Credit: Angelina Lourdes, Studio29

If you’ve ever been to an art exhibition where you didn’t understand the meaning behind the works, you’re not alone. Art is often seen as highbrow, only understood by a select ‘elite’ group of people. This is because the general public often isn’t the target audience for artsy events and exhibitions. But Angelina Lourdes has singlehandedly set out to change that.

Through Studio29, Angelina’s creative agency, she’s bringing art to the masses. Angelina is doing this by making art multidimensional and interactive — at Studio29’s upcoming event a Fashion & Upcycle Mini Market with Asian Civilisations Museum, you can even make your own fabric art. 

She also incorporates elements of heritage to make it more relatable. One of Studio29’s previous events was a Makan Market held in conjunction with Asian Civilisations Museum, which celebrated Singapore’s beloved makan culture.

Her benchmark for knowing if an event is relatable enough? Whether her mother enjoys it or not — which we have to admit, is pretty smart.

We speak to Angelina to find out more about Studio29’s work, the struggles she faces as an independent creative, and more.

Tell us more about yourself and Studio29.

Hello! I’m Angelina and I’m a creative, educator and immensely bad cook. Studio29 is my creative practice and we specialise in the creation and curation of creative and cultural content, programming and platforms. We collaborate with a wide array of local and international artists and designers to produce and develop meaningful projects that draw bridges between communities through purposeful storytelling and engagement.

Events organised by Studio29 are rather unique — they bridge the gap between art, heritage and the community. What made you decide to do this?

Being the only person in my entire extended family and social circle who pursued an education in design or any sort of creative field, for the longest time nobody could understand or process what I did — they viewed my educational path and subsequent professional life as almost like a hobby. This was incredibly frustrating.

On the flip side, when I was working for other creative studios and creating events, the people I was surrounded by were my peers and other creatives, which was incredibly inspiring. This is the reason for my creative network today.

Then one day, when I was working on an event in Mexico City in Mexico, I just was overcome with an overwhelming feeling that I wished my family and friends back home could be with me to experience this.

And then it hit me — the reason those outside my design world never got it was because they were never the ones targeted for any of these events. And because they never got to experience any of it, they have no clue this entire world even exists… hence the pesky judgment.

Thus, the impetus for creating experiences that utilise my skills and expertise from the creative world, and bringing it to communities who may have never experienced such events. I try to ensure the programmes I conceptualise are accessible and the themes are digestible. If my mum can’t enjoy it, it’s time to rethink.

What would you say has been your favourite event you have organised so far, and how did you come up with the idea for it?

My favourite would be Eye of the Storm, the most recent exhibition that I curated for my friend Bitto.

The idea stemmed when his artworks were stranded in Singapore at the height of the pandemic. Sending them back to the Philippines (where he’s based) was logistically expensive, and Bitto wanted to just give them away. I thought that was crazy and convinced him to let me hold on to them until I came up with a plan. So I had them in my room for a year.

That’s when the idea for Eye of the Storm was born, to give people an opportunity to view Bitto’s works in the flesh (alongside some brand new artworks) and give them an opportunity to be rehomed.

As part of the exhibition, which was our first independent show post pandemic, I got to collaborate with my friends again, host a bootleg karaoke party and introduce my former students and relatives to their first ever street art exhibition!

Because of the smaller crowd size, I could spend a lot more time and be more present with my guests — I’ve gained so many new relationships from this.

Plus, my parents liked the show and even invited Bitto over to our place to have dinner and hang! If my mum has fun, that’s honestly all that matters.

The reason those outside of the design world never got [art] was because they were never the ones targeted for any of these events. And because they never got to experience any of it, they have no clue this entire world even exists.

Angelina Lourdes

Why do you choose to work independently as opposed to working with an agency?

At that time, I couldn’t find any company doing what I was interested in doing, which was working on cultural projects, using mediums like art and design to attract unassuming communities. So I ventured out and did it myself!

As an independent creative, what are some struggles and limitations you face?

I think one of the things commonly overlooked when you’re a creative running your own practice is that you have to wear multiple hats at all times.

Aside from the fun stuff like coming up with ideas and working with people that inspire me (which is why I do what I do in the first place), you are also in charge of business development, servicing clients, project management, accounting and marketing among a million other things.

Thus, the biggest struggle I’d say, is good old fatigue. Because how efficient and functional your company is is directly dependent on how efficient and functional you are as a person.

And at times, it gets overwhelming. So you have to manage time well, know when to ask for help and when to press pause and say no.

As a minority woman, do you feel that you have faced any additional challenges in the creative field?

I’d be lying if I said I don’t. The biggest challenge, especially when working on cultural projects, is the assumption that I only work on projects relating to my community or that I know everything about my community and therefore am a ready representative at all times.

Fairly frequently, I feel like I need to wave a giant banner in front of people that says “WE CAN WORK ON OTHER PROJECTS TOO!” to even be considered for general creative projects my peers get offered more readily.

What do you have to say to other women looking to break into the arts scene?

Just go for it really. I always tell myself, you’ve nothing to begin with, so you have nothing to lose anyway.

If you succeed, great! And if you don’t, it’s alright — you can try something else. It will suck, but at least we know what not to do now, so there’s at least an ounce of progress in whatever direction you’re headed in.

Tell us about any exciting upcoming events we can expect!

We are putting together a Fashion & Upcycle Mini Market for the Asian Civilisations Museum in conjunction with their latest special exhibition Batik Kita: Dressing in Port Cities. This fashion market, taking place from 2 to 4 September, features as part of ACM’s Crossing Cultures series!

Leaning into the theme of sustainability, our market will highlight and celebrate the various ways new life can be breathed into pieces of clothing, be it through upcycling our existing wardrobe, buying pre-loved favourites or Asian classics. Featured vendors include Singaporean brands and craftspeople like Shibui, Think Batik and Chubby Bunny Craft Club.

You can bring old textiles or clothing and upcycle them for free at the activity booths — transform the fabrics with prints and patterns or repurpose them into jewellery!

How did your partnership with Asian Civilisations Museum come about?

My client at the museum was actually aware of the Mexican Day of the Dead festival (Dia de Muertos Singapore) that I had put together for half a decade, a couple of years ago. So knowing all that we do and the creative network we collaborate with, they reached out!

Studio29’s Fashion & Upcycle Mini Market will take place from 4 to 9pm from 2 to 4 September at River Room on Level 2 of Asian Civilisations Museum.