From Global Nomad to Public Ally

23 Nov

I have always thought of my brain as 1/3 art, 1/3 travel, and 1/3 everything else. I grew up as a “Global Nomad” as I followed my parents wherever they were stationed for their United Nations jobs. I was born in Nepal to a Filipina mother and an English father, and went on to spend most of my youth in Zambia and Thailand.

The constant change of environment and exposure to so many different faces, landscapes, airports, foods, customs, skies, architecture, oceans, streets, gave me an incredibly strong will to express myself through visual art. I painted. I sculpted. I doodled. I designed. I did whatever I could to help myself understand what I saw.

The other effect of my international exposure was the yearning to solve what I saw as the same types of social and environmental problems I experienced in different countries. I wondered how I could use art as a way to foster solutions to the infinite injustices we face daily. It brought me to decide to study interdisciplinary visual arts and international studies at the University of Washington in Seattle (a place where I experienced huge culture shock and was also an inspiration to bring me where I am today).

Always on a journey somewhere!

Always on a journey somewhere!

After university in Seattle, then London for grad school, I went back to Asia for a year where I spent my time volunteering. After globetrotting for so long I decided I wanted to settle down in a place that would have everything I love about the places close to my heart, but where I could pursue my love for art as well: New York. I decided to go solely into art and after working for a while in the for-profit world, I became more and more jaded and thought that New Yorkers could only treat creativity as a commodity. I was settled in a comfortable job that let me expand my design skills but wasn’t fulfilling my need to be a contributing member of society. I was actively pursuing ways to switch my professional trajectory but really didn’t know how, and it was at that point where I found Public Allies.

It was an opportunity for me to get a support network to find the bearings I needed when I thought I was lost: Combining creativity and common good. I spent my first year at the Parent-Child Home Program, doing communications and outreach work, and now find myself pursuing a second year at the Queens Museum of Art in the education department. I feel lucky to have found an ideal situation where I provide support to an incredible museum that is very close to their community, and wouldn’t have found it without Public Allies.


8 Responses to “From Global Nomad to Public Ally”

  1. philwdrew November 23, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    I’ll be in Seattle in 24 hours and I’ll give a wave to UW for you as I drive up I-5. Your life story sounds fascinating and I look forward to the unique perspective you’ll bring to this blog! What is your favorite work of art at the Queens Museum of Art?

  2. pemadb November 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm #

    Thanks Philip! I hope UW waves back. I have to say that my favorite piece right now is a photograph from Andrew Moore’s Detroit Disassembled series of an abandoned chemistry lab: It’s so eerie but so beautifully shot. Our main feature and everybody’s favorite is the Panorama of the City of New York built for the 1964-65 World’s Fair. It’s a to-scale model of the entire city and I still get chills when I see it: Hopefully you can visit it one day soon! Connecticut isn’t that far 🙂

    • philwdrew November 23, 2011 at 4:32 pm #

      Both exhibits look very interesting. I will definitely have to continue my conquest of NYC museums soon!

  3. David Barker November 23, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

    The values of opportunities and experiences are only seen when they are utilized as foundations for future actions and careers. This is the case of Pema who has consolidated her undertakings to develop and devote herself to improving the human lot of the under-privileged. Her Public Allies opportunity rewards both the organization and herself. The future world needs such socially responsible human thinking.

  4. pemadb November 23, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    Thanks for the words dad!

  5. imdelgado December 12, 2011 at 2:24 pm #


    I’m glad you were able to find a program and placement that so accurately blend your interests of art, creativity, and making a positive impact in the community. Furthermore, your travel experiences sound fascinating; I hope they come up more in your blog!

    • pemadb May 1, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

      Yes! I am super lucky to have made a great fit. And yes,I’m definitely going to try and incorporate more travel experiences into my future posts.


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