Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Oakland, the third of seven children. We were and are a close family, but none of my siblings were close to my age, so I entertained myself by drawing on brown paper bags or old letterhead.
Where did you go to school?
As a freshman I went to a private all-
Tell us about your family.
I entered Cal State Stanislaus and immediately got pregnant. It took me four years to graduate because we had started out family. I was five months pregnant again when I graduated. At Stanislaus, I really got serious about art. The classes were so much fun. I really feel blessed to have been able to take them, especially since we were young and poor.
What is your profession?
When the kids got older, I taught oil painting for the Parks & Recreation Department for a few years. I also taught kids to make ocarinas (ancient whistles). Then I taught for the STARS program (Stanislaus Artists in the Schools). I went into classrooms and taught the children to make stick puppets out of paper mache. A friend was an author, and she wrote a story on dragons. I did a play based on it, and the kids put on a little play.
Then I went back to school to get my teaching credential. After we moved to Visalia in 1989, I got a job in Corcoran in an “opportunity” class for junior high problem students. I brought art into the class to interest them in learning. They built ceramic masks and had to write about the meaning of their masks. I entered the masks in the Kings County student art contest, and two tied for second place.
How did you get into special education?
Later I got my special ed credential and taught severely handicapped preschoolers at Maple Learning Center. Then I moved to higher functioning classes at Maple Elementary. I brought in my guitar. I made a book of songs, some in Spanish and some I wrote, and illustrated it. I drew an icon for each song. The children couldn’t read, but they could pick out the songs they wanted by the icons. I wrote a dragon song the kids loved. I don’t read music, but I could strum the guitar with authority! I finished my career working with special ed preschoolers at the Tulare County of Education.
I hear you made a record.
When I got my master’s degree from Fresno State, my daughter was also there studying music. The university donated their recording studio, and we made a record of music I was using. The school sold the cassettes. I developed a whole kit with patterns for stick puppets and icons. The Cal State system chose one teacher graduate from each school to go to Sacramento and be presented before the Senate and Legislature. In 1999, Cal State Stanislaus contacted me, and I was named their CSU Outstanding Alumni Teacher.
Tell us about your art.
I’ve always enjoyed art. As a girl I made a marionette and also a stuffed animal out of my mother’s old velvet dress. For many years I was raising kids and not doing much art. I love to paint and do sculpture. My house is full of my art. I had a hard edge period in the early 70s. I’ve illustrated three small books. For nine years I entered the Sofa Art contest at Arts Visalia. The only criterion was there had to be a sofa somewhere in the art. I think I’m the only person to do a series—all my paintings were people with some kind of couch, chair or hassock as headgear. I’ve also done a painting representing each of my siblings.
Why do you come to CSL Visalia?
Florence Kabot invited me. I knew her at Maple School. I told her I had trouble with dogma. It took me awhile to show up at the Center, but immediately I saw Marjorie Brandon, who I had known for 20 years. I like the philosophy. It gives you a life tool, and it works. You wind up feeling happy and grateful. I’m truly blessed. It helps me understand that I’m blessed.