Emerging Leaders in the Arts | AKO ITO

Join us for a pleasant evening to celebrate the cultural fabric of the Filipinx/a/o community and diaspora in Santa Barbara County. By celebrating together with food, music, vendors, art, and storytelling, we including myself as a Filipinx/a of Tagalog descent create belonging not only through our shared experiences but also to honor the unique aspects of each other's experiences. Let us claim, appreciate, and love the parts of ourselves that demonstrate our Filipinx/a/o identity.

While AKO ITO centers the Filipinx/a/o diaspora, we welcome any person who genuinely wants to participate, learn, and show up in support. Click here to register for this event.

Program Schedule

Food, music, vendors, and interactive art activities are available throughout the whole duration of the event.





Dannah Mari Hidalgo (1994.) is a Filipina-American artist based out of Santa Barbara, California. Hidalgo obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting) and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in 2019. Hidalgo has also attended the Lorenzo de’ Medici Institute in Florence, Italy in 2015 and 2016. She is currently a Master of Fine Arts candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her work often explores daily life experiences and relationships while deconstructing space -coupling figurative and representational work with abstract surface activation through paint. Currently, Hidalgo’s work observes socially constructed truths and expectations, and how these social constructs fabricate detrimental pressures. An emerging artist of the Pacific Coast, Hidalgo has participated in exhibitions in Hawai‘i and California.

IG: dannahmari_art
Website: www.dannahmarihidalgo.com


Jan Javier Hunter creates handmade jewelry inspired by the islands, ocean, and earth. Freshwater pearls and different types of shells (mother of pearl and abalone are my favorite) adorn gold filled metals to bring special, unique pieces for all.

IG: ua.atelier
Website: www.uaatelier.com


Eating with Jo/anna Lawlor grew up in a loud, loving, half Irish and half Filipino family. She serves Californian inspired foods with an Asian flare. Incorporating her heritage with her cooking helps her learn more about who she is! She wants to share that cooking can be a simple and graceful dance in the kitchen, while the grand finale gathers at the table. For her, presentation is key, and that delicate little bowl makes a difference! When else can all types of people gather together in one spot, at one time in harmony.

IG: eatingwithjo
Website: www.eatingwithjomarie.com


ReGina Sabens is an old school crafter with an urban twist. I make handcrafted felt cactus, hand wrapped and hand sewn rainbows, and wood burned pieces. I believe there is an art in the process of creating and taking no shortcuts. My desire is to bring hope and smiles to those that see my work and for people of all ages to identify with the different pieces that I create.

IG: reginachristinesb


Ruben Zarate from Dante Elepante is a musician and songwriter, native to Goleta, CA.

IG: danteelephante
Website: www.danteelephante.com


Solange Aguilar is a queer, Indigenous (Mescalero Apache & Yo'eme) & Filipinx (Kalinga & Kapampangan) artist, photographer, and poet currently living in Qenepstin, Chumash Territory (Santa Barbara, CA) Their work focuses on the revitalization/normalization of Indigenous cultures in mainstream society, uplifting and supporting communities of color, and bringing important issues to the forefront using a mix of mediums ranging from watercolor to digital collage to slam poetry. They are a 2021 recipient of the Artist2Artist fellowship by the Art Matters Foundation, a first place winner in the Santa Barbara Poetry Slam, and a frequent collaborator with organizations such as ImMEDIAte Justice, Survivor Love Letter, Punk Rock Marthas, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara.

IG: shesanargonaut


Jen Benitez is the founder and director of PINAYSPHERE (pih-nai-sphere) which is a non-profit organization for Filipina/x American (Pinay) girls and young adults, that provides support in their artistic exploration by providing art programs to grades 9-12 in Ventura County, and mentorship for ages 18 - 24 across the U.S. Our mission at PINAYSPHERE is to provide classrooms and community centers with different art (medium) programs, 1:1 mentorship support, & provide the building blocks to develop self-confidence through our annual awards ceremony / art exhibition.

IG: @pinaysphere
Website: pinaysphere.org

Updates to come regarding what PINAYSPHERE will be offering.


  • July 30, 2022
  • 5:00 pm - 8:00 pm
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The main galleries of the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara

653 Paseo Nuevo
Santa Barbara CA, 93101

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