In 2013, Rizzhel Javier began a number of social engagement projects that brought her community closer together. These projects would become known as one project, BRIDGE- an umbrella term Javier uses for all of her work with the community.
Javier is an artist, who uses her art to develop connections to her community and encourage its people to explore the depths of their personal identities.
“My mission with BRIDGE is to bridge the gap between education and community,” Javier said. She believes that representation matters among ethnic groups and has helped her students and community grow.
The first program was called Traveling Tintypes. Participants were taken out to the desert and taught an old photo process used in the Civil War era with portable darkroom tents.
The feedback she received at the end of her programs served as great assurance. One teacher in attendance remarked that it reminded them of the joy in photography; meanwhile students commented on the great weekend, new friends and adventurous locations.
“The things I began to teach were the things I felt I missed out on,” Javier explained.
Javier recalled walking through Target as a little girl with her mom and wondering why none of the dolls looked like her (Javier is of Filipino decent).
In 2018, the New Children’s Museum selected Javier to be an Artist in Resident. She was asked to develop a workshop and exhibition that explored race, origin, and family history.
The workshop was fully funded by the New Children’s Museum through two grants and started with 15 workshop locations from San Ysidro to Vista. The museum wrestled with the idea of talking about race, especially with young children.
Javier came up with a solution that each participant would create a custom doll with a voice box. The participants were encouraged to say what made their ethnicity special to them into the voice box and to design a doll that looked like them.
When she is not working in the community, Javier is focusing on using her own art to influence the racial gaps and build connections with their origins.
Javier’s work has been exhibited nationally at Arena 1 Gallery in Santa Monica, Calif. and internationally at Tijuana Institute of Technology and Centro Estatal de las Artes Tijuana, Baja.
Recently, her projects have been influenced by immigration and family origins. Including projects such as, Third(Space) and Returning Filipino.
The Third(Space) project is about being born into displacement. Javier feels that it can be difficult to find the space where one belongs, explaining on her website that “Third(space) addresses the hybridity of culture, between the past I never experienced, and the place where I exist today.”
She displayed a collection of photographs and speaks on her “attempt to access the space between between [her] two fixed identities as a Filipino-American.”
“Here I bring all the fragments of myself together into a place that might not exist on a map, but are so integrally part of who I am, and how I have reconciled my own understanding of defining home,” Javier said.
In her project, Returning Filipino, those who participated on the project used a shipping service to the Philippines. They used a balikbayan box to send goods to families.
The balikbayan box is very symbolic. The word balikbayan translates to “returning Filipino.” It is a phrase used to refer to Filipinos that leave their country and return. Javier explained that “The main purpose of the balikbayan box is to connect families separated by international waters.”
Sometimes when you start on a project you don’t know what is happening until it is finished,” Javier continued, “Many of these projects come out of the blue, later you do the work.”
On March 15, Javier visited the University of California San Diego and brought students from Southwestern College to see Ana Andrade’s latest work of art, a videomicrography installation about birth.
Her students are currently enrolled in her Alternative Photographics Solutions class. Javier hopes to bring new ideas to her students. She often does these lectures to help them grow and learn from other artists.
Alexandra Ascher, 18, Business Marketing major, commented on how Javier inspires her everyday she walks into class. “She’s very open minded, creative and always guiding me in the process.”
Her ultimate hope for her art and the projects she works on to help generate other people that share the same belief so that they can go and share with others. Her deep love and interest for education has helped her push her students to become educators or ambassadors of the future.
Javier concluded, “These programs can’t help everyone but I’m doing the best I can for this part of the community.”