ICAI COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT: An Interview with Samuel Obadero and Patricia Peixoto, photographers and IAMP cohort 2 pair
Can you share your experience of the Immigrant Arts Mentorship Program? What worked for you in this pairing and how did you support each other?
Paty: It was great for me! I had the opportunity to meet Sam and he’s an awesome mentor. Through him I was able to meet other people in the arts community in Calgary. Before the program I was feeling really alone because I didn’t have a lot of friends yet and didn’t know a lot of people in the arts so it was hard to be very involved. After the program I definitely noticed that I feel a lot more confident to speak with people about my practice, which is photography.
I will be exhibiting my work in February in two exhibitions, which is fantastic! It was very unexpected because I thought once I finish the program, I will do more professional development and go from there. So it was a really pleasant surprise that right after I completed IAMP, I was able to meet people and participate in exhibitions. The valuable takeaways were definitely networking and community building. So the experience overall was amazing and exceeded my expectations.
Sam is a very easy going person and is super encouraging; telling me to trust in myself, believe in myself and my work. We had meetings every week or so (sometimes we would meet twice a week). I’ve gone to his studio twice and in one of these sessions, I participated in assisting him in a portrait photography session. It was great! Sam is a wonderful human being and knows a lot of people and is super friendly.
The experience taught me that I am capable and don’t have to be shy, even though at times I feel otherwise. Even though I have limitations with my English, I know that my art will pave the way for me here. (Sam helped me build the confidence that I can be proud of now)
Sam: I would say I know Paty likes to think that she has learned a lot from me but in my case, I learned tremendously from her. Patricia was the best thing that happened to me in 2022. Her work and who she is as an artist is inspiring but Patricia as a person is much more inspiring. I have my talents but there are so many things that I need to work on as well. And Patricia came into my life at a time where I really needed support for those things. I know it should be me giving Patricia advice, trying to help her and go through the program but for us, it was very much a symbiotic relationship. She wasn’t shy to ask for help and also wasn’t shy to give me that support that she saw that I needed. It was crazy in the best way.
What does mentorship mean to you? Were there any highlights working together that exceeded your expectations?
Sam: Patricia's personality allowed us to extend the mentorship program and what we’re doing now. It looks like Paty will be in my life for probably forever. We worked together through ICAI but now we are doing something else and further exhibiting together at cSPACE. Patricia helped me to champion my thoughts too that led us to building a movement in Calgary. We are putting together artists of diverse backgrounds, for them to share their voice, to explore their artistry and to overall just keep growing as artists.
So I think the mentorship program in my experience was great. I learned a lot more from Paty than I thought I would and I am so grateful for this connection and for ICAI for pairing us together also. I think the program that ICAI is doing is just tremendous and so beneficial for immigrants and even more so for the arts community in Calgary.
My thoughts can be very scattered and I have many different ideas in my head. I’m on the go all the time. I like it, that’s how I’m wired and how I function, being hands on with many different tasks. I have to show up for my people, for my community, for artists who look like me and all immigrants because I know the process first hand. I take it upon myself to mentor them, guide them, share my resources with them. Every chance that I have to do that, I get up and get it done. As beautiful as that may sound, the downside of that is having everything in order at all times.
So Patricia really helped me stay accountable and would kindly show me how to go about certain things that are required of me too. She doesn’t stop there; she’s come to assist me in my personal studio and is so willing to help me with anything I may need. These are things that she doesn’t necessarily have to do but because of the person that she is and also because she really wants to be involved as much as possible because she is also learning through all this - she is quick to come up with suggestions and solutions that I find very useful. I remember Paty coming on set to help with a shoot and she just absolutely owned it! She blended in so well, the team couldn’t even tell that she was my mentee. The way she just dove right into it reflects on the person that she is. (and also a desire as an artist to be involved hands on with any kind of task that she is given. In that moment my relationship with Paty actually grew immensely because I saw a different person that day, a person that was very responsible and driven, carrying herself with a very calm, collected and positive attitude. She gets the job done.
What opportunities are you excited about that came from this pairing? Can you share you working towards in the future?
Paty: There are two exhibitions. I am going to exhibit with Arts Commons and also at cSPACE. At cSPACE I am actually going to be exhibiting work with Sam and two other photographers, as well as a painter. And the Arts Commons is through the RBC Visual Emerging Artists program. We also have professional development - and that’s been very helpful.
Sam was able to connect us with cSPACE and we invited more artists to join us. We had the idea to make something grande in the future because we believe that everybody has something special to share and we are open to supporting people. As a collective, we want to have more artists involved. The same way that Sam and ICAI helped me, we want to give back now and do the same for others.
How did IAMP change your thinking about the Calgary Arts Community?
Paty: Before the program I had no idea about grant processes, or an idea about how the city wants to expand the arts community and the ways in which money is being invested. I learned so much and this was something that opened my eyes. I also had no idea how many amazing artists we have in the community here, how many different spaces we have here. People are willing to help us to exhibit by providing spaces to share our work, and holding workshops. All these things were a discovery for me. Despite being here for almost four years, I still felt like I was brand new. I had no idea at all. So through Sam and through the program, I was able to meet more and more artists and became involved, which led to opportunities. It was like an explosion in my life. Everything changed the day after the program.
My goals for 2023 is to be more supportive of the community and be more involved. For myself, I want to have my own photography business. In Brazil I was a photographer and I would just love to continue my career here in Calgary and keep growing. My dream is to be doing this full time.
How did you approach the collaborative process and what did you find worked well for you? Why do you think mentorship is so vital to our community?
Paty: I believe what makes us work so well together is the common desire to share ideas with respect, being open to what each other has to say - we don’t deny any ideas. There is a healthy level of acceptance with our collective. It’s something very new, we are just building it but I feel that there is no prejudice with us being open to the artist's vision. We are open to new skills because everyone has their individual strengths and weaknesses, so we are willing to put everybody together and help each other.
So as a newcomer, it's sometimes really hard to find people willing to actually support you. Life is already hard and starting over is very hard. The energy you spend on this process is exhausting, so having other people to lean on that you can rely on is just amazing. This is what it’s all about, the collective.
Sam: I totally agree with everything Patricia has said. I find that the synergy that we had as a pair in the program when we had our mentorship sessions together was incredible. Paty was always present, attended every workshop, filled every form, and so on. Her commitment was truly inspiring. That influenced our conversations in our meetings because I could tell how incredibly thirsty she was to be involved and grow here, hungry for more information, resources, connections and experience. That also gave me the chance to share my knowledge because sometimes when you are with people who aren’t asking questions, I have a hard time figuring out how to actually help them. Paty was open to listening and absorbing all the information. It speaks volumes to how she can be like a leader as well. She’s mentored people in the past, in Brazil and I could tell she has leadership attributes. There is an easy flow to our relationship working together because we go back and forth with who is leading. The sessions we shared together were just incredible.
Empathy is so important in the process. It helps when flexibility is required and helps to listen and hear. She came here already being a great artist and I am so grateful to have been of use to her to show her what the next steps are, and finding a voice here. It’s hard to come to a new place and to introduce yourself and your art form in an unfamiliar place, where you don’t speak the language, where the culture is very different. The goal here wasn’t for me to teach her photography - she is already a great photographer in her practice. She just needed a little push on the other things. Photography may not have been new to her but the layout of the land here is of course different to what she is used to. She was ready to take the risk. Everything ICAI wanted us to do together was such an easy process.
I know first hand how hard it is to come to a place where you don’t even speak the language. It’s hard and a huge cultural shock because suddenly you cannot communicate your thoughts and ask questions. There is a disconnect in which I very much relate to. That barrier is one of the many things that we’ve worked on together.
There are so many other people in this city who face the same cultural barriers, so for me any chance that I have to support that process and help out, I can never say no to that. IAMP has a certain structure of things you must do in the time spent as a mentee-mentor and we tailored it to our availability of course but also suited it to fit the resources available that made a difference.
What were your biggest takeaways from the program and how do you think it needs to be further supported by the people of Calgary and the government?
Paty: It's so difficult to pinpoint just one specific highlight that made the biggest impact on me through the program. Everything fit in perfectly from the meetings with Sam to the support from the ICAI team. Everything as a whole was great but the most special thing that truly left a mark on me is building my confidence up and meeting new people. It changed my life. I couldn’t be more thankful for Sam and couldn’t have asked for a better mentor to be working with throughout IAMP and still to this day.
Sam: I’ll quickly say that because not only am I a beneficiary of some of the things that ICAI has done in the past but a lot of my friends and colleagues have also been a beneficiary of the program. My last thought here will be that we need more support for organizations that do things like this.
We are better as a community when our arts community is thriving. I’m not downplaying the role of other professions but even through the pandemic, we saw a bigger need for a thriving art community. We need support and I don’t know where it’s going to go but we should dive on it, all hands on to help. Looking at how my life has changed and how Paty’s life has changed is just a tiny speck of the wider community that organizations like ICAI have made such an amazing impact on. There is no limit to how far this goes, the influence and the work they are doing. This is what I truly believe - we should all rally around these programs and support them as much as we can because they are not doing it for themselves alone. It is a selfless act; they are doing it for me and for Paty and everybody else that has had our path.
Mentor: Samuel Obadero
Mentee: Patricia Peixoto