Alumna dresses up photo series of Filipino American culture

By Kendall Polidori, News Editor

Courtesy Mikayla Delson
Mikayla Delson, 2019 arts management alumna, at her first showcase, “Acclimate Not Assimilate.”

After graduating from Columbia in May, Mikayla Delson, an arts management major, had mixed feelings about what she wanted to do next. While trying to figure it out, Delson received a number of freelance opportunities, the sum of which  led to her first self-curated solo showcase event.

Freelancing made Delson happy and gave her the flexibility to work on events she has been wanting to do but put aside because of a lack of time while in school. Now, having the time to hone her craft and do freelance work, Delson continued a photo series she started a few years ago titled “Acclimate Not Assimilate,” which revolves around her culture as a Filipina American.

The culmination of this work was showcased at Delson’s Oct. 20 event, located at 5027 N. Broadway. Delson was able to fully curate the show and put it together with her own ideas. The series traces Delson’s work through the years and focuses on the incorporation of traditional Filipino clothing and attempts to modernize it through today’s generation, she said.

For her photos, Delson styled models in a combination of traditional and modern-day Filipino clothing brands, specifically from Chicago. The showcase was a perfect opportunity for a celebration as well, with October being Filipino American History Month.

“I wanted to start with clothing, which is something that really resonated with me,” Delson said.

Courtesy Mikayla Delson
As a Filipino American, Delson wanted to combine and showcase her cultures through fashion and photography.

Along with her work, Delson wanted to combine different scenes into the showcase, which featured Filipino performances, including rappers, singers, drag performers and DJs. To really bring her photo series to life, the showcase also featured a fashion show of Chicago Filipino dancers in the clothing brands shown in Delson’s photographs.

She has a passion for “bringing people together and creating experiences that have not been done before,” and spreading culture and awareness for topics close to her.

Delson said her time at Columbia allowed her to do this, especially after expanding her knowledge and gaining experience in other fields like arts management. She said through Columbia she was able to utilize the school’s photography resources, work on personal projects, collaborate with others and understand the quality of her own work.

“I used that to my advantage,” Delson said. “I still have good connections … to this day.”

For Delson, that passion came from experiences in her own culture. She said, for Filipino Americans, there is a pattern of losing pieces of their culture, such as traditions and languages, when immigrating to the U.S.

Delson said bringing communities together was the most impactful piece of the puzzle.

“To be able to curate, produce, photograph and create this event all by myself is [a super accomplishment],” Delson said. “I wouldn’t ever think the outcome would be so big.”