Art is a Spiritual Practice - 10 Questions with Filipino American Visual and Performing Artist Grace Bio
Grace Bio is an Filipino American illustrator, graphic designer, mixed media artist, and performing artist. Born in Key West, Florida, she was raised in a Navy family and traveled extensively until she and her family settled in Jacksonville in 1991. After graduating high school, Bio spent time attending Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) and Flagler College.
Since 2006, Bio has performed and exhibited her visual art throughout the United Sates. Starting in 2012 and continuing for nearly four years, Bio served as the Art Director for Education Through Entertainment and Art Partnerships, a Jacksonville based education company that provides students with educational instruction through project-based music and film production, technology training, and language arts. By making use of a curriculum rooted in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics), students are taught to develop the social, critical, and technological abilities that are required for collaborative and innovative progress. Her work as a graphic designer was featured in a series of educational children's books which have been utilized by educators nationwide.
Bio's work has a strong, visual signature of urban culture, while also being poetic and evocative. Through her work, she brings awareness to the modern world while also paying tribute to the people and traditions of yesteryear. In 2018, Bio had work on exhibit as part of "Living History: A Cultural Mosaic" and "Writing On the Walls," both exhibits at the Jacksonville Public Library's Jax Makerspace Gallery.
Bio was also featured in the Filipino American Artist Directory 2018 Edition, a participatory artist project and initiative to connect the broad community of visual artists of Filipino heritage living and working in the United States. When initially launched, the initiative focused on artists living and working in underrepresented regions in the Midwest and South. Its aim is to increase the visibility and recognition of Filipino American artists through an online and annual print resource and by organizing events and exhibitions throughout the country. This year’s directory features 60 artists, curators, representing 28 cities in 12 states, as well as the Philippines and Canada.
Bio comes from a creative family. Her brother, Leo, is a graffiti and visual artist. Her sister, Gigi, is a fashion designer and photographer. Together, the three of them formed 8X10 COLLECTIVE. Through this initiative, the Bio siblings collaborate on projects, exhibitions, and performances that utilize their collective talents.
Bio will also be one of 12 artists competing in Art Battle Jacksonville, scheduled to be held at the Hotel Palms in Atlantic Beach on Wednesday, April 18. Art Battle is an international competition that, for 17 years, has brought together artists of a region for live competitive painting. Artists will compete through three rounds. At the end, one artist will be chosen to compete at the national level.
Additionally, Jax Filipinos United, a movement to spread awareness, encourage support, inspire, and educate Jacksonville about Filipino creators and culture, was formed in March of 2018. On April 22, the public is invited to their inaugural event, a community open house. The family-friendly event will be held at Bold City Barbers and will include story telling, music, food trucks, and culture sharing.
10 Questions with Grace Bio
Do you have any patterns, routines, or habits when starting a new project?
When it comes to my personal work, I typically have a vision or dream of what it will look like. The process thereafter is organic and passionate. With other creative endeavors, organization is key and everything falls into place from there.
What have you learned about yourself through your artistic and cultural endeavors?
I’ve learned that art is a spiritual practice. The more I learn about myself and my surroundings, the more in-depth I can go into my work.
How do you define success in what you do?
When people tell me my work touched them deep enough to alter the course of their reality - from raising their consciousness to changing their life for the better.
Jacksonville has the largest Filipino population in the State of Florida. What does being Filipino American mean to you and how does identity inform your work?
Being Filipino American is a very interesting feeling. Most Filipino Americans’ parents immigrated from the Philippines to have a better life in America. Because our parents wanted us to be successful in America, our cultural identity - from our native language to our traditions - have been pushed to the side so we can be more “American.”
Although we are grateful and understanding of where our parents came from, this erasure leaves us with a lack of identity. This is why so many Filipino Americans easily adapt to other cultures besides our own, which brings me to my artwork.
In 2007, I had a strong desire to know more about my parents' homeland and to have a better understanding of where I came from. This curiosity led me on an incredible journey of traveling to other cities/states and meeting others in the diaspora, absorbing knowledge and the truth of my culture. The various stages of my journey birthed artwork that encapsulated where I was in that timeframe and what I sought to teach the viewer.
There appears to be a sense of unity amongst Filipino artists and creatives. In Jacksonville, there is Jax Filipinos United, which showcases Filipino visual artists, performing artists, fashion designers, and bloggers. Nationally, there is the Filipino American Artist Directory. How would you describe the Filipino artist community in Northeast Florida and in what ways has being involved in these networks impacted your career as a visual and performing artist?
Filipino Visual artists are spread out throughout the city, but I honestly do not see enough artists involved in the community. Last year, when I curated the art exhibit for Filipino Pride Day, I definitely had difficulties finding Filipino Artists for the exhibit. From that experience, I felt a strong responsibility to make sure I do my best to infuse our culture into my work to ensure that our culture is visible enough to motivate other Filipino artists to join us in the community.
Luckily, we now have "JaxFilipinosUnited" promoting local Filipino talent and the "Filipino American Artist Directory" promoting Filipino/Filipino-American Artists on a national scale to ensure that we are always visible to all communities.
You had works on exhibit as part of the last two exhibits at the Jacksonville Public Library's Jax Makerspace Gallery. What do you think is the power and benefit of having diverse ethnicities represented in the works that are hung inside a publicly owned institution?
Jacksonville is filled with so many artists from different cultural backgrounds. To have all of our work in a public space free to the community is crucial to showcase the vibrancy of our city.
Do you feel that the arts and cultural sector have been inclusive of the Filipino and Asian communities? If no, what do you feel are some efforts that could be implemented to ensure inclusivity?
Yes, but it definitely needs to be highlighted more. I would like to see more exhibitions and events promoting Filipino/Asian art and culture
In what ways does collaborating with your siblings provide you with a sense of fulfillment?
First off, I find it a miracle we were all natural born artists. To create together throughout our lives is one of the most precious things I could ever witness. It gives me a stronger sense of purpose and fills me with profound love.
What is the greatest challenge(s) you face as an artist working in Northeast Florida?
Making a living doing art.
What would you like to see as an effort to support and grow Jacksonville's arts and cultural sector?
More venues and business owners providing their spaces for artists to share their gifts, as well as funding to ensure artists are supported financially. These two factors will definitely motivate everyone involved and improve the cultural landscape exponentially.
We'd like to thank Grace Bio for her participation in this interview. We'd also like to thank you for reading.
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