Vanessa Chung | January 2016

Hometown: Cupertino, California

Major: Art

Minor: Visual and Performing Arts Education


Q: A little background about you: Name, Hometown, degree major, year of graduation (or year of study if you are not a graduate yet) and the type of arts that you focus on.

A: My name is Vanessa Chung, I am from Cupertino, California and I am a fourth year art major and VAPAE minor. My practice mostly involves painting and drawing.

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 an artist teacher?

A: My grandmother started an art school in Hawaii, which was passed on to my parents in the Bay Area in the 90s. I used to think of the studio as my youngest sibling that my parents loved the most, so I decided early on that I didn’t want to do anything with art. However, in high school, I was required to take an arts elective class to graduate. It was 3D-Design taught by Mrs. Cunningham. Her class led me to taking another class at a neighboring high school in our school district, which led me to applying to art programs at different universities, which has finally led me to studying art at UCLA. Because of the guidance and support of my instructors and parents, I’ve learned to understand the value of a great art teacher and the pivotal role of the teaching artist in students’ lives. 

Q: Describe what the young artists in your VAPAE studio sessions are working on and the process they’re using.

A: I have just finished the quarter teaching at the UCLA Community School with Claudia for the MASA (Multigenerational After School Arts) Program. For the nine-week session, we looked into how different cultures celebrate Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. Students, parents, and even their grandparents were able to create work around this theme using materials including linocuts, ceramics, watercolors, and tissue paper. We were also able to celebrate the holiday together by creating a communal altar using the artworks we made. This quarter, I will be co-teaching a nine-week after school arts program at Emerson Middle School. My co-teacher Sally and I will be exploring the themes of change through seasons by building large-scale sculptures with the students.

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

A: Every VAPAE after school program I have worked with or observed has brought something completely innovative to the community. The programs have done as much from organizing a space for toddlers, sixth graders, their siblings, their mothers, fathers, and their grandparents to gather together to make art, to providing students the ability to work with completely new materials and techniques.

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: Though art was more available to me growing up, I regretfully never took the opportunity to explore it. Recently, I have observed how early exposure to art making has benefitted my peers in their academic and personal affairs. These benefits are not exclusive to those who identify as artists; I think that programs like the VAPAE Studio Sessions allow opportunities for a variety of students to learn lifelong skills for every facet of their lives. 

Q: What has this experience as a teaching artist or arts facilitator taught you about yourself? 

A: Watching students work so fearlessly has challenged me to be bolder in my own practice. 

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

A: I have gained the confidence to have my voice heard in unfamiliar spaces. I’ve had a tough time reconciling my various identities; as an artist, as a woman, as a woman of color, how do I fit into the world? Identifying as a teaching artist has allowed me to fine-tune each of these facets of myself and hold my ground in challenging situations.

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: Being a teaching artist has given me the privilege of working with some of the most driven and creative people in Los Angeles. At UCLA, it is so easy to feel lost in such a huge campus. VAPAE has given me a tight-knit community of like-minded people who all work together to provide opportunities for meaningful art making. I have literally learned something from every person I have interacted with through the program and have had opportunities and experiences that are completely unique to VAPAE. I will treasure both for the rest of my life! 

Q: Are there any anecdotes from your VAPAE Studio Sessions (or Arts Education Teaching Sequence) that stand out to you? 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: For the MASA program, we had a parent volunteer lead a lesson for the class. Maria Luz has been teaching her children, Eduardo and Karen, who are in sixth and third grade, to knit since they were toddlers. Maria Luz volunteered to spend one session teaching the class to knit using looms. Because Maria Luz was uncomfortable speaking English, we asked Eduardo to lead the demonstrations with the projector. He did an excellent job explaining the process verbally and going around the classroom to help others. It was obvious that he was enjoying himself and was happy to share his skills with the classroom. Maria Luz had explained how he had found it difficult to share his hobby with his classmates because he was scared he would be teased, but expressed how it was encouraging to see him be confident in his skills and lead the class. It was amazing not only to facilitate a student led workshop, but also to see how it had been a fruitful experience to the participants.

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

A: I want to find innovative ways to fit the arts into normalized K-12 public education.