THOUGH museums, art galleries and performance venues remain closed for now, that hasn’t dampened the creative spirit in Los Angeles.
To spotlight the artist community, which has been largely affected by the pandemic, The Music Center in Downtown LA recently launched “For The Love of LA,” a virtual art series featuring over 35 artists posted every Tuesday over a 13-week period. Whether photography, painting, dance or music, each artist employs an art form to illustrate the vastness and diversity of the city at this moment.
“We created The Music Center’s ‘For the Love of LA’ as a way to shine a light on the resiliency and creativity of artists across our region. To do that, we partnered with local arts and cultural leaders to serve as guest curators who selected the artists featured in the series,” Daniel Soto, program manager of programming and community engagement at The Music Center, told the Asian Journal.
With the greater LA area home to over 600,000 Filipino Americans, it was important for the performing arts center to include artistic representatives from the community. The series includes three Filipina American artists — Valerie J. Bower, Christine Hipolito and Anna Luisa Petrisko — curated by Jennelyn Tumalad.
“As a civic institution, it’s our duty to serve the residents of Los Angeles County through the arts, and part of that means amplifying the voices of those who make up our community,” Soto said, adding, “In working with our brilliant guest curator Jennelyn Tumalad, we talked about the power of seeing oneself reflected in the world through art, and what it means for The Music Center to highlight the work of three Filipina American artists. Petrisko, Bower and Hipolito use different strategies and mediums in their work and together they reveal how varied and complex the Filipino American community is.”
As guest curator for the series, Tumalad wanted to challenge viewers to experience and engage with the artists’ pieces beyond looking at them from a distance through a computer or phone screen.
“I figured what people are experiencing right now is: fear for what’s next, loneliness from this pandemic, uncertainty, and a desire to feel seen and connected. The best way I could think to get people to feel a sense of joy, inspiration, and connection was to curate from the heart,” Tumalad, an arts program producer and educator, told the Asian Journal. “As I mention in my curatorial statement, Los Angeles really represents a time and place where I felt seen and empowered as a Filipina American.”
The three artists’ works were unveiled throughout October in line with the observance of Filipino American History Month.
Valerie J. Bower — “We Are Essential (Mahalaga Tayo)”
When thinking of the ‘essential’ workers in the Fil-Am community, one automatically thinks of its contributions to the health care field. However, the immigration history of Filipinos to the U.S. since the early 20th century shows that Filipinos have also been an integral part of the food and agriculture industry, and the West Coast labor movement.
The vital workers of today still include the farmworkers, grocery store attendants, restaurant servers, and food distributors who ensure that the community has food on their tables and is nourished.
In “We Are Essential” (Mahalaga Tayo), a 92-page zine of black and white photos, photographer Valerie J. Bower pays homage to the history of Filipinos in essential food work — from the manong generation in Delano, California to the last remaining Filipino farming community in Orosi to volunteers delivering warm meals and groceries to families in need. She also captures the action inside markets selling food staples and items that help the diaspora stay connected to the culture and homeland.
“When I include all of these images acknowledging the past, in addition to the current Filipino food workers, I’m trying to say that ‘We’ve been here, even if you haven’t noticed,’” Bower told the Asian Journal. “No matter where we are in the world, there is a need to keep our culture alive through language, traditions, and especially food. In shooting my project, I realized how vital these workers are in order to have our foods from the homeland. With these familiar products, recipes, and fruits and vegetables of the Philippines, we’re able to maintain a sense of identity and cultural heritage.”
Christine Hipolito — “Desire Portals”
Artist Christine Hipolito infuses her Filipina identity with mediums, such as painting, sculpture and graphic art. For “Desire Portals,” Hipolito presents 14 drawings with prompts that invite the viewer to download and share them. They include a dream cultivation and a joy offering — small forms of self-care and introspection in a world of chaos.
“The themes for the prompts are ideas that I’ve thought about the most this year. I see a couple of the prompts as tiny spells for self-care. The Dream Cultivation prompt, for example, is a shortened spin-off of a spell that I remember reading about and I wanted to share that because it feels accessible and tender,” Hipolito said in an interview with Tumalad.
For the multifaceted artist, for the love of LA means embracing how art and expression are weaved into daily life.
“For the Love of L.A. is about celebrating and nurturing our creative communities, and how much art and expression is a critical part of life—and we feel it and see it, especially during times of crisis. I feel that this platform is a vehicle that continues to help artists and creatives thrive, especially within the Angeleno community,” she said.
Anna Luisa Petrisko — “Ulit Ulit”
Pre-pandemic, karaoke and the outward display of musical talent are normal activities at large family gatherings.
For this series, Petrisko, a multidisciplinary artist, recorded a music video for “Ulit Ulit,” a take on the disco and karaoke culture she grew up around. With a saturated tropical background, Petrisko sings as the lyrics, which she co-wrote with her mom, are displayed at the bottom of the screen. Sister Santos (Oscar Miguel Santos) provides the instrumental track and is seen playing the guitar in the video.
“It’s very special because this project has been part of a larger personal mission of mine to learn Tagalog and to spend more time with my elders. Making ‘Ulit Ulit’ became this embodied way of doing both of those things, meanwhile having fun and learning some essential verbs like love, touch, listen, call and punish!” Petrisko said in an interview with Tumalad.
Also on The Music Center’s website, Petrisko shares a “Mahalaga” playlist of Tagalog songs from the 70s to today. She recommends a meditation before listening.