What do you enjoy most as a teaching artists?
I enjoy observing a student move from apprehension to confidence. Then the student connects with a lesson and takes it to a level far greater than I would have imagined.
Monica is the newest member of the Snow City Arts teaching artist team and so we thought we’d take some time to learn more about their artistic practice and initial experience teaching in a very unique environment. Monica is our visual artist-in-residence at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital and has degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Interior Architecture and Fine Arts. In addition to being a teaching artist at Snow City Arts, Monica is also an art curator for American Indian Veterans Exhibits at The Trickster Gallery in Schaumburg.
Why do you make art?
According to my mother, I have been consistently drawing since I was two. Art has always been my language of autonomy and has also been my coping mechanism for the chaos of thoughts in my head.
Is there an element of art you prefer/enjoy working with the most?
The element that I enjoy the most is when I am completely in the moment connecting with the relationship and the process of a painting. This absorption is a rush for me.
Who or what are your biggest influences?
Outside of my own need to make art? I wasn’t exposed to art making and artists other than basic curriculum until college. It was then that I gravitated to Surrealism. My inspiration comes from my father, who said to me before he passed away, “don’t wait to the last minute to figure it out.” These conversations with him gave me the gift to paint without any apologies in the most vivid palette I can get my hands on.
What does your artwork focus on?
My artwork focuses on looking beneath the surface and stripping the layers to find those emotions that leave me raw and real. My artwork has empowered me to love these parts of my shadow that stay hidden. Art is my form of journal writing.
If you could describe your work in three words what would they be?
Honest. Personal. Run on Sentence.
What is the hardest part of being an artist?
The insecurity of judgement when exhibiting my work.
What have you learned so far working at Snow City Arts?
Teachers through SCA have an opportunity to advocate that all students can have access to art. I have met some students that currently do not have art as part of their daily curriculum. The hospital experience was their first art lesson and in some cases was their first realization that they were interested in making art.
What have the students you’ve worked with so far taught you?
I have learned that no matter how well thought out a lesson plan is, the student has their own agenda of how it should go. It’s these ideas that make it better than the original lesson plan.
What is your favorite project thus far to work on with the students?
Rock painting, teaching the importance of art and how it is used as a mechanism for cultural preservation.
What is your teaching philosophy? or How would you describe your teaching style?
My teaching philosophy is to allow the students to be in the moment. I want to reverse the idea of having to compose an idea before executing and not dictating an image until after the process is complete. This allows the artform to evolve naturally.
How do you come up with art projects for your students?
My art projects are a scaled version of how I work on my own canvases.