Name: Gabby Serrano
Where are you from, originally? New York City!
How did you find out about ASTEP? Referred by a fellow volunteer. Shout out to Luz De La Cruz!
Which programs have you been a part of? ASTEP Arts Camp at Shanti Bhavan and ASTEP on STAGE! at the Incarnation Children’s Center and CHOICES Alternative to Detention program.
Do you have a background in teaching, when you started? No!
What is your arts background? I’ve been a visual artist for as long as I can remember. It all began with two of the finest mediums, crayons and paint (I’ll include fingers, as it was finger-painting to be exact). Early on, I realized that I truly enjoyed taking the time to freely express myself and continuously build off of previous efforts. Like many adults, life happened, and my passion lay dormant for a few years. It wasn’t until I decided to take an elective in sculpting that I found myself drawn back in and reacquainted with my long time love of the arts. I continued to create at my own leisure and pushed myself to explore different mediums and forms of art. A friend took notice to my artwork and recommended that I check out an organization that she had recently volunteered with in Florida. It wasn’t long after that conversation that I found myself on a flight heading to ASTEP’s art camp in India at Shanti Bhavan to teach visual arts. I currently use art regularly as an outlet and as a challenge to encourage myself to keep learning new and fun ways to create.
What challenges did you overcome while on site? There were times when we had additional attendees at a workshop and limited art supplies. One particular activity required drawing your neighbor’s portrait. Because there weren’t enough utensils to allow each child to choose their own medium, the activity underwent some impromptu revisions. We asked each child to randomly exchange mediums throughout the lesson, so that each child had a chance to explore a different medium while creating a single portrait. This essentially encouraged them (and I) to improvise and foster resourcefulness.
What victories did you achieve, while on site? There have been several occasions where people (both children and adults) have communicated their dislike or difficulty with visual arts prior to starting the activity because they feel that “they’re just not good at it.” It has been an ongoing learning experience for me as a teaching artist to find innovative and empathetic ways to help others overcome that self-proclaimed barrier, which can potentially influence their ability to thoroughly try. There was one particular instance, when a teenager didn’t want to partake in the activity for the same reason. However, after sharing a short chat with him that I realized he just needed some additional guidelines to work off. Once I provided him with some helpful hints on how to create a proportionate face, he really got into the assignment and created an amazing portrait. He was so proud of his work and even his fellow classmates took notice to his artwork. He’s a visual artist–he just needed some tools and encouragement to see his own potential.
What did working with ASTEP teach you about yourself? I’m currently a social work intern with a passion for visual arts. ASTEP is largely accredited for encouraging me to continue to pursue the arts and integrate it into my future career. I’ve learned that I can combine my two passions and that it is totally possible to create whatever it is you envision.
What program is next for you? As an intern, I have fortunately been able to still partake in some of the volunteer opportunities in the tristate area. Some of the new, and more recent ASTEP programs are Women in Need and CHOICES. Once I graduate, I’d love to return to Shanti Bhavan and try other international and statewide opportunities.