Jilly Canizares was the founding Executive Director of the Association for the Advancement of Filipino American Arts and Culture, known as Fil Am Arts. The organization grew out of work that first began when the Department of Cultural Affairs of Los Angeles initiated a festivals program in the 1990s and invited members of the Filipino community to create an event focused on Filipino arts and culture. Rosalie Hooks, who was part of the DCA, was instrumental in getting the Annual Festival of Philippine Arts & Culture off the ground. Jilly first got involved as a volunteer and musician and later as a staff person. At that time the Filipino community in the Los Angeles was less visible and the festival was an opportunity to build up more visibility and harness resources. After the festival had been going on a for a few years, Jilly founded the organization Fil Am Arts primarily to have a way to fundraise for the festival. The festival has grown each year and at its height presented 600 artists in 8 different disciplines, including dance, martial, and culinary arts.
In addition to the festival, another key program has been an arts education afterschool program called Eskuwela Kultura to build cultural tolerance and understanding between Filipino, Latino, and other arts traditions, within the Filipino American neighborhood of Historic Filipinotown.
Both this program and the annual festival have been opportunities to connect multiple generations in the community and to create spaces for different Philippine expressions.
I think for communities of color, the arts are symbiotic to their narratives, almost not separated. So if you elevate their arts, you also elevate the community - Jilly Canizares