The intersection of art, education and cultural awareness | Pro Club Bd

The visual arts sector continues to grow rapidly, integrating applications of artistic and technological talent into the entertainment, fashion and marketing industries around the world. Students are demanding more educational opportunities to get a head start on careers that often begin long before the ceremonies of hats and robes at the hands of doodlers across the country.

With such a great need for artistic skills in growing career fields, it’s often confusing as to how arts programs are most affected by budget cuts in education. Even with the $263 billion Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) earmarking some funding for arts programs, arts initiatives face future uncertainties in the years to come.

Many teachers and advocates recognize the value the arts have in expression, connection, healing, and future career endeavors. For example, proponents of the New York City Council and Roundtable, It Starts with the Arts, are pushing for an increase from $79.62 per student to $100 in 2022-23. They recognize the direct value of the arts for individual learning and the connection that binds them to community and expression of culture.

I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with award-winning artist and podcaster Rich Tu to shed some light on how art not only advances a career, but also provides a vehicle for expression of cultural understanding and connection.

A first-generation Filipino-American designer and award-winning designer, Rich Tu lives in Brooklyn, NY where he is Group Creative Director at Jones Knowles Ritchie in NYC. He has done creative work for numerous well-known companies and brands including MTV Entertainment Group at ViacomCBS, Nike, Alfa Romeo, Bombay, Adidas, Converse, American Express, The New York Times, NPR and notably many others.

As the host of his Webby Award Honoree podcast First generation burdenTu uses the platform to create greater awareness of how immigrants interface with the creative community and industry.

About podcasting

Rod Berger: You created that First generation burden podcast, and I imagine every word you chose for the title had meaning for you. I want to immerse myself in this country as an immigrant. How has it influenced your sense of design and the lens you work with? Can you tell us something about the podcast and what it means to you?

Rich Tu: Absolutely. First generation podcast is something that entered my life as a kind of catharsis and attempt at storytelling. I wanted to create a platform to open discussions about the intersection of immigrants in the creative community.

In 2016, during the election cycle, I think we all knew what was being said about the immigrant community at the time. The term immigrant had a negative connotation, a term that I love and that I and my family are proud of. My parents immigrated here from the Philippines.

By this time, the word “immigrant” had been twisted and politicized in ways that make your stomach turn and make you feel “different” and reinforce the feeling of being a permanent foreigner, especially in my case, the Asia Pacific Islander (API). community. But it affected so many on a broader spectrum with immigrants overall.

The title of the podcast was meant to hint at being a first-generation immigrant and also the burden of what that term meant at the time. The word “burden” also stands for a responsibility that is particularly pronounced within the migrant community. It’s a burden we feel when we involve our parents, our culture, and all those back home, because you take a generational leap to leave and go to a new place.

There is a comedian that I love very much, Ronny Chiang. He actually talks about it a lot in his stand-up routines. He mentions that being an immigrant can change the life of your family in a generation or two. I recognize that this is a loaded title, first-gen Burden the Podcast, but overall the content tends to be very light-hearted and fun. We mainly talk about creativity.

There are other connecting points, but there’s definitely a social activist and personal storytelling component. But it’s also playful here and I don’t want to give the impression that everything is difficult (ha).

find a voice

Berger: If art imitates life and I replace art with voice, does an immigrant’s voice on a podcast allow a connection to life? Unfortunately, if we don’t create opportunities, immigrants can have difficulty emerging from society’s shadows, so to speak. Do you provide a voice that allows people to come out and embrace their own truth and experience? How do you see that as an artist?

Do: I think you summed it up beautifully. It’s about giving voice to a story, speaking with pride, credibility and validity, but not out of acceptance or necessity. You put it out into the world and allow others to absorb and understand it as a shared experience.

It’s an identity first podcast, and we like to talk about identity; we are very open to talking about it. And it was a series of different types of conversations.

We talk to many executives in the podcast. I remember a conversation I had with my friend Veda Partalo, a VP at Spotify. She tells a beautiful, sad and triumphant story about how she spent a year and a half in a transit camp for refugees from Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 90s. I also spoke to a first-generation Iranian, Melody Ehsani, creative director for women’s businesses at Foot Locker. She spoke about her faith and her creative process. She is an amazing designer with her own brand. We try to proudly demonstrate Immigrant Excellence.

Early start in art

Berger: Let’s talk about your artistic background. How was 10-year-old Rich? Were you confident, sassy, ​​sassy, ​​shy and did you express your style from a young age? What were you like as a student and how did that affect your art?

Do: 10-year-old Rich was probably a comic book nerd hanging out in the New Jersey suburbs. I was quite artistic and drew all the time. The first drawing I remember is Leonardo the ninja turtle. I did a life drawing, a character study of this toy, and I was about eight or nine and I thought it wasn’t that bad.

At school my art was positively reinforced by my classmates in my growing year. I was the kid in elementary class and basically did all the other students’ art projects for them. In high school, my art continued to evolve.

I actually wanted to be an editorial illustrator and studied towards it. After graduating from Rutgers University, I studied illustration seriously, and it was there that I saw the path to my career. Overall, I consumed tons of content, culture, and movies in my early days that shaped the space I find myself in now.

education and care

Berger: What about your background, family or culture has supported your artistic expression? Did you stumble into it or did you have mentors? When you use the metaphor of a lead frontman versus a studio musician, you strike me as the lead, someone who’s found his own brush and canvas. Next-gen is all about custom branding and opportunity, so could you talk about that lead approach?

Do: I love that metaphor, the session musician and the lead. My father was an architect and one of his most important bonds with me was showing me continuous line drawing as a learning technique. So that was one of the things that set me on my creative path and validated it for me.

My mother was a doctor who enhanced this STEM or STEAM approach with artistry. My parents were my early mentors, but my mentoring opening evolved and expanded. We have a surprisingly creative extended family.

My brother-in-law is Jayson Atienza and we are the same age. He is a brilliant advertising creative and a great artist. He recently worked with the Knicks and Madison Square Garden. He encouraged me to attend the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Further down the line is my brother-in-law, Ron Oliver, who is married to my brother, Eric. Ron is a director for Hallmark films, Disney, Nickelodeon and many other studios. I enjoy chatting with Ron about film directing and career longevity. These are the people I can say are my family.

One of my favorite educational mentors who recently passed away was Marshall Arisman. He was Chair of the School of Visual Arts MFA Illustration as Visual Essay. He did the original cover for the Brett Easton Ellis book american psycho and a famous cover for Darth Vader’s TIME magazine.

I was fortunate to have so many mentors from my family throughout my education. It always made me feel like I could take the lead, like the metaphor you’re referring to.

I’m the lead type who likes to play all instruments or at least knows all instruments, kind of like Prince. He was an amazing singer, smashed the guitar and was an incredible drummer. Prince created all of his tracks and could, if he wished, sit as a guest on someone else’s track. So that’s the kind of approach I like to take.

I learned a lot in the commercial industry and global branding at MTV, Nike and others. I find it helpful to have knowledge of a pipeline and multiple creative streams to lead in this space.


As arts continue to intersect with cultural awareness and careers, traditional career models are giving way to more integrated creative paths that connect expression and community.

Tu is First generation burden The podcast takes a serious look at immigrants in America who want to make an indelible difference while battling cultural “isms.” The strain Tu speaks of could be associated with community support systems that need to up the proverbial commitment to cultural inclusion to support new and expanded community experiences.

While Tu can paint the picture he envisions, he may just need help handing out brushes to his fellow townsfolk.

The interviews have been edited and shortened for reasons of clarity.

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