EL PASO – The artworks along the hallways displayed rich colors and vivid patterns of nature, people, and religious motifs, images that sprang from women artists creating their own art.
The exhibition, “Hearts of Fire,” at La Galería de la Misión De Senecu Ysleta ISD Fine Arts Department, was presented recently by the Art Swap program of the Union de Viejas Artistas (UVAs), a group of practicing and retired women art teachers who support art education and encourage personal artistic growth. However, they confess that their true devotion lies in providing their young art students with the best possible education.
“Educators have little access to support and professional development. That is how the group came to be,” said Lorena Williams, the founding member and creator of UVAs Art Swap. Williams is also an Art teacher at J.M. Hanks high school. “As our teaching grew, we slowly stopped creating our personal art,” said Williams. The Art Swap was created to promote the creation of art.
Each month a new theme is unveiled and the group members have one month to create their own work of art. At the following group meeting, their art is swapped and their work is revealed.
“Art is my life. It’s something you are born with. You have to do it often enough. I tried to pursue a career that would express my art creatively, expand on my own ideas after retiring,” said Dolores Duenez, a member of UVAs. “I had one student whose parents wanted him to be an accountant, but that’s not what he wanted. His second year in school he dropped out. He then went back to school to do graphic design and became very successful,” said Duenez.
“On a scale of one through ten, I would say art is nine,” said Yamillie Issa Nabhan, a UTEP graduate who taught music and art for 10 years in the El Paso Independent School District, and is a member of UVAs. “I can’t imagine life without music, art. Yes, pursuing art is difficult, people are fickle. It’s a personal gain.” said Nabhan.
Not only do these women try to branch out in their own art, but their students’ art as well. They try to expose their students to other art and encourage them to do art exhibits. “The administrators, superintendents think art isn’t important. It saddens me, most students are visual learners. Art education is being overlooked. Kids get up to do band, art, football, that’s what brings kids to school,” said Williams.
“An art educator has to make an effort on their own and get involved, go to workshops, keep talent up, learn more. The slackers, their students don’t enter their own students’ work. It’s part of the job. Students need to be exposed to more art,” said Duenez.
Williams said that a positive outlook is the most important thing that students need when they want to pursue art. “I tell them to believe in themselves, be happy if it’s what you love to do,” said Williams.
Duenez agrees, “I think they should find a career they like and go for it,” she said.