Learning to Speak Through Silence An Interview with Andrea Alcala

by Aly Laube

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About: At the age of seventeen, Andrea Alcala fled Venezuela with her family and settled in Canada to find a new home. Despite the initial culture shock, Andrea developed a love for creating art in her senior year of high school, which led her to continue pursuing it throughout her life. For six years, she studied at The Alberta College of Art and Design, until she moved to Vancouver with her husband in search of greater opportunities. Today, she attends The New Image College of Fine Arts, where she is developing her skills as a makeup artist, in hopes of fulfilling her dream of working in the film industry! You can support Andrea and her work at this year’s Art World Expo.
How did growing up in Venezuela affect you? Specifically, how did the change in government effect you and your family?

It changed everything! I am immensely lucky for the parents that I have; they never made me and my sister feel like we were lacking anything. However, their bravery to stand up for what they believed in cost them their jobs and possibility of working anywhere else. After a few years, my mom got the chance to work in the oil sands in northern Alberta, and she didn’t think twice about it. She accepted the offer in 2006, and a year later, we moved to Fort McMurray. Personally, it made me grow up and realize that nothing is given to you in life. You have to work hard. I was twelve when my parents lost their jobs, and seventeen when we got the opportunity to move to Canada. Here, I found a new home, my passion, and the love of my life.

Out of curiosity, how did you meet “the love of [your] life”, your husband?

My husband, Luis, and I went to the same elementary school when we were little, and when his dad was chased out of the country, his family followed him to Fort McMurray. His dad worked with my mom in the oil industry in Venezuela, and he recommended her for the job that helped bring us to Canada. I met Luis again in high school and he helped me learn English. We’ve been together since then! We’re both huge Disney fans, so he proposed in Cinderella’s castle in Disney World. We got married in Cancun, Mexico in August 2013!

When you say that your parents stood up for what they believed in (and were prosecuted for it), what do you mean?

There was a presidential election in 1998 which made Hugo Chavez president, and it brought a lot of change. He slowly introduced communism to the government (masking it as socialism) and gave a lot of money to neighbouring countries, but not much to Venezuela. Those who didn’t agree with Chavez rebelled and were marked as the opposition by the government, who made it clear that they had control. People were kicked out of their homes, and protesters were fired and banned. Some were even chased out of the country! Right now, Nicolas Maduro is president of Venezuela, the country is as poor as ever. It’s making it impossible for people to leave or for any progress to happen. There’s so much more to say, but this would be as short as I can get it.

What was it like to move to Canada, a country with so many differences from Venezuela?

It was very hard. I was raised in a different climate, culture, language…let’s just say that everything was different. I have a very large extended family as well and lived my whole life in one small town, so when we moved, I left behind everything and everyone I knew. The first shock I had was (like in the Disney movie, “Cool Runnings”) the temperature. Then came the language, food, culture, and finally, the silence. Being used to having a large family, the silence was certainly strange. Don’t get me wrong, I’m hugely grateful for all of the opportunities I’ve gotten in my life, but I have definitely learned to adapt.

Do you think that those experiences led you to becoming the artist you are today?

Definitely! Silence allowed me to listen to my own voice more. I had already graduated from high school in Venezuela, but when I came to Canada I had to repeat the twelfth grade to learn English. Because of that, all I had to take was English, Math and electives. I chose Art as one of them and never let go from there. I love making things and the art of creating, itself.

Why was there so much silence for you in Canada?

I think it started when I said goodbye to my family. I knew I wasn’t coming back and that everything would change as soon as I stepped onto the plane. It sure did! I only had a basic knowledge of English so I didn’t speak much, and for the first couple of months it was just me and my mom.

Do you still practice your South American culture, and do you think it can be seen in your work?

I still eat some of the food (that I can find here), speak Spanish, and keep close ties with my family. Can this be seen in my work? I’m not sure. It’s almost like trying to notice my own accent! Some of the work I did at the Alberta College of Art and Design was political and I meant it to be that way.

You’ve worked with various and unique artistic expressions. Which were your favourite, and how did you learn them?

I’ve always liked trying as many things as I can. My favourite was glass blowing but I did switch it up a lot in many of my projects! I attended the Alberta College of Art and Design from 2008-2013, which exposed me to mediums I had never tried before, and mixed things along the way.

How did you find the Alberta College of Art and Design, and what was your experience there like? How about your current school, the New Image College of Fine Arts?

I knew I wanted to work with glass, and ACAD had a whole faculty for it! I was also living in Fort McMurray at the time, and going to a school in the same province made sense. Attending ACAD taught me a lot and certainly made me a stronger person, but my husband and I moved to Vancouver for better chances at success than we would’ve had in Calgary. I did a lot of research and was lucky to find New Image College of Fine Arts! I’ve enjoyed every moment of it and truly have my family and husband to thank for helping me make my dreams come true.

You have experience with glass blowing, something that not a lot of people have practiced. What is it like, and what have you made with your skills?

It’s thrilling, fascinating, and can all go wrong in one swift moment. I love glass as a medium and I made a lot functional shapes such as vases, bowls, and decorative sculptures. Glass will always be in my heart, but it’s very hard to keep up once you’re out of school.

You’ve mentioned that you have a love for film. What are some of your favourite films, and which films have you worked on?

I have yet to work on a film, but I want to! Some of my favourite movies include Mary Poppins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Alice in Wonderland, Mrs. Doubtfire, Pan’s Labyrinth, and so many more.

What are you showing at the Expo?

So far, I have a dress that I modified for an editorial photo shoot by adding different sizes of origami shapes all over it. I may have a couple more things, but i’m still working on it.

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What are your goals for the future?

My goal is to work in the film industry. I love beauty makeup, special effects, and prosthetics. I’m on my way to learn more about these and can’t wait to be able to do it all!

To find out more about Andrea and her work, contact her at:
604-562-1307 or
info@akristina.com

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