Jade McKenzie | May 2019
Hometown: Mentone, 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 a teaching artist?
A: I do not know exactly when or why if I am being honest, I just know I’ve always loved drawing and art and everything about it. I drew so much in elementary school, one of my teachers started to attach a scrap piece of paper to my assignments to give me space to draw since I kept filling up the margins! When I came to college, I had no clue what I wanted to do. It wasn't until my second year and taking the first VAPAE sequence class that I began to realize “What the heck”! I’d spent two year in college trying to figure out what I wanted to do while continuously making art everyday and showing my friends how to do this or that, but I always assumed a career in the arts was too out of reach. Yet here was this class, and this entire minor dedicated to being a teaching artist, and as I finished up the entire sequence and had my first experience teaching art in an actual classroom setting, I finally figured it out. This is what I wanted to do.
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: The students in my after school program at Emerson Middle School just finished up our 6 week program and had our final culminating event. We spent much of those weeks experimenting and figuring out what worked and didn't work in regards to our two key projects: making their own do-si-do books and upcycling clothes. With the do-si-do books, the double sided openings provided the artists the ability to use many different kinds of papers as well as binding techniques in order to create their own one of a kind sketchbook that suited their individual needs as artists. In regards to the clothing, students used their creativity to tie dye, cut and remodel, as well as redesign t shirts and shoes. Each project focused on aspects of individuality and creativity that would require the students to not think so cut and dry, and teach the importance of risk taking when it comes to art.
Q: Why is an enrichment opportunity like this important for those participating? What do they gain?
A: I like to emphasize process over product, as I believe art making should be used as a tool for expression and experimentation. Providing young students an outlet such as this promotes both social/emotional growth as well as the opportunity to find themselves as an artist. Many subjects within the current curriculum do not make space for the type of creativity that art requires, and even some art classes are focused entirely on product and technique rather than expression. I like to emphasize the importance of outward expression in art because that was a key factor in what made art so enjoyable for me growing up, as I was not one to talk or write very much. Instead art can convey certain feelings and messages that students may not have the external voice to say.
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 wish that I had had an opportunity like this growing up, but all I had was the one or two basic art classes offered as an elective in high school. Those clases did not do much for me as a developing artist, and may have hindered my progress if I am being honest. A program like this, equipped with a teacher that actually cared about what the students wanted to create and why would have done a lot more for me as a developing artist. I would have most likely found out a lot sooner that working in the arts field wasn’t such a crazy idea, and I would have realized the merit of art far quicker as well.
Q: What do you personally gain as a teaching artist, arts facilitator?
A: It’s interesting, as a teaching artist I have realized that students are often more intelligent than the teacher! Even when I taught Kindergarten at the UCLA Lab School, students were coming up with ideas that far out measured what I was thinking of. By responding to students, I have been able to adapt and become a better teacher as a result. And as a result, my own art has greatly expanded in terms of medium and expression. By seeing what other students as well as my fellow art teachers are doing, I have a brand new set of ideas to work upon as well as use for future lessons. Inadvertently, I have also gained a bit of confidence! I have never been the best at speaking or standing in front of a group of people, but more and more I have become more confident in myself and my abilities all thanks to the support of my students, peers, and the VAPAE program,
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: The experience I have gained as a teaching artists is all thanks to the UCLA VAPAE program. Through the minor, I have been exposed to far more modes and expressions of art than I have ever thought possible. Things like art therapy, theatre, and dance are all very unfamiliar to me, but I have found that learning about these different aspects of the arts has crossed over into my own artistry and have greatly benefited my teaching. Additionally, due to this program, I have been able to find a potential career for me that I feel confident and happy in. With the opportunities provided, like professional development workshops and teaching roles in the community, I do not have as much fear about going out into the real world than I would have had without all of this exposure. I’m still a wee bit scared of course, but I know that i have a large cohort of friends and faculty available for help to me when I graduate.
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: When teaching a unit on recycling and reducing food waste at the lab school, I was confounded with the fact that these young students, these 5 and 6 year olds, have the great capability to make a lot of change in this world if we just let them pursue their passions and allow them the opportunity for community engagement at an young age. From the early onset, these students were extremely engaged and excited just with the idea of throwing away trash into different colored boxes. Children are far smarter than we give them credit for, and are happy to help change the world for the better when given the choices and opportunities.
Q: What are your short-term and long‐term career goals?
A: After graduation, I intend to apply for some jobs local to my hometown in order to get my foot in the door for childhood arts education. I’ll likely get a single subject teaching credential in art so that I can teach in K-12 schools. Once I find an arts education job and can pay those bills, I’ll then start thinking about getting a potential masters degree or pursuing higher education. But for now, I’ll just focus on getting through this last year of school!