Brittany Ko | February 2015
Hometown: South Pasadena, California
Major: B.A. in Fine Art
Q: A little background about you: Hometown, degree major, year of graduation (or year of study if you are not a graduate yet) and the type of art that you focus on.
A: I was born and raised in South Pasadena, California. I went to high school at San Marino High School in San Marino, California. I have a B.A. in Fine Art from UCLA. I graduated in June of 2013. My art practice is interdisciplinary – I like to draw, paint, create sculptures, photos, videos, and relational works. I would like to explore ceramics more.
Q: How did you discover your interest in art and how did you know that it was something that you wanted to pursue professionally, as an artist or as an art teacher?
A: I discovered my interest in art when I was very young, maybe 3. I don’t remember, but I do know that drawing takes up a big part of my memories of growing up. I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that my mom wanted to go to art school, but never did and that my dad is a fashion designer. My parents always encouraged me to make things and signed me up for art classes at the Armory in Pasadena. When I was a child, I wanted to be a fashion designer because my dad was a fashion designer. Growing up, our family made scrapbooks of our road trips across the country, made characters out of seashells and googly eyes, and made intricate decorations/ ornaments for holidays like Halloween and Christmas. These are just a few of the art/craft‐related things I remember doing with my family. I kept up with drawing and painting through high school. I loved creative writing and participating in the spring musical, as well.
When it was time to apply for university, I chose Art as my major because I loved to do it. During my third year at UCLA I heard about the VAPAE program and was immediately signed up for the teaching sequence. I have always loved babysitting/spending time with children and was curious about making art with them. After spending 10 weeks with a group of 2nd and 3rd graders, I think I just fell in love with their enthusiasm and love of art. I decided that, even though I didn’t have time to complete the Arts Education minor, that I wanted to continue teaching. I taught the same class at the UCLA Community School for the 3 quarters of my last year at UCLA.
Q: Describe what the young artists in your studio sessions are working on and the process they’re using.
A: We began our film project at St. Sophia’s with short narratives. We wanted the students to explore their own lives and events that they considered important. Each student wrote a short narrative about a moment in their lives and then Brianda and I put the individual stories into groups. We then divided the class into groups of 3‐4 and gave each group a group of stories.
The students’ job was to create one cohesive story that included elements from the separate stories of their classmates. One of the groups had mostly tragic memories, one group had stories about new family members being born, another group had stories of moving to a new country and getting a new pet, the last group was a jumble of stories about a dream and a concert. I think the most important part of this project is collaboration. All of the decisions that the students have been making were made together, as a group. They are learning ways to tell a story through limited means – ie. Paper drawings on bamboo skewers, recycled trash, paint, 2 dimensional painting sets, cell phones.
Q: Why is an enrichment opportunity like this important for those participating? What do they gain?
A: An enrichment opportunity like this is important for the students because it gives them a place and space to express themselves creatively. They get to tell their story and make objects/paintings/projects that they are proud of. They are allowed the freedom to use their imaginations and present them in a space where there really are no wrong answers. The students know that SS@SS is a safe space where they can share what is on their minds through their visual creations. They are not expected to explain their art, if they want the work to speak for itself. The students gain a family of sorts, who they can talk to and share ideas with. It is nice to have a consistent meeting place and time where students have something to do, but with minimal “rules.” It is freer than a classroom space, but not as loose as “hanging out.” I think the students really enjoy being introduced to new experiences and new methods of making. I think when you’re young and you can’t drive or do things without your parents’ permission, it’s nice to be able to spend time with your friends and have something very concrete to “do.” Especially middle school students, who aren’t really “kids” anymore and don’t play (make‐believe games) in the same way that elementary school students do.
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: I didn’t have an opportunity quite like this. I did like my middle school art teacher and the projects she created for us, but it would have been nice to be able to meet after school for 2‐3 hours. I think it would have given me a sense of an artistic community. I always liked to participate in the spring musical because of that feeling of family, but I was very shy and worked on sets, costumes, and sometimes was in the chorus. Art was mostly an individual activity for me. I would have loved to have “art” friends to talk about art and create together. I think it could have helped me vocalize my ideas better and work in groups more easily.
Q: What has this experience as a facilitator taught you about yourself?
A: This experience as a facilitator has taught me that I really love working with students. When I’m working at St. Sophia’s I really don’t feel like I’m at my job, unlike with my other jobs. It’s a really great feeling to know that a job exists that doesn’t feel like work at all. Of course there are days when the students are less focused or things don’t go as planned, but it all feels really natural and part of the creative process. The students teach me things every week. They are hopeful and creative and their outlook on the world is inspiring. They really believe that art is powerful and can change things, and that affirms my belief in that fact as well. I find that I’m not as jaded as I sometimes feel I am.
Q: What do you personally gain as a facilitator?
A: I gain perspective and awareness. Working with the students opens my eyes to the way that their upbringings are different from my own and that everyone (not only my students but any humans I might meet in a day) comes from a different place/background. I have learned to be more understanding and patient. I get the privilege of seeing their artwork, which is very inspiring. When creating lesson plans for the students I sometimes think of the ways that the lessons, themes, or materials could be used in my own art practice.
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: The VAPAE program was a good choice for me because it provided me with the opportunity to work with K‐12 students. If I had never heard of the VAPAE project, I don’t think I would have started teaching as early as I did. I don’t think I would have thought that I could be a teacher. The VAPAE program provided me with a foundation for teaching and the belief in myself, as a teacher. I’m so thankful for this program because teaching has become a huge part of my life and my favorite part of each week.
Q: Any anecdotes from your sessions would be great. Perhaps you had a break‐through 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: One day Francisco came in with a poem he had written about the state of the world.
The week prior, he has asked me if it would be okay to read a poem to the class. I said yes.
Before he read his poem aloud, he took in a deep audible breath. Then he just started reading.
The poem was amazing. (I hope that I will be able to get a copy of it soon.) I admired, so much, his courage. I was also taken back by the poem itself. I was amazed at the fact that he had written such a poem and also, despite being nervous, followed through and shared the poem with the class. It’s not easy to share your feelings/thoughts, especially, I think, as a middle-schooler. I was very happy that he felt comfortable enough to share his poem with us. Another moment that stands out to me is when the students finished their movie trailers. I really had no idea how the filming process would go. They only had one hour to create their trailers (and only one take). The end result made me feel as though anything was possible. I also love when we have time to share sketchbooks and the students comment on each other’s work. I love getting to see their genuine awe when seeing another student’s drawing or painting.
Q: What are your short‐ and long‐term career goals?
A: I would like to continue teaching art to K‐12 students and to make art accessible to those who do not have art programs at their schools/in their lives. I would like to paint and make things.