Annadidathing paints a mural on Balikbayan Boxes at the Peabody International Festival, Photo by Creative Collective MA.
Story by Joey Phoenix
No human is an island, and no artist is either. For most humans, it’s tricky to separate what’s happening to them individually from what’s happening in their local communities. It’s even more difficult to disentangle from what’s occurring on the world stage. For artists, this separation is even harder.
In Filipino culture, there is a word that’s very significant. It’s called Kapwa, and it signifies the sense of obligation Filipinos have towards their fellow humans. It’s a word that everyone would be best served by adopting.
“Kapwa is basically the idea that we’re all one family,” says Anna Dugan, the artist behind Annadidathing. “It instills this innate sense of supporting each other in hardship and when you’re blessed with fortune, it’s part of your human duty to share that with your fellow man.”
For many reasons, artists are often at the forward edge of what’s happening in communities. Artists tend to pay attention, and as a result, hold up a mirror to those communities, pointing out things that may be overlooked. Because of this, being an artist is a difficult occupation. Sure, sometimes it’s about making pretty things, but most of the time is much more than that.
Artists show the world how it could be better, point out what it should be paying attention to, and in these three distinct cases, demonstrate what it means to show up for their fellow earthlings.
Raising Awareness for Volcano Taal Relief Efforts with Annadidathing
On January 12 at 2:30 pm local time, Taal Volcano – located on Luzon island, approximately 40 miles south of Manila – started ejecting lava and rock fragments, forcing thousands of people living on the small Filipino island to evacuate their homes. Although currently, no further activity has taken place, scientists have issued a stage 4 alert, warning about the potential for a hazardous eruption to take place at any time in the coming days.
North Shore-based multimedia artist Anna Dugan (Annadidathing) is hosting an event at the North Shore Mall on February 1st to help raise support and awareness for the events happening in the Philippines. For her, it’s a situation that hits very close to home.
“I’m half Filipino, my mom was born in the Philippines,” Anna said. “I grew up with Filipino values, culture, customs, it was infused into my life. It wasn’t until I started growing to school that I realized that I grew up a bit differently than the average American kid.”
Although when she was younger, Anna did her best to try to fit in with other kids in her community, as she grew older she learned to not only fully appreciate her unique heritage but also came to incorporate it into the work she was doing as an artist.
In 2019, Anna started painting on stacked boxes as a nod to the Filipino tradition of the Balikbayan Box. Most families living in the Philippines have at least one family member who becomes an overseas Filipino worker. This person will often support their entire families from that other country, and due to the expense of this support and supporting themself, these workers won’t be able to return home to visit their family. Instead, they send boxes.
“They send pictures, notes, canned goods, clothing,” Anna explained. “It’s just a box full of love like sending a piece of yourself back home.”
Anna has painted on these boxes for three separate events, including this past September at the Peabody International Festival, and hopes to bring this unique concept to the event at North Shore Mall coming up next weekend.
“It’s always been a great conversation starter and a useful tool that I’ve been using to educate people on Filipino culture and create a little more representation,” she said.
Also, in choosing to bring her Filipino family values into the work she does, she’s become more connected to the community members who share her heritage.
“For me, it feels a little bit stronger than the average person’s idea of family, of Kapwa. I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching just trying to figure out my identity and how I identify myself, and in that process, a lot of it has pointed to this cultural influence, and it’s brought forth this communal identity that I didn’t even know I needed,” she said.
On February 1st at 7:00 pm at North Shore Mall, visitors can view the mural that Anna will have painted that afternoon. She invites guests to come and talk about what’s happening in the Philippines and to hear her plans to send Balikbyan boxes to aid relief efforts. Guests are also encouraged to bring donations for the boxes in the form of cash donations, clothing, canned goods, and toiletries.
Honoring Ben Stebbings at the House of Roulx
Sometimes when artists give back, they do so by honoring other artists who made an impact on the communities they lived and worked in. When 40-year old visual artist Benjamin Stebbings passed away on January 1st of this year, it shook the community, breaking the collective hearts those who knew him and those who his work touched throughout the years.
Jared Gendron, President and Founder of the visual arts boutique House of Roulx, was a long-time close friend of Ben’s, and the two of them had spent time over the last few years working on print projects for the House of Roulx. They also had known each other since High School, so the roots of that friendship ran deep.
“I lost a friend, an inspirational artist, and collaborator, and a member of the House of Roulx art family,” Jared said in a blog post the week following Ben’s passing.
To honor him, Jared and the House of Roulx have released a fine art open edition print of Ben Stebbings’ piece, King of the Forest, with all proceeds from sales going directly to Ben’s family.
“This will be a long journey for the Stebbings family and they are so grateful for the outpouring of support they have received already,” Jared wrote. “As a community, we can wrap loving arms around Ben’s family and friends at this difficult time and offer any and all support they need.”
Crocheting Nests for Australian Wildlife with Salem Style
When news that Australia’s wildfires had ravaged the country earlier this month, no one could then fully imagine the devastation that the nation would undergo. Since the fires began, nearly 25,000 acres of Australian land has been burned, causing immeasurable damage to the wildlife living in those regions.
In the wake of this natural disaster, wildlife organizations across the outback have put out a call to artists and makers around the world to supply handmade items to help ease the rehabilitation of orphaned wildlife. Seeing this need, Julianna “Juls” Donovan of Salem Style, put her shop production on hold in order to make as many things to help these efforts as she could.
“Normally, a typical relief effort is money and supplies and food and stuff like that,” Juls said, “but [these organizations] are asking for Koala mittens and Joey pouches and crocheted nests for birds and rodents, which is what I’ve been making.”
So far she’s made nine of these and hopes to get 15 done as soon as possible, but time is of the essence.
“The biggest thing they’re looking for are ways to comfort baby animals who might have been orphaned who don’t have the mother’s pouch or the nest,” she explained, “Wildlife experts are trying to find ways to meet that need by looking for these handmade items for the animals.”
If you’re crafty and would like to participate in this movement, the organization Love Crafts has an up to date call for what is needed on their website. For example, while they have enough koala mittens for the moment, they are in desperate need of hanging pouches for bats and baby kangaroos (joeys).
Not everyone has the ability to make art that affects lives, but sometimes, you can help support those who do. As Mr. Rogers once said, “Look for the helpers.”
Joey Phoenix is a performance artist and the Managing Editor of Creative North Shore. If you have an idea for a story, feature, or pictures of adorable deep-sea creatures, feel free to send them a message at email@example.com or follow them @jphoenixmedia on twitter.
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