Cultural Art Expo shines spotlight on student artists

YiChen (Lucy) Zeng was one of many student artists to exhibit her work at APASA’s annual Cultural Art Expo last Thursday night. (Olivia Chiang | Daily Trojan)

From paintings and photographs to hand-drawn stickers, several unique pieces of artwork filled the Tutor Campus Center ballroom at the annual Cultural Art Expo, this year titled “You Belong,” and hosted by the Asian Pacific American Student Assembly Thursday.

The event featured diverse student artists Alfred Bordallo, Nishant Tripathi, Alexia Sambrano, Marcia Cagandahan, Autumn Gupta, Brian Xu, Sarah Wang, Yichen Zhang and Ambika Nuggihalli. 

“I’m most happy about how much exposure and space we’re giving to artists, because I think we give a lot of space to people who are good at singing and dancing and things like that, but not necessarily to people who are good at photographing or making art,” said APASA member Jessica Kim, a sophomore majoring in environmental engineering. “I’m really happy that this is one of the only events on campus where they get more exposure.”

Cagandahan, a freshman majoring in animation, showcased paintings inspired by her and her parents’ experience in the Philippines, demonstrating what a Filipino local would see every day through their eyes. Her art highlighted close-up shots of her culture such as the jeepney, a major form of transportation, a lantern and an animation of a traditional Filipino dance.

“This is actually my first time [at an expo] so it’s really exhilarating, because usually either one of my drawings gets posted up in a museum … but that’s just one,” Cagandahan said. “But to have this whole gallery and to interact with people – I’m already having a good time, I’m just vibing.” 

Sambrano, a junior majoring in neuroscience and cognitive science, showcased paintings titled “La Ansiedad” based on Lotería, a Mexican bingo game, and “Impending Doom,” which many interpret as a person drowning or falling from the sky. Her other art pieces also emphasize mental health, sexuality and femininity. 

“Looking back now, these paintings are a reminder of the strength that it took for me to lift myself back up … I’m more focused on myself as a person and my growth, rather than what I could do better or how I’m not perfect,” Sambrano said. “No one is perfect. That’s also another thing that my art deals with, embracing yourself for who you are. All your flaws and imperfections are a part of you and that’s just how you come out as a person. And if there are certain people who don’t like that, then that’s on them.”

With vendors from Northern Cafe and Chichen Itza, attendees enjoyed food and drinks while watching singers and dancers perform on a stage. Attendees also participated by making their own art at various assembly booths including do-it-yourself eco lip scrubs, face painting, tie-dye shirts, an embroidery table, an art canvas, inspirational wall and a pledge-to-vote table. There was also an APASA gallery that featured poster boards with information and infographics on immigration and other identity issues. 

Through diverse booths, performances and artwork, the main goal of the event was to drive an ambition within guests to challenge the idea of “acceptable.”

“We just really wanted to stress the theme of inclusion this year, so if you walk around looking at the art or performances, especially if you look at the APASA gallery, you’ll find a lot of information on people who might not really feel at place in whatever way – culturally or other identity-wise,” Kim said. “So … the whole team really wanted to create a space where you can come in and see how other people discover how they belong.”