Brian Pea | February 2019
Hometown: San Jose/San Diego, California
Major: Design | Media 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 think I have always enjoyed art and took part in it, I believe as early as when I was three when I loved to watch the show Art Attack with my grandparents. I pursued art more seriously starting middle school, and following it professionally felt like a natural step to take once I began applying to colleges and considering a career. I’ve also always had a connection to children’s engagement, as I enjoy working with kids, and entering into arts education felt like an inevitable union of these two interests. I had my start in arts education through a series of summer jobs as tutors or instructors while in high school, where the arts slowly integrated themselves into how I led those classes.
Q: Describe what the student artists in your VAPAE afterschool arts or arts enrichment program are working on and the process they’re using.
A: I am currently a teaching artist at the VAPAE Studio Sessions program at Emerson Community Charter, and we just completed a shadow box lesson I planned. I wanted the project to introduce a couple of different art techniques, so the project included drawing, painting, and fabrication in cardboard to complete a frame that suspended two illustrations. A self-portrait was done on tracing paper and a painting on acetate, so that when backlit the painted acetate would cast a shadow onto the tracing paper drawing to reveal a hidden background. The goal of the lesson was for the students to make a physical representation of what they want their futures to look like through their shadow boxes.
Q: Why is an enrichment opportunity like this important for those participating? What do they gain?
A: I think that this form of engagement is important because it provides an avenue for students to consider their world and form their perspectives on it. There is definite value in looking at the world in a creative lens, and to provide those tools to kids is something that I see as a valuable trait to have when entering life. Thinking creatively when it comes to problem-solving or social collaboration, for instance, is often very useful, and is also sometimes underemphasized in children’s development from an educational standpoint.
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 had opportunities close to, but never really exactly like these, when I was younger. I think if I had more opportunities like this earlier, I could have seen how the arts can be a tool I could use to approach my problems with sooner, rather than just an aesthetic expression of my feelings. I have used art making as a form of therapy or personal enrichment before, for instance, but I never made a connection between the two until I entered the VAPAE program and learned about how I could provide that in arts programming.
Q: What do you personally gain as a teaching artist, arts facilitator?
A: I think as a children’s arts facilitator I am able to observe how a child’s mind develops, which gives me insight into how I was when I was younger and how I was influenced by the arts. Currently, in my time at Studio Sessions @ Emerson, I have found the most fulfillment simply working with the students and seeing who they are as individuals, and I think that is because I am interested in seeing how they individually approach the arts classroom as a social space.
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: My biggest gratitude towards UCLA’s VAPAE program would be for connecting my interest in children’s engagement with my interest in the arts, through insight into avenues like being a teaching artist, arts therapy, or arts-integrated learning. Before, I had a sense of myself as an artist, and that was separate from my passion for working with children, but after my time in the VAPAE minor and further as a teaching artist, I realized that there are ways for me to be both an artist and an educator and for my art practice to be about directly engaging children. And for that reason, I am thankful I found the VAPAE program, by chance at that too!
Q: Are there any anecdotes from your time as a VAPAE Teaching Artist at an Arts Enrichment or Afterschool Arts 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: I’m always so excited to see each student enjoy themselves and make artwork they are proud of, so it is hard to come up with one pivotal experience from the time I’ve taught through VAPAE. The first graders I taught as part of the minor were the sweetest kids, and all the middle schoolers I am currently working with at Studio Sessions @ Emerson are really intelligent and funny! But I would say the most personal growth I have witnessed was when I had the chance to assist an 8th grader with a self-portrait, as part of a public art project for their school led by muralist Judy Baca. The student and I became really good friends throughout the process, and I was able to see first-hand how an opportunity like that shaped how they saw their goals and future as a possible reality.
Q: What are your short-term and long‐term career goals?
A: As a fourth-year, I’ve definitely been thinking a lot about my impending career goals! In the near future, I hope to take a chance to focus in on what I learned throughout my time at UCLA and apply that towards work that integrates children’s engagement with new media. Beyond that, I see myself eventually pursuing higher education in the direction of children’s media or education, so that I can gain more insight into how I can become a more conscious artist and arts educator.