Emmanuel Galvez Machuca | April 2019

Hometown: Mexico City, Mexico

Major: Fine Arts

Minor: Visual and Performing Arts Education


Q: How did you discover your interest in the arts and how did you know that it was something that you wanted to pursue professionally, as an artist or as a teaching artist?

A:  I started skateboarding in middle school and came to understand that to learn how to do a trick, I had to keep trying. That if I fell on the ground, I had to get up and try again. Eventually, I was able to land a trick. And, if I continued to work, I could perfect my style. When I began to draw cartoons, I naturally fell back on the lessons learned while skateboarding. My first drawings were clumsy, but eventually, through sheer determination and work, I became rather good at drawing cartoons. So, I learned that working on a skill, despite a failure, could lead to expertise.

I used this same process in art making. When I first start an art project I may not be successful, but if I spend time working, it improves. And the more I work, the better it gets. Generating new concepts also comes after much soul searching and mining memories. From 2010 to 2015 I have been involved in creating a series of paintings on the concept of “Pan Dulce.” The concept came to me as I thought of the days when I lived in Mexico City as a child and I walked with my Mom to the bakery where I could smell the fresh aromas of bread and see a beautiful spread of pan dulce. Those memories touched me so personally that I decided to set up a still life of these breads. As a result of these works, I now have gallery representation and have had two solo shows. Searching through my past experiences solidified what I wanted to do: to connect more closely with my childhood memories.

My success pushes me to work harder and make better art. I plan to become the first person in my family to receive a college degree. My motivation and hunger for knowledge inspires me to explore who I am as an artist, a teacher, and a student. I remember my mother’s words, “Echale ganas, mijo!” which means to [work hard, son!]. Her words allow me to push forward, to keep going, to perfect my greatest talent: art.

Q: Describe what the student artists in your VAPAE Afterschool or Arts Enrichment Program are working on and the process they’re using.

A:   Before I transferred to UCLA, I was working with two nonprofits. One of them was Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to K-12 underrepresented students interested in sports, music, and the arts. As the artist in residence at HOLA, I assisted in teaching art classes from teaching drawing, mix-medium and mentoring individual students. In 2010, Dan McCleary started Art Division, a nonprofit organization dedicated to training and supporting underserved artistically inclined youth in the Rampart district where I have been an active participant since its inception. HOLA and Art Division have given me the tools and practice to give back to the community.

Because of my experience working with these nonprofits, I was offered the opportunity to work with one of the VAPAE Afterschool programs where I worked with another nonprofit. Latino Producers Action Network (LPAN) is a program that provides art workshops by Fabian Debora that brings youth from various communities together with their parents to collaborate in art projects. It was my pleasure working with the East Los Angeles community. In this VAPAE Program, I worked as a teaching artist assistant with Fabian Debora and I was able to learn several skills how to work with this is specific community intergenerational families. While in my participation at the program, I had the chance to assist every person and see them grow in their process and skills. I was really impressed with the mothers and daughters and how well they work with each other. I thought that the daughters would end up helping the mothers more but both of them created an equal balance.

Q: Why is an enrichment opportunity like this important for those participating? What do they gain?

A:  If I had not had Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA) program when I was younger and Art Division as a young adult, I probably would not have followed my dream as an artist. Today, as a result of these opportunities, I have confidence in my art skills and in my capacity as a student of the arts.

Since I participated similar programs, I understand the value and the impact that it can provide to a student’s lives. I think students can gain so much knowledge, critical thinking, and work collaboratively. Understanding these basic elements can help students discover the different possibilities of creating art pieces. Therefore, applying similar process outside of the arts into different environment allows students to navigate their own personal experiences. At a very personal level, art has always been there for me. The role of art can definitely play a huge role in students’ lives.

Q: Did you have an opportunity like this when you were a younger artist? If yes, how did it help shape your love of art? If no, in what ways could a program like this have helped you?

A: In middle school, I found my voice by drawing cartoons. I would often lose myself in my drawings, especially during English classes. “You’re going to be good, but without reading and writing you’re never going to be successful,” my English teacher would say. I knew I should have listened, but I chose not to. Instead, I continued with the pattern of doodling and daydreaming and kept wishing of one day being an artist. The possibility of becoming an artist became more real when at 14 years old I found Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA). HOLA had tutors, classes, and other support systems to help usher us to college. Through college prep programming I discovered the possibility of the arts as a potential career with social benefits.   

Q: What do you personally gain as a teaching artist, arts facilitator?

A:  Even though I already have some experience teaching, I don’t have words to describe the amount of knowledge that I gained from completing the Arts Education Teaching Sequence in VAPAE. It has reinforced my teaching philosophy and enriched my practice as artist. Personally, I have gained more structure of how to create lesson plans. And also I had the opportunity to work with a public school. When I came to this country I went to public school. Having this opportunity to teach at a public school, it was very rich experience. Many of the students whom I taught were their first time having art lessons. Another reason why I want to continue to teaching because I understand that not every community has access to the arts. Therefore, I do see myself working with marginalized communities. The VAPAE minor would reinforce my practice as an educator and artist. I hope my discipline in the arts and my educational pursuits serve as a model and that we can all continue to make our community a better place.

Q: What are the benefits to you as a student/graduate in the UCLA VAPAE program? Was this program a good choice for you? If so, why?

A: Even though I already have some experience teaching, I don’t have words to describe the amount of knowledge that I gained from working with Fabian Debora through the VAPAE Program. I know for sure that everything that I learned will be reinforced and enrich my practice as both an educator and artist. When I started teaching I never took a formal class about art education. Through my previous history of volunteering for the arts as a teacher assistant, I was able to learn a lot of knowledge from both the classroom and the teacher. When I was offered a position of teaching art, of course, I said yes. Even though I did not have the proper training I still wanted to do it. It was not easy from the beginning. The more I communicated with other teachers and also with my supervisor, I was able to understand and get little more training about art education.

Once I transferred to UCLA, I was interested in taking classes in art education, and also became interested in completing the Visual and Performing Arts Education program. When I came to this country, I was part of the after school program, HOLA. I learned a lot from their academic education, especially when taking their art classes. Art has its own language, and not having been able to speak English, the arts allowed me to express and share my ideas with my classmates without language interfering. From my personal experience I want to complete the VAPAE program because I do see myself teaching art to kids and adults while still being able to continue with practice in the studio.

Q: Are there any anecdotes from your time as a VAPAE Teaching Artist at an Afterschool or Arts Enrichment Programs that stand out to you? Perhaps you had a breakthrough with a student or saw some particularly noticeable growth in that student through this program, collaboration etc. Maybe something surprised you or made you think about art or teaching in a new way.

A: Since I already have some experience working with nonprofits, I was able to adopt Fabian’s style of teaching. Basically, he would give me instructions of what would the class be working before the class would start. For the most part, a lot of his lessons are very straightforward. Having my own artistic practice definitely helps me to follow him with his approach of having a responsive style of teaching that feels really community-based instead of a student vs. teacher approach. Within the two classes that I have taken at UCLA through art education, the way we approach art is so different than Fabian’s style of teaching. It was really interesting to see both styles of teaching. But as a teaching assistant, I have to recognize that one is working with the community and the other one it focuses on the education system. And also with various philosophies of teaching. As educators, we have to recognize the circumstances of this community such as understanding and learning how we help these communities. During my sessions, I was just starting to understand the difference between these teaching styles working both with Fabian and the community.

Q: What are your short-term and long‐term career goals?

A: One of my short-term goal is completing the Visual and Performing Art Education program. I would love to continue teaching with VAPAE after school programs. Another long-term goal is getting ready to apply graduate school. My dream would to one day go back to Mexico City and teach arts in communities that do not have access to the arts.