Hi! I’m Grace and I joined the Cultural Work team as the Coordinator in July. I grew up in Oregon and make art with community centered around collaboration, care, and human connections to co-create new worlds. I’m running the Cultural Work Roundup each month and want to use it to share resources directly from cultural workers in Portland who are making art that uplifts their communities. APANO recognizes that solidarity is an integral part of cultural change, that our society is built on the disproportionate exploitation and oppression of Black and Indigenous people, and that Pacific Islander communities have been marginalized in the work of Asian/Asian American visibility. With this in mind, I will use the Roundup to feature cultural workers who tend to get overlooked by mainstream platforms and those who are immersed in the work and unable to spend time and resources on self-promotion. I’ll be prioritizing emerging Black, Indigenous, and Pasifika artists, as well as emerging Asian/Asian American and POC artists who are doing solidarity work through a BIPOC/intersectional lens. Starting this month, the Roundup will shift to an interview format featuring a local BIPOC cultural worker in conversation with me. You’ll still get your yummy dose of radical resources, but they will now be shared by the featured artist! You’ll get to learn more about them, their work, the things they’re interested in and learning about, and how to connect with their art. I’m excited to announce that our first artist is Beatriz Abella. Read on to learn what she is taking in and putting out into the world!
My name is Beatriz Abella and my pronouns are she/her.
Where do you call home?
Beatriz: I call the Portland, Oregon area my home.
What does “cultural work” mean to you and how do you see your art fitting within it?
At first, cultural work simply meant gently sharing my culture with others through stories and food – to be welcoming of others and have them be included. I’m a first-generation Filipino-American that was born in Juneau, Alaska and my family were members of The Filipino-American Association and The Filipino Community. We raised money for scholarships and charities, honored our elders, celebrated milestones, danced in traditional attire during parades and special events, invited people to our celebrations – and no one ever left a party hungry. I’ve always been proud of my people and family: Filipinos love sharing food and laughs! Since then, my definition of cultural work has naturally shifted as I matured and society changed. Now, cultural work for me as an actor and singer means being more proactive in my approach and selection of artistic projects I support and participate in. I ask myself different qualifying questions: does the organization and company I’m considering auditioning for or working with value Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) and have a statement they actively stand by? Could I somehow influence or catalyze positive change if I were to become involved, like making it a safer place for myself and future participants?
What does solidarity look like to you?
My take? Solidarity looks like people of different walks of life and backgrounds showing up for each other, in whatever space or experience they bring to the table with the sole purpose of providing support and acceptance. And, understanding that the table itself is not limited or RSVP seating, nor is it sectioned, or seats subject to tiered-pricing. Also, while it’s great to have discussions at said table, it’s when you step out into your daily life where everyone continually asks themselves if their spoken words and actions reflect actual support, acceptance and community growth. If the answer is sometimes no, to keep mindfully checking and asking yourself what are you doing to grow forward in a healthy direction. Solidarity needs to be intentional, proactive and can’t be passive.
On the set of “Quicksand,” a Volcano Beach Production action short film filmed in Portland in collaboration
with 945 Productions. Pictured left to right, Korean-American actor Timothy Krabill, Beatriz Abella,
actress Alexa Eddy Asian-American actor Billy Bee.
How does solidarity show up in your art?
Long story short, I prioritize projects that highlight diversity in mediums that are traditionally less diverse. I am an Asian American, specifically a Filipino-American, actor and singer showing up in the performance industry, hoping my individual influence will help future generations of BIPOC performers feel represented and empowered to make art. Representation is crucial and I’m glad to see we’re heading in a better direction than we were 20 years ago. Light Opera of Portland produces Gilbert and Sullivan performances and cast me as “Little Buttercup” in their production of H.M.S. Pinafore this past season and as “Lady Blanche ” in their production of Princess Ida. Renegade Opera had me play the “Tour Guide”/narrator role for their production of Tito (a rendition of Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito), and Opera Cecilia had cast me as the lead “Orfeo” in Orfeo ed Euridice. These are opera/light-opera productions that don’t typically see Filipino singers and I’m happy to bring my take to these roles and be a part of normalizing an increase of BIPOC artists in these spaces. It brings me joy to act in projects such as the pilot episode of Winning Isn’t Everything, which centers around the experience of Timmy, a Korean-American, trying to navigate life as a first-generation child in Oregon. I am also a lead actor for Portland-based 945 Productions’ Sci-fi series Buried. The character “Kane” I play is particularly special to me, since Director Nik Hassinger specifically looked to cast a Filipino and queer actor to bring her to life alongside other diverse castmates. Next spring, I’ll be part of an all Asian-American cast for Oregon Children’s Theatre’s production of Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, which is based off of a children’s book that was also written by an Taiwanese-American author Grace Lin. I’m excited to bring this beautiful tale to life for kids in the gorgeous Newmark Theater; it’s a bit serendipitous since I wish I had seen more productions like this as a child.
What’s your dream, vision, schemings of a liberated future, new world, etc.? How does your art connect to it?
We have so many examples and stories of racial injustices, discriminations and downright hate. My dream is that nobody would ever have to experience that ugliness and pain again, but I can recognize that our world is far from that reality: it is quite literally a dream. My vision is that leaders, communities, and parents foster a stronger sense of “us” instead of an “us versus them” mentality. My art connects to that vision in the sense that I am continually looking for ways to highlight and support BIPOC voices, artists and stories. The more present and celebrated BIPOC people are and integrated within societal perceived “norms,” the more accepted differences become and there is less for hate to latch onto – in theory.
“Stage, film, opera, musical theatre – Asian Americans can and do portray an expansive
range of characters, given the opportunity. It’s my privilege to continue showing
what we’re capable of as storytellers and artists.” – Beatriz Abella
What have you been getting involved with or practicing that brings you closer to your solidarity work (like groups, meditation, learning circles, etc.)?
I am finding there are ways to demonstrate solidarity behind the scenes as well as in front of audiences. During the pandemic, I worked with NYC-based Bel Canto Boot Camp and was a member of their international committee that created and approved its inclusive guiding principles. I’m a member of the Asian Opera Alliance and now serve as a board member of Light Opera of Portland. I’m at this place in my life where I am able to be more active in my community, especially since it is safer to gather than it was the past couple of years. There is a newly-formed local Filipino support organization called the Bayanihan Center that has monthly volunteer orientations and I’m looking forward to working with them.
What have you been watching that’s been inspiring you and/or informing your vision (from your social media feed, movies, TV shows, any other media)?
I enjoy Los Angeles-based and Filipino-ran One Down, and especially love their cultural-deconstruction segment called “Breaking the Tabo.” I listen to The Numberz, Portland’s Black Radio Station; the discussions they have on air and accessible on their website are very insightful and helpful for people trying to be better allies and become more knowledgeable.
What have you been listening to that’s been giving you life (podcast recommendations, a song or album that gets you out of bed, etc.)?
I enjoy Alie Ward’s podcast, Ologies. Her overviews of different fields of study and interviews with experts are both entertaining and interesting. Want to learn about Musicology, Pyrotechnology, Egyptology, Indigenous Cuisinology and more? She’s got you covered. Music-wise, Portland-based hip hop artist Talilo Marfil has just finished filming his music video Big Flip and it’s empowering to see him proudly celebrate our culture with a uniquely Portland flavor. He highlights our family-centered way of life, traditional bare-handed communal meals, even the Filipino martial arts of “stick fighting” (Arnis or Kali aka Escrima).
What’s the last thing you read that moved you (articles, books, poetry, whatever)?
My cousin, writer Nikole Mendoza, sent me a quote from the book Taste Makers: Seven Immigrant Women Who Revolutionized Food in America and it’s been on my mind lately: “As an immigrant, the soul gets lonely for its origins.” I’ve seen my parents and family cope with this kind of longing and homesickness my entire life. While immigrants can pass on many traits like perseverance, grit and dedication…I think we don’t usually discuss the longing and sense of displacement that descendants often seem to inherit as well – at least we didn’t when I was growing up. Art can help heal that disconnect.
How do we get connected to your art and/or work?
Official Poster for “Buried,” sci-fi tv series. Visit www.945productions.com/buried or follow @buriedseries on Instagram for updates. Watch the pilot trailer here. Featured on the poster are Asian American actors Monica Dailey, Beatriz Abella, Billy Bee, Timothy Krabill, and Portland-based actor, director, producer Paul Bright.
Be our next featured artist or nominate an artist you know! If you would like to be featured in a future Cultural Work Roundup or would like to nominate someone, let me know by telling me a bit about yourself or the artist you know. The Roundup prioritizes emerging Black, Indigenous, and Pasifika artists, as well as emerging Asian/Asian American and POC artists who are doing solidarity work through a BIPOC/intersectional lens. The interview can be done over coffee, Zoom, or email! You can contact me by:
We’re also sharing local opportunities from community members in the Roundup. Send your opportunities to Grace by the 20th of each month!
- Dr. Terry Ycasus’ Wellness Offerings – Fall is just around the corner, when many of us start slowing down and spending more time indoors. This transition time is ideal for focusing on how to maintain your health and energy levels through the winter. Optimal Health Clinic is offering three promotions that will support you in this. Dr Scarlett Paau has lunchtime walk-in happy hour where you can get a 20 minute Chinese medicine session for just $46. Jessica Wells, FNTP, will run a Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis and give you a detailed interpretation for $150 (this includes the cost of the lab!). And lastly, detox and relax with a 30-minute infrared sauna session – the first one is free! Contact us today to find out more! Optimalpdx.com
- Be You & I : Solo Show by Bui – Michael Bui is doing his first solo show (storytelling, standup, improv, dance) on the night of October 8, 22. There will be elements of him reflecting on his Asian background too. More info here!
This programming message brought to you by APANO Communities United Fund, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.