Ramon Abad: Mabuhay, Friend!

October 7 – November 18, 2023
🥳 Opening Reception: October 7th, 3–6 PM
🏠 SFArtsED gallery, 1275 Minnesota St.
⏰ Gallery hours: Wednesdays – Saturdays 11–4 PM
🆓 Free admission for all ages

The San Francisco Arts Education Project is thrilled to announce Mabuhay, Friend! an art installation and exhibition by Artist Mentor and puppeteer extraordinaire Ramon Abad. Mabuhay (pronounced “mah – BOO – high) translates to “welcome” or “cheers to life” in the Filipino dialect of Tagalog. This installation features a new series of interactive sculptures of puppets which visitors of all ages are encouraged to activate and move through touch.

This project is funded, in part, by a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission. The opening reception is co-sponsored by the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center (APICC) with delish sweets by Marahuyo Confections and music to shake yo puppet bootie by DJ Bitesize.

Artist Statement

The seed of “Mabuhay, Friend!” sprouted during the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns.  In the beginning of 2021, excited about having a new workshop area at the then burgeoning artist studio space Balay Kreative Studio, I had a chance to create a temporary art installation in a vacant spot inside. At that time I could not perform my puppet shows before live audiences since public gatherings were banned. So, I tried something new: I designed and made an installation with puppets that people could activate on their own.  The puppets were placed away at a safe “six feet distance” which was then the recommended protocol to keep away from other people in public. The puppets were photos of me since my wife Anila was the only person able to take pics in a time when all of the Bay Area was sheltering-in-place.

As restrictions gradually eased, more visitors were able to enter the Balay K studio. While observing the delight of adults and children visitors activating these initial puppets, I was inspired to develop this concept further.  Now, instead of seeing just my mug, I reached out to friends old and new from a variety of backgrounds to be the subjects of some of the puppets. I wanted to expound on an idea of “inclusion.” I want the gallery experience to not be limited to grown-ups but also include children by creating art that engages all ages as well. Specifically inviting people from diverse backgrounds of identity, I also wanted to involve divergent narratives that have a place in art for young people. My heart breaks to see news of the current culture wars over what is placed in front of our children. This work is my attempt to welcome the need for more of us working together for diversity.

About the Artist (artist website)

Ramon Abad (he/his) is a Filipino American puppeteer, artist, and teacher based in San Francisco, CA – unceded Ramaytush Ohlone land. Since the mid 90s to present day he has performed solo puppet shows at Bay Area Filipino American festivals and events. His current puppet booth project Tito Ramon’s Pop-Up Puppet Show was the first puppet show performed at Kapwa Gardens post Covid-19 lock-down. Since 2021, Ramon has been a resident artist of Balay Kreative Studio, a collective of Filipino American artists based in SOMA Pilipinas, San Francisco.

He was a shadow puppeteer and maker with Larry Reed’s ShadowLight Productions and was in Wayang Listrik that toured in the Jim Henson International Puppetry Festival. As a company member of the premier Filipino American sketch comedy troupe tongue in A mood, Ramon has made and performed with puppets on countless skits at Bindlestiff Studio. He has directed in-person stage plays and online shows using puppetry. Ramon has led puppetry residencies in the US and the UK. As a workshop leader, he seeks to engage all communities to explore modern puppetry regardless of age, background and skill set.

⭐️ Ad design: Julie Munsayac

🙏 Maraming salamat (big thanks):

San Francisco Arts Commission
San Francisco Arts Education Project
Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center
Balay Kreative Studio, Kultivate Labs

❤️ Invaluable production support:

Pete Belkin, installation
Mark Letang, Mass Factor Media, graphics print production
ChiChai, sewing
Cir Sayoc, woodwork
Joaquin Duca, production assistant
Anila Jain, everything else

❤️ Awesome puppet characters:

Badri Valian
Cristina Mitra
Aimee Espiritu
Michael Letang

photo: Miguel Carrion