A professional artist for over 20 years and cultural/community curator for 10, Cynthia Tom is the founder of A PLACE OF HER OWN™. As an artistic truth teller, she is a community organizer and curates programs in partnership with: Asian American Women Artists Association (AAWAA), Asian Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence, Asian Women’s Shelter (AWS) and Gallery Route One in Pt Reyes, Community Health for Asian Americans (CHAA). She also curated several of AAWAA’s major exhibitions including underCurrents and the Quest for Space, and numerous A PLACE OF HER OWN© exhibitions, funded by the California Arts Council (CAC), San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
A 3rd generation Chinese American and native San Franciscan, Cynthia Tom grew up with family members who were trafficked for opium and money. She inherited ancestral trauma from their experiences of Angel Island Immigration incarceration and interrogation, being sold for drugs, extreme racism and deep poverty. She ended up choosing abusive, domineering partners, and having never seen her parents raise their voices, she worked to understand where her patterns came from. Finding her artistic spirit gave her the platform to ask “Why?” and the tools to express the answers along with the emotions tied to them. She had a slow, steady awakening realizing the need to face the pain and then the joy of healing herself. In time, a loud, innate feminist voice rose up driving a dream to share her learnings with other women. Driven by a passion for social justice for women, Cynthia develops art and programs designed to transform women and their communities from the inside out.
Cynthia uses visual art as a means to transform souls. She is a visual mixed-media artist, painter and curator who likes to play with the accepted norm. Her art is known as a source of inspiration for healing, empowerment, spirituality and change, fostering dialogue and building community in innovative ways. Painting, mixed media, art installation and curatorial projects are her means of expression. Cynthia has won awards for leadership and curatorial vision, and she has been included in art history textbooks and the press.
Cynthia has a BS in Business Marketing and Management from San Francisco State University. During her 25-plus years in healthcare marketing, she trained under Lynn Rolston (Free Heart Farms – Spiritual Corporate Leader) and Dr. Sylvia Lafair (CEO at Creative Energy Options, Inc. professional leadership development). These women taught her to question assumptions and grow confidence, which eventually led her to create A PLACE OF HER OWN© using these approaches. Other influential people who contributed to Cynthia’s Arts & Transformation path have been Dr. Trinity A. Ordona; Keiko Gill, DC; Cris Matos; Ilya Skolnikoff, DC; DIBAK; and Amy G. Lam PhD.
Susan Almazol, MA, is an artist, writer, educator and woman of color who explodes boundaries. At 22, she became the first Filipina journalist in San Francisco. At 33, she developed the core writing and presentations courses in the Engineering Management Program at Santa Clara University. At 35, she co-founded a communications consulting company in Silicon Valley. At 54, she exhibited mixed media/ceramics sculpture for the first time. At 66, she danced on stage for the first time. Susan joined PLACE at its inception in 2009 as part of an artist residency at de Young Museum in San Francisco. She continues as a PLACE artist and workshop facilitator. Based in Oakland, CA, Susan has an MA in Communication from The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. www.susanalmazolsculpture.com
Sigi Arnejo, , C.P.C, is a life coach specializing in bereavement coaching. She is part of the Kaiser Permanente Hospice team and facilitates drop in grief groups regularly. During the fall and spring, she leads the Daughters Who've Lost Mothers group, an 8 week series that combines grief processing with storytelling. Sigi also holds expressive art workshops aiming to ease bereavement through visual stimulus. Sigi is a graphic artist with a certificate from Silicon Valley College and is certified as a life coach from The Life Coach Institute of Orange County, approved by the International Coaching Federation. She is the principal of Flourish Coaching for Life where she has her private practice helping women live confident, productive lives. www.sigiarnejo.com
Manon Bogerd Wada completed her BFA in Community Arts from California College of the Arts. Landscape and humanity are significant threads in her art practice. Within found objects, Manon discovers hidden stories and is intrigued to divulge the unseen and overlooked. She is based in San Francisco where she works with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. www.mbwada.com
Reiko Fujii, MFA, earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Studio Arts from John F. Kennedy University in 2004, a BA in Psychology and a K-8 Elementary School Teaching Credential, both from the University of California, Berkeley. A found object and mixed media installation artist, she has been creating, exhibiting and teaching art since 1989. www.reikofujii.com
Kelsay Myers, MFA, is a San Francisco Bay Area writer, artist and teacher. She is a doctoral candidate in Transformative Studies at California Institute of Integral Studies and earned dual MFA degrees in Nonfiction and Poetry from Saint Mary’s College of California, where she currently serves as Chair of the MFA in Creative Writing Program Advisory Board. Her interests are in identity construction, personality theories, different forms of creative expression and aestheticism for personal growth and transformation. She uses everything she can to look at herself, humanity, and the world to try to create something beautiful from the composition and, sometimes, from the wreckage. Her literary works and found object installations are attempts at understanding the self on the brink of surrender. For her, art is about the act of seeing and being seen — the feeling that you have to share the beautiful, or grotesque, or really frightening, or the true self with someone else. She joined PLACE in 2011 and has been an Art Facilitator since 2012, with a hiatus in 2014-2015. www.kelsayelizabethmyers.com
Judith Nehei, MFT, Mental Health Advisor and mediation facilitator. Judith is in private practice in San Francisco, she is also a performing artist infusing humor into healing.
Natalie Sacramento joined the PLACE family as a artist in residence in the A PLACE OF HER OWN Fall 2014 cohort. She works in occupational health and HIV prevention. She aspires to work to improve the health outcomes of her community, people of color and immigrants. Natalie is excited to continue her exploration of public health through the lens of community healing and art.
Education: Bachelor's of Science in Anthropology and minor in Asian American Studies from UCLA
Irene Wibawa - Co-curator, administrative advisor, art facilitator
Amy Grace Lam, Ph.D., Advisor - Community Mental Health Consultant. Amy Grace Lam is a poet-musician, mother, community advocate and intuitive energy healer. Her life's work is dedicated to personal and collective healing. She believes in the power of art to express and heal what words alone cannot. Visit her website at www.amygracelam.com