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Meet Trailblazer Nica Aquino

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nica Aquino.

Nica, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in Central Los Angeles, on the cusp of Koreatown & Pico-Union. I was able to break free & attend art college up in Oregon, then pursue my Masters in Visual Culture in the United Kingdom. Having spent a majority of my adolescence moving between states & countries, I’m now back in LA, residing & working in the Northeast Los Angeles community. Since moving to NELA, I’ve done a number of creative jobs in the community, including arts education, exhibitions programming, exhibiting my work locally & internationally, & arts administration.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
No, it hasn’t been. My biggest struggle was getting injured & becoming disabled. When I moved back to Los Angeles, I was coming home from work one night, shortly after 7 pm, & I was in a hit & run accident. I was walking home from the bus stop & made it to the street corner by our house, with the traffic light. I was at the home stretch — just five more minutes till I was home. I waited for my light to turn green & I started crossing. Suddenly a blue Mustang came speeding down Cypress Avenue, ran the red light, struck me as I was crossing, then left me for dead on the side of the road. Luckily, a lady passing by found me & called an ambulance. I broke my right leg, left knee, pelvis & shoulder. I had three surgeries on my right leg & was learning how to walk again in rehab for nearly a year. The driver was never caught & the police never even bothered to assign anyone to the case.

During my time recovering, I was in horrible pain & felt depressed. I had my independence completely taken away from me & spent a majority of my days either in bed or sitting in my wheelchair, staring out the kitchen window. I spent a lot of time alone & had a lot of time to think by myself, about what I would do once I could walk again. I am better & working now, but it will never be the same. I can no longer run, jump, skip or squat & my legs are constantly in pain. However, I’m just grateful to be able to walk & do things on my own again. I don’t know why the universe threw me this huge curveball. I like to think that it was a huge test of patience. During my time recovering, there was nothing I could do but wait. And it was a struggle getting back on my feet. However, things manifested in a very interesting way & I’ve gained tons of opportunities to share my art & do creative work for the NELA community. I’m hustling multiple art jobs at once right now, but I’m doing so many things I love doing at the same time. Life throws you curve balls, but you can’t let that stop you. I know that if I can survive something that devastating, that I can take whatever else life throws at me, no matter how hard things may get sometimes.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about your business – what should we know?
My favorite thing to do is 35mm photography. I always have my point & shoot camera with me as I explore the streets of LA by foot. Nobody walks in LA & it’s refreshing to get views of the city that most people miss out on because they’re trapped in their cars instead of exploring the cityscape. As long as I have music in my ears & my camera, I could walk for miles. My favorite part is getting to process the rolls later & reliving these everlasting intimate memories.

Do you recommend any apps, books or podcasts that have been helpful to you?
A planner & music! I suffer from some memory loss from my accident & have a hard time remembering most of the time. Having a written planner & a calendar app on my phone helps me remember things I need to get done or need to meditate on again.

Contact Info:

                                                              Image Credit:
Courtney Coles, Ariana Perez, Victor Maldonado & Center for the Arts Eagle Rock

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