Choosing Destinee: A Student’s Journey

I had superhero music scores on–the kind of music that comes on in the background when a battle is about to begin–I had the table set with comic books, superhero masks, the whole thing. It was my first time teaching my own class at The ARTS Center. If you were to step into my class, you would swear you were an Avenger. I was all excited, but in the end, my students did not finish the project. They just talked about comics the whole time! At the time I was mad, but I realize it is just the process that matters.

By the time I taught my first class fall 2014, one year ago now, I had already been with ARTS since January 2010. I came in as an intern, ARTS was my first internship ever, and then I became an Empower Student and graduated to Empower Alumni status after participating in a public art show at La Bodega Gallery in the summer of 2014.

The day of my interview, back in 2010, I came to ARTS in business apparel at an hour early. I was even wearing heels. After passing the interview with Rob, the Director of Creativity, and Adriana, the old Program Manager, I was accepted to be an intern. I was fourteen years old.

On my first day, I came in again with nice business apparel clothes and heels. I asked Rob if there was something I could do and he handed me a broom. I felt like I was not prepared for the broom and I didn’t know if I was going to like it here. I didn’t know how to sweep at first–we had rugs at my home–but I got the hang of it. I came early every day and swept the hall because I knew what to do. But I didn’t say anything because at the time, I did not speak that much. Or at all. But that changed with some time and getting to know everyone.

I think the time I knew I was going to be adopted into ARTS was when it was my 15th birthday. I came to my internship at ARTS because I didn’t plan on doing much but having cake at home, I didn’t think ARTS would celebrate it, I had only been there a couple of months, but they did! Someone from admin asked me and my friend into the kitchen, she pretended not to know, but it was a nice set up. Cupcakes. Just for me. That’s when I knew I’m going to be here. Matt, the CEO, talks about me in his speeches now.

At first, I started out with painting, then I did ceramics, ceramic masks, then we had a portrait class and a still-life class, then jewelry making, then photography, then yoga, and the whole time we had tons of community art projects and I made cards for donors for days–that was fun, but even though I liked all of this, I came into ARTS wanting to do comics and writing. I gave up on comics and writing after the first year and focused on painting. I gave up for a few reasons.

Before I even knew of ARTS, I was familiar with art because I would see my grandfather’s portrait paintings everywhere at my grandma’s house. My mom told me that my grandfather put his art on the backburner to help my grandmother raise my mother and my uncle. Knowing this, impacted me at the time, though I didn’t think about it too much until it came time to “pick something to do as a job.” I wanted something that would earn money, I didn’t think I would be able to make money in art and I didn’t want to be competitive.

Then, ARTS offered their first writing class and I got to take a writing class in college. I picked up writing again. After I got back into the writing that lead to the comics.

I write because I make up worlds and people in my head. When I was younger and felt too lonely, I made up people, then I felt I needed to write them into existence on my paper. I write because it is more fun to imagine yourself as a hero, fighting the bad guy. I love it and it is fun.

At the end of each writing class at ARTS, we published a chapbook of the whole class’ writing. It was actually an amazing and cool experience, and it was nerve racking as well. It was like opening my heart up to public. At the end of quarter Open House, our chapbook was displayed. I remember walking around near it to see people’s reaction to my writing and being nervous as my mom read it. I had two comments from the people around me saying that they liked my section of writing. I felt very validated in my writing and excited to keep writing and telling more stories.

Then came the La Bodega Senior Empower Show, where I displayed two full chapbooks of only my writing. So if it was like opening my heart to be part of the Open House chapbook, then the La Bodega Empower Show was like putting my whole self on display, it was just me and the wall. By this time, at the Empower Show at the La Bodega Gallery, I was a senior in high school. It was a wonderful and a stressful few days. I had had my work in shows before, but never away from The ARTS Center. Never with so many pieces and never with so many of my friends. It was fun and cool. When I looked around the Bodega Gallery was beautiful. It reminded me of a old haunted warehouse. The smell of dust was around but not overbearing. Just enough so you knew, hey people worked here.

As the time came to show my work and my family and friends started to come in with more strangers, I felt like a celebrity, everyone wanted to talk to me about how beautiful my paintings and ceramics were and how much they loved the chapbooks. I was excited on a different level, my parents had never looked so proud and my mom kept on repeating for me to find the owner of the place and thank him. Selling so much work affirmed to me that not only did people like my work but that they believed that I could go the distance to archive anything with this work. The thing I loved the most was seeing people’s faces light up when they took my paintings home. I always like to see that.

When I think of ARTS, I think of the people, the kids. I think of those painting I need to finish and do. I think of these amazing ideas. Mainly people. They have adopted me into their family knowing it or not. When I walk through the doors I have no question everyone wants the best for me. In turn, I try to give the kids I teach the best, the most fun. The most knowledge and coolest projects. I want them to feel like how I felt getting cupcakes from like strangers at the time. It felt good, everyone should feel it.

My hopes and dreams for the future are to be successful enough at an art job. Well to be a comic artist and to draw and make stories doing what I love: art. My main goal is to be comfortable doing art and being independent. I want to also have a degree in graphic design. Just so I can hang it on my wall one day and say I did it. I also want to have kids, get married, but not that order. And try to be famous for comics. I’ll be fine if it’s just one hundred fans and everyone at ARTS.