities of creating a new life in a new city and country.
Through my work, I hope to tell stories that resonate with people from all walks of life, capturing the essence of navigating the complexities of uprooting oneself and creating something new.
Born and raised in the Philippines, Ligaya is a multidisciplinary artist with a wide range of artistic experience, including painting, performance, video, and photography. She holds a Bachelor's in Fine Arts from the College of the Holy Spirit, Manila. She furthers her artistic education by pursuing a graduate degree in Art History at the University of the Philippines.
Ligaya has been involved in social justice work and art collectives in the Philippines and has helped with advocacy campaigns for various NGOs. Her works have been focused on reflecting on women’s role and condition.
In addition, the artist's passion for visual storytelling led her to explore film production, working as a production designer on several independent and commercial film projects in the Philippines. Currently, Ligaya is focused on exploring the theme of connection, finding her way back to her roots, and documenting what remains of her connection to the idea of home - as she reflects on her immigrant experience
What would you like to share about your artistic background? Are there any specific points of inspiration driving your practice?
My artistic journey has taken me through various disciplines and mediums, each helping me explore and express a different aspect of my life and identity. Whether painting, drawing, installation, video, or performance, I am always drawn to integrating different media types to convey a story. I do a lot of different things in my artistic practice and have never really focused on just one medium. So I guess the best way to put it is; I am truly a multi-disciplinary artist, having my hands in a broad spectrum of tools and practices. I prefer it that way.
Most recently, video has been my big focus but I’ve also painted, worked in performance, illustrations, and much more. I’ve worked with a lot of non-profit organizations in the past and contributed to advocacy and social justice groups in the Philippines. My active experience was in California and San Francisco, where I was doing more performance based work. That’s a quick summary of my journey. I was born and raised in the Philippines and moved to North America. Since having kids, my production has slowed down but now that they’re a bit older, I am getting back to producing more work.
Even through this process, I still stayed as involved in the arts as I possibly could. Art will always be a part of my life, whether it is supporting my fellow artist friends or for myself and my personal joy being immersed in the art life. I know that art is always going to have a big presence for me.
How has your artistic journey transpired as a multidisciplinary artist and translated onto new land?
Because for a while there, it’s been hard to get back into it and regain confidence, while moving to a new country and starting a new life and everything that comes along with that.
The work-life balance isn’t easy. At first when I moved to Calgary and had young kids, I couldn’t work as much as I would have liked. There was a lot of guilt around that too. I know it wasn’t easy on them being pulled away from a place of familiarity to something new all the time. We’ve moved around quite a bit, so that’s why I brought up the guilt factor that comes along with the process. I’ve had to do what was necessary at the time for survival and have had day jobs where there wasn’t a lot of creativity involved.
So I’m really happy to be in the job I recently found where I can actually be very creative and apply my talents on a regular basis, making it my living. I am currently working at a digital creative agency here in Calgary, so it’s more enjoyable for sure. Even if I’m not producing my solo art work, I am grateful to be doing something creative. This opportunity really shifted a lot of things for me, even in my own creativity, just having the chance to be around other people who have similar interests. I work with people who are videographers, photographers, and writers. It’s just an overall creative environment. That’s been super good for me, connecting with like minded people.
What are some of the challenges that you have identified as a newcomer artist here?
As an artist, I am currently faced with one of my biggest challenges: striking a balance between providing for my family, settling into our new life in Calgary, and consistently dedicating myself to my artistic practice. It's a juggling act that requires careful consideration of my time and resources as I navigate the demands of everyday life alongside my passion for creating meaningful art. In addition to this, I also need access to the necessary resources and materials to immerse myself in my projects fully, from securing funding to sourcing materials and equipment.
When we moved to Canada, we first settled in Victoria. My experience in Victoria was particularly difficult. There are many reasons why but for one; it’s much less diverse than Calgary. Finding opportunities was very challenging, even though I put effort into finding the right communities. My children were also younger when we were there so maybe that also contributed to the hardship I’ve felt mentally. There were so many great things about the move to Canada but I’ve been here for six years now and definitely the first three were the hardest. I didn’t feel like I could find and land at a place where I would belong in the arts community for so long.
Before coming to Canada, I felt a sense of romanticization of it all, being such a progressive country and so cultural. So when I came to Victoria, I felt like it was the first time I experienced racism. Well, maybe not quite to that extent but I just really wasn’t expecting it to happen so quickly in Canada. We’ve already lived in very big and diverse places like New York and San Francisco and the opportunities in the arts are everywhere in large cultural centers.
Can you share some of the highlights of your proudest moments of growth in Calgary?
I had really high hopes coming to Canada but experiencing what I experienced in Victoria was just hard. Coming to Calgary was a really beautiful surprise and it brought back that initial hope and excitement about moving to Canada. Because I’ve moved so much in my life even as a child, I always believe it’s important to not have preconceived notions of what cities are like. I found Calgary surprised me in such a special way. It’s been so generous to me! There was a time in my life where I felt very discouraged in terms of opportunities in the arts, to just be where I’d like to be as a person and as an artist.
So after three and a half years, we moved to Calgary and I am so grateful. We were so surprised! When you live outside of Alberta, everyone seems to have very stereotypical perceptions of what Alberta is all about and I am so glad to have such a positive experience here.
ICAI really has given me that boost!
How has ICAI been a support to you?
After discovering ICAI through the Calgary Women's Centre's social media, I applied to the program and was fortunate enough to be accepted. I sincerely appreciate the chances that ICAI has offered me as an artist and the ongoing opportunities it creates. Even after completing the program, ICAI continues to keep me motivated and focused on my artistic aspirations. Their social media platforms inspire my growth as an artist as I observe the other artists and initiatives that ICAI endorses.
ICAI popped up on my social media maybe a year into my move here. I kept looking for local opportunities and seeing what I could be involved in here. I always used to volunteer for non-profit organizations, so when I saw ICAI posting about the Immigrant Arts Mentorship Program, I was really keen to explore this. At first I had doubts but doubts about myself, feeling insecure about my gap in my practice since I’ve moved and having children and moving over and over.
It felt like my arts practice was stagnant and I didn’t know where to start. ICAI has really been a big help for me. The pandemic was hard because I really wanted to meet people in person, as I was new to Calgary. Meeting people at ICAI, my mentor, and other artists who share similar journeys was really humbling. I thought I was alone in my journey and isolation and having a hard time connecting with other artists or pivoting to a more creative life in general.
I started seeing more possibilities in this city and felt really positive about building a life here and opportunities for growth artistically and professionally. Doors started to finally open.
The shift in my life that happened with the move to Calgary and finding ICAI was extremely impactful. That’s when I noticed a shift and realized the universe and this city is being generous to me. ICAI has been pivotal in that shift for me.
I sincerely appreciate the chances that ICAI has offered me as an artist and the ongoing opportunities it creates.
What were your expectations about IAMP and how did your experience meet or exceed these expectations?
The most impactful resource that ICAI has provided me is the mentorship of Claudia Changoya. Through Claudia's guidance, I have become acquainted with numerous communities and prospects in Calgary that continue to motivate me.
Claudia is just wonderful! I’m so glad we were paired together. I really connected with Claudia. She was so generous with her time and her knowledge about where to go, starting a project, grants, and so much more. Our worldviews naturally really aligned too, which was great. She surprised me actually. I loved her work and I still do too. I connected with her work so much.
With the mentorship program, what I found really valuable is our conversations and meetings. She introduced me to a lot of great people in the arts community, as well as introducing me to people from the Fem Assembly, a collective that she is a part of. That was really inspiring and motivating. Some of our meetings were just her including me to come out to art shows which was amazing. This exposed me to a part of Calgary that I was really interested in interacting with more, so it was great.
Being able to exchange ideas and build a supportive community is important to me. I am grateful for my connections through ICAI and look forward to staying in touch with fellow artists. ICAI events have been a wonderful opportunity to learn, connect, and grow as an artist.
Art to me is not just about doing things on my own. Art to me has a lot to do with community and how my art and my state just as a human being serves a bigger purpose by connecting to the community.
I think about this a lot. For me and my art practice, a lot of what I do and what really inspires me is what is around me. My family and my personal experience of being a mother and what that means, how that translates into my thinking and practice, the way I approach creating. Authentically, it’s what I can draw from in my life right now. There are so many profound things that you can discover but if you’re discovering it all alone, having visions but not sharing them with the community and not being able to reflect back and missing out on receiving feedback. This process is just so crucial to understanding the value and the full impact.
I believe community makes the value of art all that much more rich and really value that in my own practice. My art and myself cannot be fully isolated. Other people really inspire me and other people’s work moves me. That’s what art is for me - when I’m being moved, when my brain just takes in the inspiration and I realize it’s not all about a 9-5 job. There are more important and more beautiful things in life. It’s about getting moved through your mind, your heart, and your spirit. Being moved by your own work and by other people's work.
How has IAMP changed your thinking about the Calgary Arts Community?
Even through COVID and being remote for a lot of it, my IAMP experience definitely exceeded my expectations. Looking back at my own experience and observing the second cohort now, I just really appreciate ICAI’s commitment. It’s hard to tell sometimes what an experience will be like when you are in the first go of it (we were the first batch) and a lot of us were thinking the same. I think IAMP is starting to establish itself as a program that actually creates impact. Everybody who has been involved is just so good. I find it so inspiring still seeing what other artists are doing now post completion of the program. The fact that I’m even having this interview right now is a testament to the care that I feel from ICAI, reaching out to the mentees after the program.
Having the tools and resources is so important and I’m so grateful that even after the completion of IAMP, I can still come to ICAI and ask questions. I also feel comfortable reaching out to people that I’ve met through ICAI when I am looking for more resources or just want to touch base and stay connected. That rapport was already built.
I want to continue writing the script and production logistics for a video project I am working on. My passion for visual storytelling has also led me to explore film production. I worked as a production designer on several independent experimental and commercial film projects in the Philippines.
Currently, I am focused on exploring the theme of connection - specifically, finding my way back to my roots and documenting what remains of my connection to my idea of home. Recently, I have been exploring my experience as a mother and a woman living in Canada as an immigrant.
What is a common theme in your artwork and how do you hope to impact your audience?
Through my art, I can examine how these various aspects of my identity intersect with each other and the broader world around me. I delve into the joys and struggles of loneliness and love and how they shape my isolated experience, far from my family and the culture of my homeland. I was inspired by getting to know the First Nations history in Canada on a deeper level but then connecting that to the ancestry line in general, so I’m planning to go to the Philippines.
We’d love to know more about your video project! How was it realized and how did you decide on this medium for your message?
I remember the feelings I had when I had to write about what my immigrant experience was like and that just made me really keen to explore the idea of home in my own art. A lot of artists have already explored this but for me personally, I now realize that because my family has lost so much and have moved to so many different places. It makes me want to really hone in on this idea and ask the questions of what really is home, and where it all starts; our elders. I will be starting with interviewing the elders in my family in the Philippines, recording our lineage story as a family. It’s personal and fascinating.
We don’t have any way of tracing the immigration that our family did, so it's very important to trace back the steps and learn. I am already anticipating and I just know that there are so many valuable stories in there, waiting to be discovered. I don’t know what they are yet but that is also the exciting part. I’m excited to be surprised by the silly, quirky and serious aspects of our history that I never had a clue about and then to document it, and ultimately connect it to my experience in Canada.
I want to explore the beginnings and the steps in between the immigration process, what this story even is, the story that I am currently processing in my own experience. I want to take this and compare these stories to my elders, like of my 94 year old grandma who has lived through wars. I want to find a parallel here and recreate this in different mediums of storytelling, whether it's creating portraits or maybe a documentary or an experimental video.
This is all just in the beginning stages. I was thinking of collaborating with other artist friends in the Philippines, as that is where everything will be shot. I’d love to meet more local creatives who do video and would be interested in collaborating here as well.
Can you tell us more about the creative agency you are currently working with now?
I work for FreshWater Creative Agency. Our office is right by the Arts Commons. So funny enough, during lunch time I actually now get to see the work of the recent IAMP mentees in the hanging exhibition: I Speak Art II.
It’s awesome! I do project management there but the cool thing about project management that I love is that I get to get involved with different kinds of projects, whether it’d be video, branding, identity design, and various other components of digital media marketing. It’s really enjoyable because it’s the exercise of coming together as a team and brainstorming to solve a problem for a client, realizing what it should look like.
That process of creation and building is so enjoyable. I’ve also been busy with producing podcasts and vodcasts. My heart is really in my job and the fact that I get to be around people that I can bounce around ideas with and learn from each other is so valuable.
We need to remind ourselves about what actually brought us here, what brought us to loving art and why we need to be committed to what we are doing. That is what the whole concept of what creativity is about, it is what is at its core of the process of creativity.
Any opportunities you would suggest to newcomer artists who are also looking to progress their creative careers here?
Specifically from my own experience, I feel like Calgary as a city has been surprisingly generous. I say that in a very positive way. I want newcomers to know that there are resources available here. I say this to myself and to everybody else, how important it is to get out there and connect.
It’s what we need right now as artists. We don’t need to contribute to the isolation, where the trend of the world seems to be going sometimes. This is based on my own values - we need to remind ourselves about what actually brought us here, what brought us to loving art and why we need to be committed to what we are doing. That is what the whole concept of what creativity is about, it is what is at its core of the process of creativity.
I believe that art was created in order to bring people together, whether it's through music or food or anything else - it lives to bring people together.
It's almost like because of the culture and the direction of where the world is going with the evolving technology, we have to just stay focused and really remind ourselves what is important, what kind of value we really put into our creativity, what that value means for us personally and to keep working at it.
It's easy to be isolated but I really discourage other visual artists from doing so. I am guilty of this as well at times. I think a lot of visual artists tend to isolate themselves because it may feel easier but we lose sight of what’s important in the process.
We need to start counting our blessings and realize how much we need each other in this world. It’s our job to see each other in that way. There are so many things we can do better in the world but maybe it's my own way of protecting myself as well, by being productive and creating something meaningful, instead of contributing to the vision of isolation.
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