Ago Visconti | January 2019
Hometown: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Major: Fine Arts
Minor: Visual and Performing Arts Education
“Embracing strangeness when it’s talking is where fear dies and inspiration begins”. I live by this and it’s something that drives my art practice and pedagogy.
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: Both of my parents are Argentinian Tango dancers/teachers/performers. Most of my youth was predominantly spent traveling with them to classes and workshops. I was exhausted of dance studios and my parents could tell. They sent me to any extracurricular that popped to my mind at a very young age so I could develop my own passions. I had no idea I would be a visual artist until a middle school art teacher saw my paintings and called my parents in for a serious career possibility. The belief she instilled in me gave me the support I needed to move forward with art making. However, my parents were my main inspiration to being a teaching artist because I have personally seen the joy and balance that it brings to people’s lives.
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: Our first quarter at Ad Astra was focused on technique and skill sets; knowing how the tools work before applying them to concepts. This consisted a lot of working with our hands to produce very basic ideas such self portraiture through objects and making clay sculptures of memories. This winter quarter we are taking a different approach. I think being an artist is so much more than making things. Yes artists are known for making works of art like paintings and sculptures but this time around we wanted to push critical thinking into play now that they have technical skills to build off of. Artists such as Marcel Duchamp is a great example of this conceptual approach we are digging for - how can we push the boundaries of a single idea, such as Space, to make art work. Students have been engaged by using their entire body to apply mark making and exploring shared spaces that include interceptions by our peers in the class.
Q: Why is an enrichment opportunity like this important for those participating? What do they gain?
A: I believe students who engage in critical thinking and problem solving through a creative lens have more of an opportunity to create their on efficient directions of question making and problem solving instead of following formulas given to them. This kind of thinking can inspire individuals to challenge the norms and move forward with problem solving from angles that may have never even been thought or before.
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 went to the UCLA Lab School for elementary school, at the time it was called UES. It is a research school where experimentally they had us engage in many art infused practices. I wouldn’t say it shaped my love of art but it exposed me to a new kind of critical thinking that I wasn’t aware of until much later. It helped a lot more in my other academic studies than my own personal art making. Suddenly I was using artistic approaches such as formal dissection, examining patterns, and creating my own relationships between an “A” and “B” for math and sciences. Art making and the scientific method share analysis approaches.
Q: What do you personally gain as a teaching artist, arts facilitator?
A: I’ve been in college for almost 6 years and my vocabulary and language has reached points where not everyone understands what I’m talking about. I have gained a lot of knowledge of how to verbally communicate complicated concepts in simple approaches. I have learned the importance of seed planting because although a young student may not completely “get it” at first, they are familiarized with concepts of critical thinking and conceptual art making.
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: For me as a student the VAPAE program has given me opportunities I could only dream of at this stage in my academia. I am so happy I made the push to add the minor in my studies outside of my art. The program is very social justice driven and I didn’t know there was a social justice warrior inside of my waiting to share passions for the arts with communities in Los Angeles. The enriching opportunities that the VAPAE program offers for communities but also students at UCLA is so great because they provide the experience and guidance to being a genuinely inspiring and progressive arts teacher.
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: Actually this last session I held with my co-teachers at Ad Astra was extremely transformational for the students and for me. We had done an activity where we collectively put rolls of butcher paper on the ground and each student, one by one, interpreted their life’s journey and trajectory through line. Students were asked to explore the space they have taken up in their lives and how would they want their lives to change through line. At one point every student in the room was on the floor weaving themselves between each other and building off of each other’s line. It was extremely beautiful to see them collaborate together. Before, the students would barely speak to each other. It gave me hope that we would be able to share space and grow together.
Q: What are your short-term and long‐term career goals?
A: My short term goals are to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts and a minor in Arts Education in June. I want to begin my own research practice outside of academia and continue to build my skills as a sculptor. I hope to continue to work with young students and also work with organizations that hold creative act sessions in Juvenile Detention Centers. Long term I would love to continue my studies for a Masters in Fine Arts. I want to be an Art Theory professor at a university one day. It would be a dream to travel the world making art and inserting creative acts sessions wherever I can.