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Bianette Linares | October 2016

Hometown: Lincoln Heights, California

Major: Chicano Studies

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 art that you focus on.

A: My name is Bianette Linares, and I was raised in Lincoln Heights which is on the East Side of LA. I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Chicano Studies from Cal State LA in 2012. Although I have always considered myself a performing artist – focusing on stage work and dance – I am currently immersed in environments which focus on the visual arts. This is truly shifting my mentality, as I can no longer take a picture without thinking about “the rule of 3” or look at leaves without imagining them on a cyanotype!

Q: How did you discover your interest in art and how did you know that it was something that you wanted to pursue professionally, as an artist or as an art teacher?

A: I first discovered my interest in art when, as a 4-year old, I saw a theatrical show full of dancing and singing. From then on, I would rock out to any and every song playing on the radio and sing my lungs out. Sometimes I would even create entire skits to go along with songs that I really liked. However, I did not know I wanted to pursue art professionally until I was a senior in high school. At that time, I was able to reflect on how being part of theatre and dance helped me survive some difficulties in my home life, and I thought there was nothing that could make me happier. Then through the UCLA Dance/Theater Summer Intensive, I experienced the positive impact art can have on entire communities, even one made up of strangers. At that point, I knew I had to do something with art, and I realized art was the means by which I could help heal and strengthen communities and individuals.

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

A: As the After School Program Coordinator for VAPAE, I am able to be at various sites alongside different teaching artists. One site is working on expressing identity and community through photography, another site is working on expressing identity through hands-on art projects, and another site is working on designing an inspirational art studio for girls in a group home.

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

A: This is such an important opportunity for the participating students because many of them are, for the first time, able to explore and develop as artists. As the weeks go by, every single student becomes more positive in the way they interpret themselves and their communities, and I think this is because VAPAE’s Teaching Artists are very successful in creating spaces of trust and encouragement. So, students end up gaining more positive perceptions of self in addition to new/improved art skills.

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: Unfortunately, in my neighborhood and school growing up there were no real opportunities available for me to develop my art until high school. However, I took it upon myself to teach myself dance moves from different styles of dance and when reading I would make believe I was an actress portraying the different characters. Once I got into high school, I was fortunate to be able to join a theatre program nearby, but I think having a program like VAPAE’s after school programs would have helped me as an artist and as a person. For a long time, I thought my “final products” (in life and in art) had to fit into a mold, and if I wasn’t able to fit that mold I became disappointed in/insecure about myself. However, I’ve noticed that VAPAE ASP students know how to trust in the artistic process. During the studio sessions all the students work toward the same goal, but they each have their own ways of getting there and the final products are uniquely their own.

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

A: This experience has taught me that I need to loosen up (hahaha). Seriously though, I am learning that I still have moments where I am trying to reach some idea of perfection, but what I really need to do is BE in the moment.

Q: What do you personally gain as a teaching artist/ facilitator?

A: Hope. Humility. Inspiration. 

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: Although I am not a graduate of the UCLA VAPAE program, as a staff member I consider myself to be an honorary student. As the After School Program Coordinator, I work with and learn from a variety of incredibly talented and caring artists who share their knowledge and love with all of their students and colleagues. Joining VAPAE has definitely been a great choice for me because the work and learning that happens here transcends the classroom environment. The students, administrators, and everyone involved are agents of change.

Q: Are there any anecdotes from your VAPAE Studio Sessions 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: Yes, definitely. At one site where the students are girls living in a group home, the teaching artists decided to begin each session with a tea ceremony in which one girl pours tea for the girl on her right and pays that girl a compliment/appreciation. The girl on the right then responds with a “thank you. I receive that” and proceeds to pour tea and compliment the girl on her own right, etc. When I first heard about this check-in, I was a bit confused because I had never heard of such a thing but also thought it would take away from the art-making time. However, once I witnessed it, I became a believer. The ceremony completely transformed the space. At the start of the first session, the girls were very talkative and at times a little rude to each other. The energy was more on the distracted and pessimistic side. After the tea ceremony, there was a complete 180. Everyone was calm and focused and much more positive. There were focused discussions about the art being shared by the teaching artists followed by enthusiast participation in the art-making. This definitely showed me a different way of creating an atmosphere of trust and proved how important intentionality is when deciding on check-ins and activities. Each week, I witness the value of the tea ceremony as it elevates the quality of the art-making space and assists the students in becoming closer to each other and the teaching artists.

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

A: My short-term goals definitely include me continuing my role as After School Program Coordinator for VAPAE. I also hope to become more involved in another organization which also focuses on providing quality arts programming to the Los Angeles community. A long-term goal of mine is to become a professor and be able to share about art as a tool for transformation. I would also like to help implement more programs which support community development in under-served areas of Los Angeles and other cities.