Actress Sofia Figueroa on How She's Using Art to Unite Immigrants
Her project HOME is her way of allowing immigrants to express themselves via art.
As a kid, Sofia Figueroa always wanted to act, and each year would gather her family members together to recreate the birth of Jesus. "I was always in the school plays and the drama clubs," the Venezuelan actress tells People CHICA. "I submitted myself into Central American acting competitions and we did pretty well as a group, but I also was excelling on my own. I realized I really liked how much research you can put into it, in a very different way than my academic self was working."
Figueroa also became interested in activism early on, after she started noticing the political issues occurring in Venezuela. It motivated her to earn a degree in political science from New York University (in addition to her degree in theater) in the hope that she could go back home and help restore the country. "There are so many injustices that people don't talk about or that I wasn't seeing, and so I incorporated them as I was at NYU," she explains.
HOME is a project she created for any artist with an OPT or O-1 visa, and it came out of her disappointment in the lack of opportunities for international artists. "In my frustration, I said if the opportunities weren't going to present themselves to me, I was going to create my own," she says. "I wanted to make a show that celebrated international, non-citizen artists ... that included visual art — both 2D and 3D — and performances in theater and dance."
She recruited her friend Mana Pinto, a Panamanian curator, for help, and got advice about how to create HOME. "The word 'home' is different for me than it is for everyone else," she says. "Even though I was born in Venezuela and my family's from Venezuela, I lived there two years and then I moved to Brazil. Then I moved to Guatemala, then I moved to Panama, then I moved to the States, so I was never able to call Venezuela home the same way that my friends were. So I wanted to have the show reflect the country's diversity in that way — the same way I felt that 'home' for me is so many things with so many colors and so many textures."
HOME was originally scheduled to take place on May 2 in Brooklyn, New York, but was postponed due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, Figueroa plans to take a digital approach in lieu of a physical show, and submissions for HOME are still being accepted via the website. "We're keeping submissions open until the first week of June for any artists to submit their work," she says. "[Then] we'll start showing our work on our Instagram and on our webpage, and we hope that in this way we can create this family through these two platforms."
The artist also keeps busy at home doing stand-up comedy, which she also first piqued her interested at NYU. "I was very afraid when I took that class. I felt like I didn't want to be ridiculed, and that came from my fear of exposing myself," she shares. "I didn't want to come forward and say those things. But then I realized that those things make me who I am, and I want people to feel comfortable listening to these very normal, awkward experiences."