Amorette Muzingo | January 2017
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
Major: Art History
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 an artist teacher?
A: Growing up in an intimidatingly artistic family, it wasn’t ever a question to not pursue the arts; if that makes sense. The success of my father, my aunts, my uncles, and everyone else motivated me to stand alongside them in my artistic endeavors. The path I had chosen was quite bumpy - I went from fervently pursuing the arts/music from age 9 to abandoning the idea of art school altogether in my senior year of high school. I then enrolled in community college, where I began studying art history, almost dropped out, and then was accepted here at UCLA to study Art History. I came across VAPAE towards the end of my first year at UCLA and the classes that I took revitalized the passion I had at such a young age. I feel like VAPAE is a space where I can utilize my skills and background knowledge of the arts and child care while embracing that I’m a 12 year old trapped in a 23 year old’s body.
Q: Describe what the young artists in your VAPAE afterschool arts program are working on and the process they’re using.
A: Since we work with such a unique population, we really wanted to have curriculums that best suit the needs and interests of the girls at Aviva. With so many complex and diverse situations in the room, we developed a curriculum called The Art of Mindfulness, Tea, and Sanctuary. Every class began with a tea ceremony, in which we would sit at a table in a circle, pour tea for one another, and give appreciative comments to those around us. This established the most fantastic sense of community - the girls were unafraid to try a myriad of projects - such as installation, book making, origami, ceramics, activist art, garlands, pillow making, and more. The girls essentially created their own space in which everything was hand-made by them - really instilling the sense of community and sanctuary. This upcoming quarter is really exciting. We’re going to be transitioning into a marriage of visual and digital arts - Aviva has this fantastic Digital Media Lab. The main process will be Digital Storytelling and Narratives - so stay tuned for animated masks, reflective journaling, music making, poetry, and more!
Q: Why is an enrichment opportunity like this important for those participating? What do they gain?
A: I have heard, first-hand, the gains of positivity and awareness that VAPAE programs have provided to our students. One of our girls had been frustrated with one of her other peers, and instead of reacting in a negative fashion, she said, “I really think that that girl would benefit from the art classes we have, it would be really good for her”. Our student was able to recognize the impact that we made in our classroom in just 10 weeks and had developed a more mindful and caring approach to a tough situation. Participants in VAPAE programs are a special kind of community - it’s the chance to really connect on a deeper level of creativity and growth, and is immensely inclusive. The daily rhythms of school can be overwhelming, but with VAPAE after school programs, it provides this space in which the students are able to be present in themselves and with others and are able to really create something incredible.
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 did have an opportunity somewhat similar to VAPAE - it was an after school/weekend music program in Hollywood called School of Rock (fun fact, the movie was loosely based on the program). There, I was able to take drum lessons that were organized under a common artist or theme: David Bowie, Women Who Rock, etc. We would rehearse every week after school and at the end of the 10 weeks, we performed at venues such as The Roxy and The Troubadour. Although it helped me develop lifelong friendships and further my passion for music, the cost of the program was quite a difficult setback, and it was difficult to commute to Hollywood. I really, really favor the openness that VAPAE provides, regardless of economic status, race, gender, or geography.
Q: What has this experience as a teaching artist or arts facilitator taught you about yourself?
A: Wayne Kramer, famed musician and guest lecturer, once told our class, “I am always a humbled student”. I really try to embody that within every moment of my teaching - because I am still always learning. I have continued developing patience and flexibility - certain teaching strategies will sort of pop up in the moment and I’ve learned to embrace it. I’ve become more of a person who is content with being in the present, instead of constantly planning for the future (but finding a balance, of course!). Being a teaching artist has given me deeper connections to my students than I ever thought possible - and in return, my students teach me more than words could describe.
Q: What do you personally gain as a teaching artist, arts facilitator?
A: I still can’t believe that this is the work that I do - I never thought my work could be this fun. I have gained a HUGE sense of gratitude towards the amazing people I get to work alongside and to the students that I get to know. I also end up surprising myself with new skills that I learn, whether it be artistic or educational or anywhere in between. I truly never thought that I would be a teacher, but I gain a bit of confidence each day that I’m in the classroom because that is where I feel most comfortable.
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: Yes! Very, very good choice! Truthfully, a part of me resented the large size of UCLA and how there are so many people. VAPAE is where I found a second home, where I spent my Thursday nights. The educators in VAPAE are accessible and authentic, and the lessons I have learned in the classes I’ve taken have really shaped me to the person I’m growing into. I have had absolutely incredible opportunities in my time here, and it would not have been possible if it were not for my participation in VAPAE.
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: I believe that I used this as a sample video for my Arts Ed teaching sequence portfolio - but there was this moment where I had said a joke to the class while teaching, subsequently all began giggling, and the moment I brought them back to the lesson this massive silence fell upon the room. In that moment, I recognized that I alone had built not only a rapport with 35 6th graders, but had also gained their respect and intrigue. They were so inquisitive about the lesson that day, it was so amazing and satisfying that I felt I was on the right track.
Q: What are your short-term and long‐term career goals?
A: I think I have a hard time with this question because there is just so much that I would like to do, that I haven’t figured out yet how to actually articulate it. However, I will try! I know that now I have graduated I would really like to return to my artistic and musical practices, as well as develop better foreign language skills. I studied Spanish for quite a while and feel it would be tremendously useful. I suppose those are my short term goals. As far as long term, I really see myself continuing in arts education - either involved with art therapy, or museum education, or working with incarcerated/marginalized youth. At this point, I’m excited and ready to try anything within the field.