In partnership with Capture Photography Festival, the City of New Westminster commissioned a temporary public art installation in response to Anvil Centre. 

Ensemble is derived from an image sourced from a newspaper clipping that depicts a row of female dancers from the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group of the Philippines. The dancers are performing the ragragsakan, a traditional Kalinga dance in which women carry water pots and baskets on their heads in preparation for a feast. For this project, Karen Zalamea selected a photograph from the June 12, 1986 issue of The Province that features the Filipino dance group performing as part of Expo ’86 in Vancouver. Zalamea was intrigued by the sister-city relationship established in 1991 between the City of New Westminster and Quezon City in the Philippines, the artist’s matrilineal hometown. She approached Ensemble as a means of tracing a potential motivation for the pursuit of this formal agreement.

For this public installation, Zalamea collaged and reproduced the photograph from The Province as a cyanotype – an early form of photography – to create this blue and white image. For the artist, the blue tones of the cyanotype reference both the Anvil Centre’s adjacency to the Fraser River as well as the Pacific Ocean, which connects the two sister cities.

There is a significant Filipino presence in New Westminster, which began in the 1990s, with Tagalog, an official language of the Philippines, becoming a common mother tongue spoken in the city. The city’s museum collection and archives, however, do not yet reflect this thriving community. In presenting this large-scale, culturally significant image on the façade of a civic building, Zalamea asks how we can support and celebrate the presence of diasporic communities and their diversity. 


Karen Zalamea (she/her) is a Filipino-Canadian artist, educator, and cultural worker based in Burnaby, Canada, on the ancestral and unceded homelands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh speaking peoples. Her interdisciplinary practice is rooted in photography and critically considers methodologies, materiality and modes of presentation. Zalamea’s work has received support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the BC Arts Council and Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec. Zalamea has attended artist residencies in the Philippines, Iceland and Canada and was the recipient of the 2023 Prefix Prize. Zalamea holds an MFA from Concordia University and a BFA from Emily Carr University of Art + Design.

On view from April 2024 - March 1, 2025 at the Anvil Centre, 777 Columbia Street, New Westminster, BC and will be presented as part of the 2024 Capture Photography Festival.
Photo credit: Dennis Ha (first 3 images)
Karen Zalamea
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Anvil Centre 777 Columbia Street, New Westminster, BC V3M 1B6