Lia is a newcomer writer and storyteller living in Calgary - Mohkinstsis, finding her own language expressions between English & Portuguese. Four years ago, she left the beautiful beaches and magical forests of Brazil to seek new stories in Canada.
She is passionate about the daily adventure of living, fascinated by human resilience and interested in hearing and telling stories about the different beginnings that everyone, newcomers or not, faces throughout their lives.
Lia shares her adventure of living with her partner Daniel Monzon and their faithful squire Nina. She loves to read and spend time walking through the city streets with headphones and camera on, finding the protagonists of her stories and projects.
If you were moving to another country today, 10 thousand km away, with
a new language and an extremely contrasting climate and culture, what would
you take with you as pieces of memory from your homeland?
What would you select, from your whole personal journey, places you visited, loved ones that you'll leave behind, that would fit in your luggage, limited to 50lb which has also to be filled with your essential items, clothes, and documents?
This exhibition showcases special belongings carefully selected by Brazilians who chose Calgary as their new home. From items that represent regional heritage or family heirloom, to symbols of national culture, discover the meaning behind these totems of the third largest country on the American continent.
ARTS COMMONS GALLERIES
Congratulations for being selected Artist of the Month!
Lia: I feel so honoured to be selected as ICAI's Artist of the Month!
The artists ICAI features each month carry such talent and I know
first hand how hard they work to create brilliant and meaningful art.
I truly didn’t expect to even be considered to be on that scale.
My first thought was I am so far from them, but here I am
and feeling so grateful!
"There is a general misconception of the art practice
What does being an artist mean to you?
Lia: When I say that considering myself as an artist was almost a sinful act is twofold. There are two reasons and the first is my family background. My family, as many immigrant families are, have always repeated and reinforced the importance of having to be practical. I have to be useful and obtain a profession that can provide stability in my life. And to be brutally honest, pursuing the arts in Brazil is a very different kind of experience. Brazil is home to very talented artists but oftentimes the ones who receive a lot of praise and success go through the commercial route. You may either become famous and make millions in the commercial side of things or choose the more Fine Art aspect and not make anything for a living with your art. Unfortunately there is no common ground in between the two; being the one percent of the famous and commercial artist and not being able to survive through one’s art practice.
Thankfully I don’t see that as much here in Calgary. I also notice a lot more respect being given to artists from all kinds of backgrounds here, no matter where they are in their artistic journey. It’s so important to be recognized and feel supported through the artistic community.
What was your initial experience in Calgary like?
Lia: When I arrived in Calgary and learned more about the art world here, it was a very pleasant and eye opening experience that shifted my perspective. I started believing in the possibility of establishing myself here. Having not only a place for me here but a space for my creative growth and potential. Even though currently it’s not my full-time activity, everything I am doing goes a long way. Taking a deeper dive into my artistic growth is so much more validating - I am getting recognized and not only have opportunities but also the excitement of paid opportunities. This is amazing and makes me think that what I used to think is impossible I now see a future in.
I was in the first cohort of the Immigrant Arts Mentorship Program
and I remember during our first graduation, one of the mentees
said something exactly the way it is. Back home the ‘arts’ is something
that only other people’s kids do, it’s alright if it's other children
but not my own.
How did writing become your medium? Can you share more about your career journey?
Lia: Writing has been a big part of my life for a very long time. It’s who I am and so, I graduated in linguistics and literature, and have a Bachelor in Arts focused on writing and comparative studies. I’m definitely a bookworm and love storytelling. I feel so blessed that I can explore my passion here!
Going through the journalism program (diploma) here was one of my first steps in Calgary. I saw it as a good opportunity and I was ready for a new challenge, however for a long time here I didn’t receive very much encouragement and there wasn’t really anyone who saw potential in me in the area of journalism.
Instead it was a similar story as back home where people thought it would make more sense for me to go into business or hospitality and in general guiding me in a direction where language is not the major tool. I didn’t listen and go down all the alternative paths suggested to me because it's what I like to do, what makes me happy and what I see myself continuing to do always. This part of my life here was not easy at all and almost depressing.
"Finding ICAI was a huge uplifting light.
What were the biggest obstacles as an immigrant and how did you overcome them as a migrant and an artist?
Lia: The language barrier was in between myself and applying my passion here. My thinking was I need to first be as proficient in the English language as I am in my first language in order to achieve my goals and full potential here. I steered away from risk taking and being open to opportunities because of the barrier and feeling the limitations.
I was told to just start writing and to push those feelings aside, to just let them go and lose whatever I am afraid of. So I said yes to just leaving it all behind me and starting a new chapter for myself here.
The immigrant struggle is a very different and unique experience of hardship and growth. I was already an adult when I moved and still realize that people can think and say whatever they want. It’s life and not everyone will be on your side, however it’s so important to still find that right support system.
Do you have any advice for newcomers?
Lia: My advice for newcomers and specifically newcomer artists that are maybe struggling with the same things as me, is to start connecting with absolutely everyone. Go to LinkedIn, start googling, start looking for non-profit organizations, start diverging and creating your own networks. Just simply start.
The big three organizations I first found were Calgary Arts Development, Rozsa Foundation and Arts Commons, through which I learned about ICAI!
I went to an exhibition at Arts Commons and started following the artists I saw there and saw a call for artists on social media. The opportunities suddenly all seemed right in front of me. So just get out there and talk to everybody. That would be my greatest advice.
I only started doing this when I told myself that
Have you attended or participated in many local arts events?
Lia: Attending art events is a great way to be more involved in the community as well as making connections and learning from one another. It’s actually funny thinking back on my IAMP mentor Alex Kingcott one day saying that I am now even more connected than her. Which of course isn’t true - she is Alex Kingcott!
I do my best to attend as many events as I can but of course life has a way of creating limitations, so I find it very lucky when I can take the day off, make other arrangements and be a part of the lively art scene here in Calgary. I remember going to CADA’s congress last year in November, which was amazing. They sincerely asked the artists what we need in the future and it was great conversation. We had workshops, panels and much more. It’s so important to get even a little bit of assurance. No artist in the beginning of their career starts out as a full time artist right away. It just takes some patience and resilience.
Involvement in the community is vital to growth. I am currently a part of the TD Incubator artists at Arts Commons and was a part of the exhibition. I don’t remember which workshop it was but we were talking about who in the group is a full time artist and there was just a small group of people who could relate. The rest on the other hand spoke out on how they’re working a soul sucking job they aren’t passionate about. It just made me think about how much I needed to hear that too and to know that I'm not alone and apparently everybody is in the same place as me. These conversations also make it easier to take a breather and take it a bit easier on yourself. Even the stories and conversations that aren’t just about the success stories but are about our common struggle as immigrants, build a sense of self and community.
It’s amazing how much of a game changer it was for me when I started connecting with other artists. Being able to talk about the process, the struggles and overall learn more about the arts in general and its placement in Calgary, not just from books and videos but from actual people here is just fantastic. The sense of camaraderie created assurance that I’m not alone here.
Which programs do you think were most valuable for you and what were your biggest takeaways?
Lia: I completed the month-long RAFT program through the Rozsa foundation, which was very informative.
Because I have a background in administration and experience in office work, I have an idea of what the system operates like. However, seeing that apply in the arts is so good and is so crucial for every artist to know, from financial statements to budgeting, and so on.
For example, ICAI opened IAMP so they opened a program and were able to get a grant but I think it’s so interesting knowing about that grant process itself as well, which helps all of this amazing work and growth happen. I’m curious about what else an arts organization does, ways they go about doing it and how processes are set up. When you learn that - you understand more about the organization and more about the people that work there, so you overall have a better understanding of the organization itself. Ultimately, it becomes easier for you to place as an artist in a new land. You may know surface level things about an organization but when you learn a little bit more about the skeleton structure of an organization, it really all starts to come together.
Thinking back on all of the things I learned from
How was ICAI been a support to you?
Lia: ICAI helped me with everything. I wouldn’t be where I am now completely without the help from ICAI! Every member from ICAI that I’ve had the pleasure of connecting and working with I’ve found strong and consistent encouragement amongst everyone. I appreciated the support in celebrating each milestone even if it’s a seemingly small one.
Shifting perspectives to look at the small achievement
How has your immigration process impacted your creative inspiration and thinking?
Lia: The main intersection is grief. I feel that is the main thing. When we move to a new country, it’s a mix of being overwhelmed by everything new in parallel to the excitement of everything new. But really we are all grieving. We are in a huge grieving process and people should talk more about that. You are grieving friends, relatives, you are grieving the physical spaces and the intellectual spaces - your entire old life. Everything is so alien when we first come here. The more experiences I live through here, the more spaces I find for myself to exist on this new land. It's the sense of belonging to a new city that is a huge and complex process. I see it first hand that some immigrants unfortunately never find it no matter how much time passes, they never get accustomed to a new way of life here.
This is one of the things that I really want to go deep
Lia: There is this very reverse misconception. When we get so afraid about losing our own cultural identity, we tend to build a huge wall between who we are and other people that are living in the same place as us. So there are two paths to take here. Either you get energy to break this subconscious wall or you stay there in your bubble and only live in the boundaries of that single community. It's not a matter of right or wrong but I really don’t want to miss out on opportunities to connect to people from all over the world. Sometimes the language barrier isn’t even the sole dividing factor - it is the wall that is built that is so hard to break apart sometimes. This wall creates further obstacles in the adjustment process and the best thing that can help overcome this is resilience.
I relate to the concept of resilience as a practice.
When you keep moving forward, when you don’t have anything to inspire you, you’re just simply moving. Dead on the crown, you may one day wake up and realize you don’t know what you’re doing here. But when you have the inspiration and you’re consistently doing some check-ins, asking yourself is this what i really want to do and does this really make me happy, is where the true answers arise. And of course no one does only what makes them happy everyday. Even in the best case scenario - life things happen.
But when we leave so much behind, as all immigrants do, we have to find a bigger purpose, otherwise we are going to end up feeling that we are in the same city, same country - just with with an endless winter and life is going to be miserable.
How do you keep the spark alive?
Lia: Thinking about this is very interesting and having a closer look at ways to go about making sure that creative spark doesn’t burn out. I’m not a painter but thinking about the painting process as an example, I see it going from a starting point of inspiration, to working with colour, and eventually deciding that it’s a complete work. This happens with most of the visual arts but with writing and wth storytelling, it’s something where very often it’s just like a candle. You may light a candle and it will continue to burn when you are present and creating space for it. So when you have the time to truly be with your art, create and develop a story and work through the whole process - you will work on it.
But the challenge is when you light up and it’s exciting but then life calls and when life calls we just have to blow it out, put it aside, put it in a corner and come back to it another time. It’s good and bad when this happens because it’s a constant feeling that it’s not over, thinking that my stories are never finished.
What are you currently working on?
Lia: I am half way through a novel right now and have been in love with this story for so long but then of course, life calls at times. Too often I have to put it aside. But what I’ve learned from this happening, is every time I go back to it when I have the time and opportunity, it gets better. It really gets better.
I don’t think the spark is about the notion of if we’re not going to keep it alive and burning constantly it’s never going to come back again. It’s more about the ability to control your spark. That is it. That is what I learned here. You don't need to feel guilty and feel like you’re not producing enough but more so it’s not the time for this and maybe it’s time for other things, after which you may come back and have fresh eyes while relighting that spark in the moment. The key is to have the ability to control your spark. That is up to you personally and when you like that spark on fire and acknowledge its presence.
I’d love to share about my novel! It’s a story about immigrants.
The protagonist is an immigrant from Brazil because that’s what I
know and feel comfortable writing about. It goes back and forth about
the experience of being there and being here and the contrast of every aspect of life and culture shock. Connecting with other cultures and topics
of importance for me here is advocating about violence against women.
This especially is a concern in Brazil and many other places in Latin America,
which are considered to be some of the most dangerous places to live as a womanwith domestic and sexual violence. The book brings this up in a way that is meant to give closure to these women and I’m working out ways to structure the plot in a certain way to achieve that.
I’ve always wanted to write something with huge
Also working on:
IG - @liapereirayyc