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Nicole Salaver joins Balay Kreative as the new program manager

Program Manager Nicole Salaver poses for a photo at Balay Kreative Studios, which is centrally located in SOMA Pilipinas. Courtesy: Balay Kreative

SAN FRANCISCO — Filipino arts accelerator Balay Kreative named Nicole Salaver as its new Program Manager. Salaver carries twenty years of experience in the entertainment industry and a lineage of strong Filipino American pioneers, community organizers, and leaders.

Salaver hopes to steer Balay Kreative in ways that provide space, resources, and mentorship — anything creatives need to turn their passions and side hustles into fully fledged careers. She cites comedian Jo Koy’s “Easter Sunday” and actor Dante Basco’s “The Three Fabulous Filipino Brothers” as examples of creative momentum that have made waves in mainstream media and Hollywood.

“I think there’s this new renaissance for Filipino and Filipinx creatives leaving their mark,” Salaver said. “It’s an honor to be part of something so innovative and pushing the culture.”

Founded in 2019 by Desi Dinagunan, Balay Kreative provides workshops, public art and grant opportunities, and a pop-up studio space where creators can connect, learn, and sell their artwork. After closing its doors at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Balay Kreative returned in June 2022 and kicked off its comeback year with Kapwa Gardens and UNDISCOVERED SF. Together, they hosted “LABAN: the Art of Resistance,” a Bayani pop-art and Balay Kreative Art Show celebrating Philippine Independence Day.

Balay Kreative’s commitment to providing community space, tools, and opportunities for artists is something Salaver takes to heart. Despite coming from an artistically-inclined family — her father was a painter and a musician while her mother was a dancer — Salaver was discouraged from pursuing the arts. Her grandparents wanted her to follow a more traditional path, study, attend a good school and eventually become a nurse.

“It’s important to have spaces that support and nurture visual artists, musicians, and content creators because traditionally — even as Asian Americans — we aren’t really told, ‘Yes, become an artist. It’s possible.’ We’re told to focus on making money,” Salaver said. “We must change perspective and reframe what we see as art. We can make money while being artists. It’s just finding different ways to see outside the box and think past your limitations.”

Salaver first got into acting at San Francisco State University. She remembered attending a show at Bindlestiff Studios for a class assignment. At the time, Salaver acted in productions written mainly by white people and performed in predominantly white spaces. But Bindlestiff was the opposite, she said. Watching shows written by and for Filipinos motivated Salaver to enroll in her first acting class.

“I got so many opportunities that would never have come about if I hadn’t had a space like Bindlestiff to gain my confidence and share my stories,” Salaver said. “That’s why it’s important for Filipino Americans, for all Asian Americans, to have a space where they can bounce off ideas. There is always power in community.”

After honing her acting, writing, and directing skills, Salaver ventured into stand-up comedy, opening for comedy’s biggest heavy hitters, including Jo Koy and Hasan Minhaj.

She spent the next seven years as a solo performer, moved to New York, starred in eight seasons as one of the main characters of “Make it Big,” and traveled the world. Then Covid-19 hit.

“Everything in New York City shut down. I used that as an opportunity to reground, regroup, and transition from acting and resting to writing and directing,” Salaver said.

After ten years of living in New York, it was time for Salaver to return to the Bay Area, to return home. She began writing a feature film dedicated to her uncle, Pat Salaver. Heavily involved in the Philippine American Collegiate Endeavor and Third World Liberation Front throughout the 1960s, Pat joined the fight to create the country’s first and only School of Ethnic Studies at San Francisco State University.

So many Asian and Filipino Americans were at the forefront of that movement and on the front lines with Latinos and the Blank Panthers to push progress forward,” Salaver said. “It’s important Filipinos understand that we were part of that moment and how much of it parallels what we’re going through now.”

Stronger and more grounded than ever, Salaver is determined to continue her ancestors’ legacy and support Filipino Americans in the art community and beyond.

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