The graduate experience at MICA is built around making connections. Here, students have regular contact with peers across programs — through multidisciplinary courses, through the College’s research centers and even in the lounge spaces of the Lazarus Studio Center. Everywhere, conversations about art and design and the creative process flourish.
But Ashely Dequilla ’12 (Post-Baccalaureate in Fine Arts) and Toym Imao ’12 (Rinehart School of Sculpture M.F.A.) connected over more than their respective practices. The only Filipinos in MICA’s graduate community at the time, the pair bonded over their shared heritage — and food.
“A key of Filipino culture is sharing and eating. Even though Toym was doing well in school, he often felt homesick; so I would cook him Filipino food,” Dequilla explained.
The pair also discussed their work, agreeing to one day collaborate in their home country. In early 2016, when Dequilla was visiting Mexico City, a social media chat between the two told them the time had come to do just that.
During the conversation, they discussed their love for Mexican muralists of the 1920s — including Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco — whose artwork employed social and political messages in an effort to reunify their country in the wake of a revolution. “We agreed that our project would mirror the same movement of nationalism and social realism,” Dequilla said, noting that through their collaboration, they seek to restore the indigenous voice of Filipino people in order to reclaim what was lost over centuries of conquest.
So in December, they teamed up to complete a 6 x 12-foot freestyle mural in Manilla, which went on display at the University of the Philippines in early 2017. The work is the first in a planned series of grand-scale paintings, with the largest similar in scale to Pablo Picasso’s Guernica. Both Aquilla and Imao hope to one day bring some of their collaborative pieces to display at MICA, enabling them to continue forging connections with the next generation of graduate students at the College.