About Our Interns

[accordiongroup][accordion title=”Merissa Acosta”]

[/accordion][accordion title=”Steven Rodriguez”]

Growing up on the periphery of Los Angeles County public murals, monumental art and graffiti highlight my earliest memories of traveling in and out of the city. In high school a drive to produce publicly engaging artwork encouraged me to become self-learned in printing and stenciling techniques. During this period I also spent much of my time traveling into Los Angeles familiarizing myself with vibrant public and gallery artists who creatively engaged social and political issues. Over the years of working in non-profit and community arts education I have with purpose attempted to place myself within this intersection between the community and public forms of expression, utilizing these self-learned forms of arts in a community arts setting.

At a panel discussion on Art and Public Space in LA, I watched Judy Baca give a presentation on her historical and ongoing involvement with public art and arts education in Los Angeles with SPARC. At the time I was involved alongside community youth in the project planning stages of a proposed mural project for their Latino neighborhood of Oak View in Huntington Beach, where I am currently involved as an AmeriCorps member. During the panel I was most struck by Judy’s account of harnessing the talent and energy of passionate youth in order to tell their own seldom told histories with the The Great Wall of Los Angeles. Their is something truly resonant about the way Judy and SPARC are able to create these multi-tiered dialogues with our historical and ethical public conscious.

Currently I am completing my final term as an AmeriCorps member working with Camp Fire USA of Orange County & the Youth Volunteer Corps of America. I am also completing my final year as an undergrad at California State University of Fullerton receiving a double bachelors degree in anthropology & philosophy in Spring 2011.
[/accordion][accordion title=”Leah Bright”]

As an undergraduate studying art history and Spanish at the University of Oregon I explored the many fascinating facets and possibilities of the art world, but despite my passion for art I slowly became disillusioned with the elitist, western-focus of traditional art history. Then, after spending time along the US-Mexico border with a human rights organization and studying some of the visual and literary art that has come out of the conflict and tension along the borderlands, I yearned to find a way to combine my interest in art and art history with activism and working for social and environmental justice. I first learned of SPARC through a particularly inspiring professor while writing a paper about the Great Wall of Los Angeles. I was inspired not only by the moving social messages and beauty of the works SPARC has produced, but by the community-rooted process in which SPARC creates their works, and how art production can become a site for social change and empowerment for youth and the community. I was drawn to SPARC’s process of creating public artwork that grows out the community and highlights the rich cultural quilt of Los Angeles, but also promotes globally applicable ideas. So, of course I was motivated to learn more about SPARC, apply for an internship, and after graduation, to move from my home in Fairbanks, Alaska, to Los Angeles, to learn as much as possible about such an inspirational and influential organization.

Like many recent graduates, I am unsure of my future plans, but I am aiming towards graduate school and am excited to explore the infinite possibilities. I have already learned so much from the amazing individuals at SPARC, the innovative processes involved in the creation of public art, the complexities of keeping such an organization afloat and the huge amount of heart and dedication that all involved put into their work. Whether I strive towards a future in art, art restoration, non-profit work or bringing what I have learned to my home in Alaska, I look forward to integrating everything I have learned, and will learn, about the limitless potential of the power of art to inspire change across the world.

[/accordion][accordion title=”Nicole Saint”]

Nicole is a recent graduate of the University of Denver; she earned her BFA in Pre-Art Conservation. She has a great passion for the arts, ethnic studies, art education and cultural preservation.

Her experience includes completing a year-long Post-Baccalaureate Art Conservation Certificate Program at Studio Art Centers International- Florence (SACI). She has interned at the University of Denver’s Partners in Scholarship Apprenticeship, restoring the University of Denver’s John E. Thompson mural; the L.A. County Arts Commission Internship, creating a donor database for the Pasadena Dance Theatre, the Denver Art Museum Conservation Internship, documenting and conserving various objects in the Museum’s permanent collection; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection Management Internship, labeling, documenting and creating mounts for a recently acquired collection of costumes and textiles.

Nicole has contributed her time this summer assisting SPARC with administrative projects including research for the Save LA Murals campaign and the Great Wall of Los Angeles restoration project.

[/accordion][accordion title=”Sarah Brothers”]

I was born and raised in Ithaca, NY, a community that
greatly values art education and creative learning. I was
exposed at an early age to museums, art and music
festivals, art classes, community theater groups, and
music lessons, making an enormous impact on my personal
appreciation for the arts. Both of my parents passed on
their love for learning to me. This has had an enormous
impact on how I interact with the world around me. I
received my bachelor’s in fine art and graphic with minors
in music and anthropology at the State University of New
York, Oswego.

Upon graduation, my path led various administrative art
and education positions in the after school non-profit
arena in several parts of the country ranging from: the
Ithaca Sciencenter, to the Milagro Center in South
Florida, to the Hamilton Hill African Arts Center, to the
Intel Computer Clubhouse in East Palo Alto, CA. During the
past eight years, I have played many roles including: art
instructor, Mentor Director, marketing manager and events
coordinator, Program Director, and Director of Arts and
Volunteers. Working with youth from culturally and
linguistically diverse backgrounds, I developed and
provided enriching and supportive programs that met the
students’ educational, social/emotional, and artistic
needs. I recruited and trained mentors to be consistent
role models for students, and hired and trained staff and
artists from the community to develop quality educational
programs for the students. Additionally, I attended the
Masters of Art Education Program at FIU (Florida
International University).

I am currently in Graduate School in Arts Administration
at the University of Oregon. My research involves Arts
Mentoring and the development of 21st century skills
amongst urban teens. I chose to intern with SPARC this
summer because I greatly value the work they do in the
community. I am interested in community cultural
development, and promoting social justice and creating
public memory through the arts. I was also interested in
the integration of Paulo Freire’s pedagogy into mural arts

I believe that it is through the arts that we learn to
embrace our individual differences. I have observed
through my upbringing and through my career how
involvement in the arts can break down barriers, bring
people together, and form communities. Possibilities
become endless as the imagination is sparked.

[/accordion][accordion title=”Karina Castillo”]

Karina Castillo Mejia, nací en San Salvador El Salvador en 1988, hice todos mis estudios en la misma ciudad y siempre sentí la inclinación natural al Arte; iniciándome así en la Escuela de Artes de la misma Universidad, en donde el camino se hace de forma mas que todo autodidáctica en las artes, pues este tipo de estudios en mi pais son escasos y si los hay también atrapados en el tiempo; entonces iniciamos entre un grupo de estudiantes a buscar mas fuentes de información, y fue esa misma curiosidad la que me acerco a SPARC, en donde hasta ahora he permanecido por dos meses conociendo y profundizando mas en la plástica y los avances de la misma. Los que estamos ahora estudiando artes en El Salvador tenemos un compromiso fijo de poder desarrollar un trabajo real, nuevo, que aporte en vez de quitar y mantener la idea de que todo lo nuevo aprendido no servirá mas que para compartirse.

Al inicio me acerco la curiosidad y el deseo de aprender sobre el arte en general, (ademas de que SPARC llego a El Salvador) quería acercarme a fuentes de conocimiento que seguramente traerían aportes e ideas nuevas a lo que ya conocía; luego pude unirme al equipo y entonces fue creciendo la empatía con el trabajo que se desarrollaba, pues no era solamente hacer un mural mas, era plasmar historia, realidad, mensajes que no se entienden con la razón sino con la intuición.

Me intereso en pocas palabras el compromiso autentico de mostrar las raíces de la gente, la transformación que en efecto el arte tiene sobre todos los que están involucrados (teniendo en cuenta que no solo son los artistas, sino todo aquel que se siente identificado, o incluso el que pasa frente al mural y se pregunta para que esta puesto ahí); me intereso que es un arte fuerte y con contenido social.

El trabajo es fuerte pero sin perder la inspiración; he estado en el Laboratorio de murales digitales, aprendiendo la técnica directa de pintar de manera digital, he visto de cerca el proceso entero de la finalización de un mural que incluye: la impresión, instalación y los acabados finales (pintar con oro), y en fin una serie de pasos que hacen que este proyecto cobre vida.

Y como algo muy especial poder aprender de la mano de Judy Baca, que es una artista muy fuerte no solo como profesional en las artes, sino también como ser humano, y por supuesto conocer al equipo de SPARC muchos nuevos rostros con personalidades diversas, con carácter y fortaleza de los cuales me he tomado la libertad de adquirir ciertas virtudes que me son validas para la vida entera.

SPARC es importante por que permite el rescate de la memoria, los valores, la cultura, y la expresión de la diversidad de los pueblos, reconoce de manera humana el tejido histórico que se hace día con día, los plasma de una forma bella en un muro que antes probablemente estaba olvidado y con esto consigue proyectar un mensaje de dignidad a todos los que pasan por ahí, sin importar siquiera si saben un idioma o no, si saben leer o no; por que es un arte sin ataduras de razas, condiciones sociales y religiones.

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