UTEP graduate Jason Lucero is among the local artists who will create instructional video lessons for area high school students as part of a new outreach program organized by The University of Texas at El Paso's Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts. | Photo Courtesy of Jason Lucero

UTEP’s Rubin Center awarded grant, Will help region’s secondary art teachers

The National Endowment for the Arts, through the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA), awarded a grant to The University of Texas at El Paso’s Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts as part of the federal COVID-19 response.

Rubin Center Director Kerry Doyle said that the funds, nearly $1,400 that is part of the federal CARES Act, would be used to organize virtual collaborations between artists and regional school districts.

Doyle, the grant’s principal investigator, and Melissa Barba, the Rubin Center’s assistant director, picked five El Paso area artists to create curricula in studio and contemporary art for the region’s secondary art teachers.

Barba said she surveyed some high school instructors to learn what assistance they might need when classes resumed in fall 2020. One of the popular ideas was to involve local artists to engage students in an online platform. The plan is for the artists to prepare videos that introduce them, their work and their research as well as a lesson that students could follow at home with a few simple, handy resources.

Diane Vera, an art teacher at Eastwood High School for 12 years, said she was excited about the opportunity to work with local artists because they will bring additional creative concepts into the virtual classrooms. The sessions they provide will benefit her students, who relate better to people who know and appreciate El Paso’s culture and uniqueness.

“Having these lessons and resources will be a great asset for our students to see that everyone is adjusting, adapting, and making their new lives work in a new way from home,” said Vera, a first-generation college student who earned her bachelor’s degree in art in 2007 and her master’s degree in art education five years later from UTEP.

Vera admitted that she has concerns about teaching art digitally, but added that she will have a positive attitude and do the best job possible for students, who may use art as a stress reliever.

Artist Jason Lucero, a native of Lawton, Oklahoma, who grew up in El Paso, said he wanted to participate to show students that they do not need expensive equipment or a large work area to create art.

“Adapting is what will help you to grow as an artist,” said Lucero, a first-generation college student who graduated from UTEP in 2015 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in studio art (painting) and a minor in printmaking. “We shouldn’t limit our output due to quarantine. It’s a good time to look within and try new things, break out of old habits and refine our skills.”

Lucero, who also is head chef at Savage Goods, said his art – monotypes, collages, paintings and drawings – is influenced by landscapes, family and his efforts in the kitchen. His artwork has been displayed around the region.

The award-winning artist completed his video presentation titled, “Upcycled Cereal Boxing!,” and it included painting, hand-printing and mixed-media collage.

The Rubin Center will archive the contemporary and interdisciplinary lesson plans as well as other instructional resources on its website.

Barba said this outreach effort goes along with the gallery’s mission to promote contemporary art in relevant and meaningful ways.

“Contemporary art reflects the complex issues that shape our diverse, global and rapidly changing world,” Barba said. “Through their work, many contemporary artists often raise difficult or thought-provoking questions that elevate critical conversations while also encouraging adventuresome thinking and dialogue.”

Author: Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications