Phoebe Brown | March 2016
Hometown: Berkeley, California
Major: World, Arts & Cultures
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 Phoebe Brown and I am from Berkeley, California. I am a World, Arts & Cultures major and Visual and Performing Arts Education minor. I will be graduating in June 2016. I am interested in elementary education, early childhood development, arts activism and visual arts. In my own arts practice, I primarily explore printmaking, paper cutting, and zine-making.
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: I grew up in an arts based environment. I am fortunate to have a family who encourages creativity and exploration in my everyday life, and I got to attend a fabulous elementary school with a philosophy of interdisciplinary, arts-based education. Towards the end of elementary school, I began assisting at my family friend’s visual art classes. My family friend’s art program, which offers year round art making for all ages, exposes participants to visual arts methods, visual art across cultures, and the power of arts activism. This art program became a huge aspect of my life and I naturally began pursuing the path of an arts educator. Watching artists, especially young artists, creatively work with materials and articulate their process truly amazes and inspires me. Although I can be exhausted on my way to work, once I am in a room buzzing with creativity I instantly get reenergized.
In high school I joined a small learning community called the Arts and Humanities Academy (AHA). This program emphasizes arts based education and interdisciplinary education, similarly to my elementary educational experience. In this program I got to experience how art can be applied to all subjects and fields, and thus result in more powerful education. I also began understanding the importance of exposing more people to this ideology.
Although I have practiced art my entire life, I experience a different feeling entirely from teaching art. I feel such a connection to watching students create, and being able to assist them in any way or anytime during that process. I love exposing people to materials or techniques, and watching their artwork unfold in new and innovative ways. All of these experiences, feelings and observations have clearly led me on the path towards being an arts educator.
Q: Describe what the young artists in your VAPAE studio sessions are working on and the process they’re using.
A: This quarter I am co-teaching with Claudia Rosas for the MASA Program at the UCLA Community School. Our unit focuses predominantly on the beautiful versatility of textile art. We are aiming to expose the MASA participants to the multiplicity within textiles from around the world and the possibilities within the art form. We began our exploration by studying Molas from Panama, and working to create personal tapestries with gluing and sewing felt pieces. We then transitioned to carving potatoes and printing with them, exploring fabric designing. We introduced the participants to various forms of weaving such as paper weaving, and yarn on cardboard looms and plastic straw looms. Using yarn again, participants got to explore Huichol yarn paintings. We are concluding our MASA sessions by leading the participants in creating papier-mâché self-portraits, which can be decorated using any of the materials we have used in our sessions thus far. This last project not only allows participants to create something 3-D, but it allows participants to get messy, get creative, and to begin understanding how multi-faceted materials are.
Q: Why is an enrichment opportunity like this important for those participating? What do they gain?
A: MASA is a unique and special program because it is multigenerational. The arts are often thought of as supplemental, or as an elective, when they are in fact at the core of learning for many people. Most parents and sibling do not sit down together and make art, as they are too busy, so this program, which encourages and leads this kind of art making, is phenomenal. It provides an opportunity for parents to pause their everyday lives and responsibilities. It allows parents to spend time with their children without pressure or regulations. This space and moment allows for bonding through art making, and further exemplifies the power and importance of art making. Additionally, the majority of the participants are sixth grade students, which is an integral age in development, so to give them an opportunity to spend time with their families, and enjoy this time without any pressure, is truly special.
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: Art was always integrated in my primary and secondary education, and I always chose art electives when possible. I never officially took an art class outside of school, however, I assisted my family friend from any early age so I got exposure to projects and techniques through that a lot. Although my family never attended a structured art class together, my parents emphasized art in our everyday life. To this day I still cherish my memories of creating art collectively with my family.
Q: What has this experience as a teaching artist or arts facilitator taught you about yourself?
A: This experience has done a lot for me. I have always connected with children and have always been involved in the arts in some way or another, so teaching art classes was a natural progression for me. However, working with VAPAE has exposed me to all of the aspects of the field of education. Something I appreciate about VAPAE is that we are introduced to teaching theories and philosophies, and then we actually get to pursue them. I appreciate that I was taught about Reggio and Dewey and now get to form my own philosophy. MASA has opened my eyes to the importance of and possibilities within a multigenerational program. I always expected to work with younger students, however I have learned so much from my MASA crew, and love the idea of many ages working together. Art allows all ages to connect.
Additionally, although I am confident in my abilities to teach, I often get nervous having to be the authority in the room. Every time that I teach, this stress is eased and my confidence builds. I remember my first time walking into MASA and feeling slightly unsure and nervous, and after 10 minutes passed I realized how at ease I was with it all. From this experience, I have learned to further trust my abilities. I have learned that I am good at curriculum development, organization and facilitation.
Q: What do you personal gain as a teaching artist, arts facilitator?
A: I learn as much from my students as they learn from me. I know that sounds corny and cliché, but ask any teacher and they will tell you that it is true. What is especially interesting is working with all different age groups and gaining an understanding of the similarities and differences among different ages. I can have a completely polished lesson plan but first I have to learn about my students and form and adapt my lesson to fit them. This teaches me about problem solving and requires me to be creative and intuitive. So teaching is completely a learning experience, and as I teach I am continually gaining knowledge, technique, ideas, etc.
Additionally, with any art class, but especially because MASA is multigenerational, flexibility is key. From being a facilitator I need to always be on my toes and ready to adapt. MASA teaches me this, which will be very useful for any career in my future.
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: As I mentioned earlier, my biggest enthusiasm about the VAPAE program is how hands on it is. It was incredibly helpful to learn theory, practice teaching my peers, and to develop a teaching philosophy, however, getting to be placed in schools and experience the actual teaching is amazing and helpful. VAPAE has connected me to so many amazing schools, teachers, and students. I have been able to experience different learning environments and different bodies of students, which is very applicable to the real world.
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: There is a group of siblings that attend MASA—Audrey, Antonio and Dante. Audrey has consistently come to all but one of the sessions, but unfortunately Dante and Antonio only attended a few. This crew does not come with any parents. All of them, but especially Audrey, have had a heavy impact on me and I have learned a lot from them. I bonded with them instantly. They have really opened up my eyes to the experience of teaching diverse students, all of whom have their own lives outside of the classroom.
Dante came in the beginning with his older sister Audrey. Both were phenomenal artists ad caught on instantly, even if they hadn’t been exposed to the projects and techniques prior. I realized early on they had some hardships at home, as they discussed this honestly with me. Dante, who had never sewn before, picked it up instantly and was even threading his own needles. It was amazing to watch his concentration and enthusiasm.
Audrey was recently telling me about her home life. She said that there are 12 people living in their house, and it is often hectic and she ends up having to be responsible for the younger children. She said that MASA is gives her hope, and that it is the one place where she can create, relax and revive. These words really touched my heart, and again clarified the importance of art programs, especially for those that don’t often get the opportunity to be a kid and be creative.
Q: What are your short-term and long‐term career goals?
A: I will be graduating this spring (2016) so my short-term goal is to find a job that deals with arts education, arts activism or elementary education. This past year I have become very intrigued by not just standard art classes, but by the impact and power art can hold. The merge of the medical world and art world has really been inspiring, so I would be interested to become involved in art therapy. As of now, my long-term goal is to work in the more administrative realm—so curriculum development or special projects coordinator. Although I still want to maintain student contact throughout my career, I would love to shift towards more consultant work at some point.