by Michele Jaquis
The Artists, Community, and Teaching (ACT) program began in 2005 with what is now the Teacher Credential Preparation minor. Combined with the fi ne arts major, this minor allows students to waive the California Subject Exam for Teachers, the fi rst step in earning a teaching credential, which can be completed either at another university or through a school district internship. Otis is currently the only art school in California to offer this program, approved by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
The ACT Community Arts Engagement minor was launched in 2010 for all students interested either in socially engaged art and design practices or in teaching in museums, nonprofi t arts organizations, private schools, or correctional facilities.
ACT alumni are doing amazing things. Alfredo Guzman (’07) is teaching art at his alma mater, Holtville High School. Mayuka Thais Nagasaw (’07) teaches art and music classes in L.A. and Tokyo. Kendra Elstad (’08) is an associate third grade teacher at Wildwood School in L.A. Albert Valdez, featured on opposite page, who started in a work-study position at LACMA, is now Coordinator of the museum’s Education Department. The following alumni are pursuing graduate degrees: Kaitlynn Redell (’09) Fine Arts at Parsons, Raul Baltazar (’08) Public Practice at Otis, Jessi Bhatia Kim-Saad (’09) Teaching and Single Subject Art Credential at Chapman, and Lyndsay Sullivan (’10) Creative Arts Therapy at Hofstra.
In my four years directing the ACT Program, I’ve seen that those who thrive have a genuine desire to share knowledge and give back to their communities while maintaining an active art/ design practice. According to Maricela Aviña (’11), a painter and Program Leader for After School All Stars at Southeast Middle School in South Gate,
“I knew I wanted to have a career in education, preferably in the L.A. area in the community in which I was raised. Through ACT, my dream has become a very real possibility. I got my foot in the door through a teaching internship and volunteering my art lessons.
This year I named my art class ‘Cre8tive Studio: Infi nite Ways to Create,’ to let students know that all of them can be creative in different ways. When I was their age, I did not have this opportunity.
I want my students to know that I’m a dedicated artist as well as an educator. When you tell them you are an artist, they ask questions about art and design. It makes a huge difference when they learn about your background and what you do."
The ACT student population is even more diverse than the rest of Otis’ community. Adriana Collazo (’11), who directs the ECOFAB Program at After School All Stars, suspects that because they were taught by white teachers, many ACT students of color want to become role models for younger generations. She explains:
"As an artist from an immigrant family, I am sensitive to social matters and statistics, which ignite my commitment to change social stereotypes and reduce drop-out rates. . . . In ACT, I saw that the passion of artists as teachers can be transmitted to students. After School All Stars programs take place in the low-income communities where I was raised, where hope is rare and support for higher education by experienced art college graduates is unheard of. What inspires me is the passion in students’ eyes when I tell them I believe in them."
This is also why I teach, and I imagine that many of my Otis colleagues would agree.
ABOVE: ACT 2011 graduates Maricela Aviña, Giovanni Rubio, and Adriana Collazo