SpanicArts is a non-profit organization that promotes and gives space to Hispanic artists in Calgary helping them to develop their careers and overcome the challenges they face as newcomers.
ICAI had the opportunity to interview Lily Sigie and Fredy Rivas and talk about the challenges and achievements of the organization and as an immigrant artist based in Calgary. They, along with Milena Vasquez founded SpanicArts.
Lily came from Mexico and Fredy came from Colombia - they both shared many things in common. As Lily said “...we both were immigrant professional Artists looking to be recognized by the art community as professional artists.”
How do you end up co-funding SpanicArts?
Lily: "At first, we were two crazy artists with a dream; Fredy Rivas and I; shortly after, the third dreamer joined us, Milena Vasquez. We were a trio of three Hispanic Artists and dreamers who wanted our professional work and our Hispanic colleague’s artwork to be recognized through what ended up being SpanicArt."
Fredy adds, "...as a new immigrant, I looked for new opportunities, but it was difficult to get involved in the field, so I decided to be part of the solution instead of the problem."
What do you do?
Fredy: "We do multidisciplinary exhibitions where we can show the individual as an artist through different ways, such as galleries, virtual exhibitions, festivals streaming and workshops."
Lily: "Some of our most relevant programs and projects have been: “DesayunArte” Artists Talks,” “Dramatizarte” Play Readings by SpanicArts Performing Artists, a program to promote our Hispanic Playwriting through our Latin Actors; “Now and Then” 2021, an online visual exhibition, “Souls of the Land” in collaboration with Arts Commons 2021, “All Saints Day Exhibition” to celebrate the Day of the Dead in Latin America, in 2021 was an Online Exhibition with visual and performing arts, and finally “PerformFest 2021” the very first event after pandemic in-person to promote the artwork of our performing artists and “Merkado Exhibition” and “MiniGalleries” in collaboration with Crescent Highs community, both in 2022."
Tell us about the challenges
Freddy told us that the support from their Hispanic artist local organizations has been a challenge. "We are not on the same level of understanding of the meaning of working together as a community," he said.
For Lily surviving the pandemic was a big challenge recognizing the work of the board members of that time, Claudia Chagoya and Maya Corona, both Mexican visual artists and the three co-founders already mentioned Freddy, Milena and her.
With the help and support of all the Hispanic artists that by that time were SpanicArts members, we could survive and move most of our activities online, she said.
What about the future?
Fredy explained to us that SpanicArts will be on hold for a couple of months to re-structure our organization seeking a physical location to motivate and support the local artist with studios where the artist can make and show their creations.
So far, we have a Hispanic celebration that we do every year as a part of our culture called: “All Saints”, and a concert on Nov 11 to celebrate life with a band called “La Santa”.
As for Lily she is no longer part of the SpanicsArts board, but she let us know that this organization will always be a tattoo on her, now Lily is starting to work in Arts Commons, one of the leading performing arts centers in the country, they have invited her to be part of this great organization as programming coordinator.
Any advice to other Hispanic art immigrants?
As an Immigrant Artist, Lily said, I can tell it has not been easy at all, which was one reason we founded SpanicArts. Perseverance, networking, and professionalism in your artwork are the keys to getting into this unique art community, she said.
Both co-founders are trying to make a place not only for themselves as artists but for all the Hispanic artists in Calgary.
They recognized the important work of organizations like SpanicArts or ICAI supporting immigrant artists, in that matter Fredy said, we believe that we have worked for the same goal that has a great impact on their lives and careers to become professional artists in Canada. We connect and work closely in a very positive way helping each other towards the immigrants.