In 2019 I was accepted into the Master's Art Ed program at Mass Art in Boston. It took me 3 years of unfinished applications to find the courage to apply, but in 2019 I submitted the 3rd and final version and was accepted into gradschool! Creating a portfolio was one obstacle but the other obstacle was the personal statement. At my interview, the judge ranted about my essay for the first 5 minutes.... little did he know it took 3 years, and fighting lots of toxic self talk to create it. So with out further ado... The essay....
I was raised in Roxbury, in the 1990’s, to two first-generation-americans. Neither my father, of Puerto Rican descent, nor my mother, of Cape Verdean descent, have ever voted, held a driver’s license, attended college, or owned property. As teens, my father danced and my mother liked to draw, but they blamed themselves for “giving up on their talents”. They always encouraged me to pursue art and higher education so that I could avoid repeating their “mistakes”, “make it out of the hood” and into an arts career. Yet, where my parents saw personal failures, art and education helped me uncover a complex history of structural racism and de facto segregation that prevented my family from privileges like home ownership, higher education and fine art. Finally, in 2019, I believe that there is a place for “people like me” in art education, and my application to the Masters of Arts in Teaching program at Mass Art is affirmation that I will fight against all odds to claim it.
Once art camp was over and the museum field trips ended, I would hop on the bus back to Roxbury where there was no “art scene”.
Before I left for college in 2012, I graduated from the Boston Arts Academy as a visual artist. My cousins assumed I went to “art school”, but to their surprise, in 2016, I returned to Roxbury with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication from Hamilton College. I refused to major in art because I wanted to see if I was more than an artist, I now regret that decision because now I see that I am an artist and more. I will always find ways to tell stories that inspire and educate, whether it be through my podcast Hoodgrown Aesthetic, my art, or poetry-- But with a license in Teaching, I can work on behalf of well-resourced institutions to deliver strategic programming with a greater impact that can be sustained and measured over time.
Currently, I am part-time assistant to the art director at the Berkshire Partners Boys and Girls Club. I also work part-time as a program manager at the Boston Arts Academy in the Center for Arts in Education. The Center for Arts in Education is the outreach arm of the Boston Arts Academy that hosts tours for graduate students and international educators. It was from sitting in on meetings with visitors and BAA administrators that I saw a long term possibility for a career in art education. My first experience teaching art was as the site coordinator for the Johnson Park Center in Utica, NY in college from 2012-2014. I continue to develop the skills I acquired at JCP such as lesson planning, positive behavior management and collaboration with other staff at the Boys and Girls club now.
In 2014, I began to see former Chief of art and Culture, Julie Burros and Mayor Walsh’s cultural plan, Boston Creates, as a unique opportunity to engage local artists in the creative placemaking process and contribute to the city’s revitalization. I pursued two research grants while at Hamilton College that explored art and community. I used the Kirkland Endowment grant to organize Urban Gala in 2014 with Althea Bennett, an exhibition in Roxbury for self-trained artists, and I used the Emerson Collaborative Summer Research Award, in 2015, to research creative placemaking strategies, suburbanization and gentrification in Washington, D.C. In the Fall of 2015, I was among a handful of students chosen to receive the Levitt Center social innovation fellowship where I developed a business concept for an art gallery in Roxbury to provide low income artists with access to affordable materials, studio time and exhibition space.
When I returned to Boston after college I joined a young community of artists who shared the mission to reclaim the hood rather than make it out. My podcast, Hoodgrown Aesthetic, which I co-host with Althea Bennett documents this emerging ethos which starkly contrasts that of my parents. I also interview local entrepreneurs and musicians for a YouTube series called, The Museum Tv, which has over 5,000 followers on instagram. My involvement with Hood Grown Aesthetic and The Museum Tv, two media platforms that cover Boston’s grassroots arts scene, gave me the confidence to speak on behalf of young artists in an interview on Channel 7’s The Urban Update and an article on P. Diddy’s network Revolt Tv. And I am still making art, my most recent group exhibition with the Inner Sanctum in Dudley Square.
As an Artist and particularly as an aspiring art educator of color in America I feel tasked with breaking barriers for other artists of color who lack the resources to engage with dominant narratives and spaces, like my family. My background in art, media and communication give me a unique perspective on culture. Art institutions have given me opportunities to interact with ideas and information in new ways, and think critically about how we use art to tell stories. If I am accepted into the Master of Arts in Teaching program at Mass Art, I will be on the path to fulfilling what I see as my life’s purpose, which is to make art education more accessible for low income communities of color. The best part is, I’ll be right down the street from home.
art by Jeffery Fischer