Interview with Amelia Earhart Classroom Teacher
"I’ve been a part of artworxLA for nearly 17 years now and have always felt welcomed and acknowledged by the staff as part of the family"
I never considered myself to be an artist, but being a part of artworxLA changed my perception of what art is and what art can be. I now see that everybody is an artist and art as a reflection of life actually, art is life. I like to write poetry and I strive to make all my writing beautiful. I see everything in nature as art and I marvel at the beauty of it all. When I do yoga, I perceive my body as art. I am especially sensitive to the beauty I see in the many cultures around the world. I engage in something I call the “3-minute painting” in which I paint with abandon for 3-minutes. It helps free the mind from constraints. I study astrology and dream interpretation.
I was first introduced to artworxLA back in 2000 when it was still The HeArt Project. I had just been hired at Amelia Earhart High School as the Resource Specialist and the principal, Sheridan Cole, needed a teacher to coordinate and supervise the workshops. I jumped at the chance to be involved because I had never been in a school that was so closely connected with the arts and I think I wanted to feel more connected, myself, to the arts.
I’ll never forget watching several young men, Rosendo, Oswaldo, and Frankie, perform a theater piece at The Actor’s Gang Theater that they wrote and produced themselves based on social justice issues that they had encountered in their own lives. I think it was very transforming for them to be able to share these stories through performance. Another outstanding memory was witnessing a painfully shy young lady, Janelle, courageously take to the podium to represent Earhart at a public presentation. She was petrified to speak in front of others, but she was a dedicated artist and artworxLA touched her so much, that she was willing to confront her fears. That speaking experience completely changed her life. Her self-confidence exploded and she really started to take charge of her life in a very dynamic way. Another memorable experience had to do with the workshop based on Jared Diamond’s book, Collapse. The class was rowdy and poorly behaved. They could not relate to the artist or to his project and both sides became frustrated. It then occurred to all of us that the “collapse” of the relationship between artist and students, as well as the “collapse” of the project itself, were both metaphors for the theme to which we had been assigned. Making the connection between a damaged relationship due to lack of respect and communication and a damaged world due to terrorism and natural disasters was quite a revelation for these students and I think they were really moved by that. These memories have influenced my connection to artworxLA because they powerfully show the potent effect that art has on our lives.
I love knowing that I am going to get to be a part of three exciting artistic workshop themes and go to three wonderful venues every school year! I get to meet new artists and reconnect with artists that I’ve met over the years. Each year I get to attend a summer artist workshop and at many of those, I have been asked to speak to the artists about what it is like to be in the continuation school classrooms. For 15 years, I was the one teacher who accompanied the staff and students interested in the residency programs on a bus tour of art venues and art colleges around the city. And, of course, attending The Annual Gala each year is always a special treat for me! I’ve been a part of artworxLA for nearly 17 years now and have always felt welcomed and acknowledged by the staff as part of the family. I am considering how I will stay connected with artworxLA after I retire from LAUSD!
Arts for good means identifying the challenges of communities and bringing people together to utilize art for collaborative and problem-solving purposes so that young people can make their voices heard and learn to be empowering contributors to create sustainable communities.