CMA Stories

A Colorful Celebration with Marissa Gutiérrez-Vicario and Restart

We are kicking off a whole month of celebrating this May at CMA — and there are so many ways to celebrate! Our CIVICKIDS digital challenge is DIY Noisemakers, but here’s another adventurous way to celebrate from our Restart program – Bubble Prints! Bubble Printing is a fun, easy way to experiment with color. Check out Restart’s creations below and share your own with #CMACIVICKIDS!

You can make a beautiful piece of bubble printed paper with just food-dye, soap, and water. Mix together a tablespoon of hand soap and 10 drops of food coloring into a half quart of water. Notice the associations you have with the colors you choose. Does blue make you feel sad? Does it make you feel calm? Everyone associates different colors with different feelings. That’s what makes us unique and special.

Use a straw to blow bubbles into mixture in the quart container. Gently press the paper on top of the bubbles until they pop. It will leave behind a soft pastel print of the bubbles. Leave your printed paper to dry. It might curl up after it dries, so you can flatten it out inside a heavy book. Use your paper to make a bookmark or a card for someone you care about.

Marissa Gutiérrez-Vicario works with CMA to teach Restart, our arts education program for children living in transitional housing. The final project of their semester is piñata-making, and the children prepared by learning about complimentary colors while Bubble Printing. Last month, we visited Restart and had a chance to learn more about Marissa’s practice and her experience working with Restart. Check out our conversation below!

Can you tell us more about your piñata practice? 

I learned piñata-making when I was six from a family friend who was an avid fan of crafts and art-making. One of the greatest contributions to her community was teaching those younger than her to create their own piñatas. I happened to be one of those youth; and for the first time, I felt proud in my ability to create something on my own, which I could share with the rest of my community.

Now almost 30 years later, I continue to make piñatas, passing on the craft to a new generation of artists. Since my first piñata, I have taught piñata-making workshops to youth in various cultural institutions through the United States. I now am the one who guides the hands of children as they place dripping newsprint onto their own frames, simultaneously building art pieces and finding confidence in their newfound abilities.

Can you share some takeaways from working with Restart? 

Restart has been a powerful experience for me as a practitioner. It is invigorating and challenging, it leaves me very hopeful, but there are also sessions where I wish I even had more refined skills as an art educator. Young people have a lot to share and are excited about art and I realized a beautiful gift and challenge it is to create art lessons that fully engage them and get them excited. I also realized at the age that students are at, that it is so easy to feel discouraged about not “being a good artist.” My hope is that they don’t feel so much pressure about being a “perfect artist,” but rather that they just have fun in the process of creation.

I also realized how systems of injustice affect everything we do. I have learned a lot from working with children involved in the transitional housing system. I have been humbled. For instance, when a young person gets paint on their clothing, that might be their only uniform for a week, and that is important to consider as an art educator and something we may not even think about, in our privileged moments. Furthermore, I realized how deeply dedicated the people that support the young people in this community are. I come in only once a week, but there are folks who have been working with students, every single day, for decades. That is something that should not be overlooked and as I said, incredibly humbling.

What advice do you have for young artists? 

I think that young artists should just create and enjoy themselves. As I had mentioned, there is a lot of pressure to create something that is “perfect.” For me, if a young person creates something beautiful, but doesn’t enjoy the process, it loses this meaning. In the work I do with my non-profit, Art and Resistance Through Education (ARTE), while this opinion my differ from others, I feel the same. A young person can create a beautiful piece of art, but if they don’t understand the social justice issue they are creating around around, or don’t feel connected to it, then to me the meaning is lost.

Also, I have said this before, but it worries me that so many young people consider themselves “bad artists,” and that discourages them. That is something that, as art educators, we need to focus on. I have a nephew (now 8) but when he was like 5 or 6, he told me he was a horrible artist. I told him that he was so young that he doesn’t even know what he is good at or bad at yet. So I want to encourage young people to continue to play, create, and enjoy what they are doing.

How does celebration tie into civic engagement? 

With my work with ARTE, we are working to amplify the voices of young people for human rights change through the visual arts. When we create art, we are celebrating ourselves and our communities. Creating art that improves or activates our communities is not something that should be easily overlooked. It is love for a particular place or a group of people and to me, that is a celebration.

When people decide to take a stand for human rights change or decide that they want to make the smallest of difference to improve the world and become engaged with others outside of themselves, that is something that we should honor whenever we get the chance.

What are your favorite children’s books?

Growing up, one of my favorite books was The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg. I loved fantasy, the Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis and of course the Harry Potter series. As I get older, I’m very thrilled to see that there are so many children’s books that address human rights issues. So many of my friends who have had children have been gifted Innosanto Nagara’s A is for Activist. I’ve been super inspired by these books and books about young girls and women of color. I’ve started very preliminary research for a picture book on space for young girls.

Learn more about ARTE here

Learn more about Restart here.

This program is supported, in part, by the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the New York State Council on the Arts with support of Governor Andrew Cuomo, and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. CIVICKIDS is sponsored by Google.

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