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From Kerala to Milan to Calgary: Introducing Ciza Zoya

Ciza Zoya joined the Rozsa Foundation staff in March of 2023 as Storytelling Associate. With a first degree in architecture, and a second degree in arts management, Ciza's story is a multi-disciplinary, multinational journey. We are so grateful that she ended up with us at the Foundation. Please enjoy her interview! ~ Lisa

Ciza, your resume is fascinating and shows creativity in many different sectors. What drew you to architecture, and then arts management?

Since I was a child, I have always possessed a natural inclination towards creativity, always seeking new and innovative ways to express myself. When it came time to choose my undergraduate course, architecture felt like the natural choice to develop my design thinking and creative skills. During my final year of architecture school, I founded Pen Paper Scissors, my own illustration and graphic design brand. However, I quickly realized that I lacked the necessary knowledge and expertise to effectively manage my brand. This experience sparked my curiosity and interest to learn more about the business side of the arts, and I began exploring opportunities for further education in arts management. Despite my efforts, I was unable to find any suitable programs in India, which prompted me to look into universities abroad. It was then that I stumbled upon an online magazine that highlighted the highly regarded arts management program at Universita Cattolica in Milan. After learning more about the program, I was eager to apply and expand my understanding of the business aspect of the arts.

What was your concept/idea of what arts management was before you did the program in Milan, and did it change after you graduated?

Prior to embarking on my Master's program in arts management, I had a relatively narrow understanding of the industry. However, as I progressed through the program, I was exposed to a diverse range of topics that broadened my perspective and deepened my understanding of the field. From strategic planning and marketing to fundraising, financial management, audience development, event production, and art history, I gained invaluable insights into the multifaceted aspects of arts management.

Furthermore, my experiences in Milan and Italy more broadly proved to be a significant factor in shaping my outlook toward art. The city's rich cultural heritage and appreciation for the arts were palpable, and I was able to immerse myself in this environment and gain a newfound appreciation for the value of art. Overall, my Master's program and my time in Milan were instrumental in enhancing my skills and knowledge in arts management, enabling me to approach my work with a more comprehensive understanding of the industry.

What brought you to Canada, and specifically to Calgary?

During our search for a new country to call home, my husband and I came across Canada, which stood out for its high standard of living and welcoming attitude toward immigrants. After careful consideration, we decided that Calgary was the ideal destination for us as its cost of living is relatively lower compared to other Canadian cities. As newcomers, this aspect is especially important to us as we want to establish a comfortable life in our new home. Overall, we are excited about the prospect of starting a new chapter of our lives in Calgary, Canada.

What were your first impressions of the city?

Calgary manages to strike a wonderful balance between its bustling urban center and the stunning natural beauty of the Rockies, located just an hour away. As a newcomer, I was delighted to discover the city's warm and inclusive atmosphere, which fosters a sense of community among its diverse population. I always say, “Calgary weather might be cold but the people are genuinely warm." Calgary truly feels like a place where anyone can find their place and feel at home.

What were your first impressions of the arts scene in the city?

As an art enthusiast, I was thrilled to find that Calgary has a lively and flourishing arts scene that celebrates diverse cultures and artistic expressions. In fact, even before relocating to Calgary, I had already conducted some research online and discovered an abundance of art hubs located throughout the city. The sheer variety of options was exciting to me and I couldn't wait to explore them all.

I was eagerly anticipating the annual arts events and festivals that Calgary is known for, including the Calgary International Film Festival, the Calgary Stampede, the Folk Fest, and many others. These events offer a platform for artists and art lovers from around the world to come together and showcase their work, contributing to the vibrancy and richness of Calgary's cultural landscape.

You took part in the second cohort of a program created by an alumnus of the Rozsa Foundation, Toyin Oladele. How did you find out about the Immigrant Arts Mentorship Program (IAMP) offered by the Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation (ICAI)?

As a newcomer in Calgary, I encountered various obstacles while trying to establish myself in the local arts scene. Despite grappling with social anxiety, I was determined to put myself out there and network as much as possible. My first step was to approach the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS) for guidance, and I attended their networking events to meet like-minded individuals. At one such event, I had the good fortune of meeting Daniel Monzon, and I reached out to him on LinkedIn to inquire about mentoring opportunities and navigating the Canadian job market. I was elated when he agreed to help me.

Through Daniel and CCIS, I was introduced to the Immigrant Council for Arts Innovation (ICAI), and its founder, Toyin Oladele. Thanks to the unwavering support and guidance of these organizations and individuals, I was able to make significant headway within the local arts community and pursue my career aspirations with renewed confidence.

What was that experience (of mentorship) like?

I had the good fortune of discovering the IAMP program at just the right time, and I knew I had to apply. The positive feedback from previous participants only fueled my enthusiasm, so when I was informed of my acceptance as one of ten mentees in the program's second cohort, I was ecstatic. My mentor, Aldona Barutowicz, has been an invaluable resource throughout the program, offering guidance, networking opportunities, and insightful advice on navigating the arts sector in Calgary to achieve my career aspirations. Not only has Aldona been an excellent mentor, but her personal style and creativity are also truly inspiring. I look forward to each meeting with her, knowing I'll return feeling even more motivated and focused on my artistic pursuits.

You are also an artist – what kind of work do you do?

I am a visual artist and photographer who is currently expanding my artistic practice to include installations. While my works are primarily in photography, I am excited to explore new ways of creating art and incorporating different mediums into my work. By incorporating installation art into my repertoire, I hope to push the boundaries of what is possible with my art and create immersive experiences for viewers that go beyond traditional photographic prints.

What else do you do in your spare time?

As a volunteer stylist at Dress for Success, I have the privilege of helping clients boost their self-confidence by transforming the way they perceive themselves through their appearance. The gratification I derive from this experience is immeasurable.

As an avid cook, I have a particular passion for preparing traditional Kerala cuisine. Cooking is an art form for me, and I strive to create beautiful and delicious dishes that are a feast for both the eyes and the taste buds. In addition to focusing on the flavours and textures of the food, I am also deeply interested in the visual presentation of my dishes. I believe that the way a dish is presented can greatly enhance the dining experience, and I take great care to ensure that my dishes are not only delicious but also visually stunning. Overall, I see cooking as a form of creative expression, and I am constantly experimenting with new flavours, ingredients, and techniques to create unique and memorable culinary experiences.

What are your plans overall for the next year of your life?

I'm thrilled to announce that I have an upcoming exhibition at Arts Commons as part of the RBC Emerging Visual Artists Program. This project is driven by my personal experiences exploring the nuances of life as an Indian woman in a new and unfamiliar environment.

Having only been in Calgary for a year and a half, I'm amazed at how quickly I was able to get involved in the city's vibrant arts scene. I'm eager to continue learning and pushing myself to explore new opportunities.

I'm also excited to be a part of the RAFT (Rozsa Admin Fundamentals Training) and RAMP (Rozsa Arts Management Program) courses which I hope will expand my horizons even further and give me insights into arts management and administration in Calgary. It looks like I'll need to dust off my arts management books! Additionally, as a member of the Rozsa team, being involved in these programs will provide me with a behind-the-scenes perspective on how they operate, which I am excited to be a part of. Overall, I am looking forward to this enriching experience, which I am confident will help me to grow both personally and professionally in the field of arts management.

We are so happy to have you onboard, Ciza, and look forward to everything you will bring to the organization and the arts community

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