Tell us something about yourself: What is your creative history?
Since I can remember, I always loved to draw. In junior high school, I developed an interest in music and learned to play the guitar and familiarized myself with the keyboard. In high school, I returned to the visual arts and upon graduation, I decided that I wanted to pursue the life of an artist.
After a year of fine art studies in college, I became concerned about my livelihood and so I switched to commercial art. In the meantime, I was teaching disco dancing to pay for school. Consequently, I was doing so well with teaching and performing that I went into the dance profession full time and put my education on hold. I danced for approximately 10 years before I decided to go back to school and finish my BFA. Soon after graduation, I was accepted to a residency at the Bakehouse Art Complex (BAC) in Wynwood. I was one of the original resident artists there.
I became involved in a project that eventually made me a co-founder of an educational puppetry company called Alphabet Theatre Productions (ATP). With ATP I used all my creative skills to create the puppet shows. My artistic skills helped me create sets, scenery, and puppets. My knowledge of music enabled me to write original songs for our shows. My theatrical background helped me write the scripts for the puppet plays. Eventually I returned to being a visual artist and became an art teacher and a museum educator with Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
What inspired you to become an art educator? How long have you been teaching?
ATP performed our educational shows to hundreds of schools every year for 4 years. Our shows about the United States Constitution were very successful and it made me feel that we were doing something good and worthwhile. That became my inspiration into becoming an educator. I returned to school again and earned my Masters in Elementary Education. My BFA also allowed me to get certified to teach art. While I was prepared to work as a classroom teacher, the first job offered to me was that of an art teacher. I couldn’t have been happier. Now, after 24 years of teaching, I finally retired in 2019.
What is your favorite medium to work in and why?
When I was a full time artist at the Bakehouse, my favorite medium was oil paints, oil pastels or a mixture of the two. Today I like to use acrylic paint, oil pastels, color pencils all mixed together. I will eventually get back to oil painting. I like to use paint, pastels and pencils because each medium has its own unique qualities and effects.
What is your proudest teaching moment?
I’ve had a number of students who have come back to see me once they had grown up. They thanked me for inspiring them and making a difference in their lives. Some said that they had learned from me more than from other teachers. But my proudest moment is with one particular young man. He was a troubled kid and we often went head to head on behavior issues, however, I recognized that he was smart, he was cool and I gave him the tough love and extra attention that he needed. I even let him into my art club. When he left the school I didn’t think he liked me that much. 10 years later years I met his sister who asked me if I remembered her brother. When she told me his name, I immediately remembered him. She said, “He talks about you all the time.” “Good memories or bad?” I asked. “Oh no,” she said, “He’s always saying what a great teacher you were and he has good memories of you.” I found out that he was in college majoring in business. He tried to come see me a couple of times but our timing was bad and we could not connect. I feel proud because I made a difference in this child’s life and he shaped up.
If you could have lunch with any artist in the world (living or not) who would it be and why?
I would love to have lunch with Theodore Gericault. “The Raft of the Medusa” is one of my all-time favorite paintings and I love the historical account behind this monumental painting that hangs at the Louvre. I would ask him about his experience in creating it. I’ve always had a fantastical desire to write a novel about the making of the painting while telling the story of the tragedy that befell the Medusa and the controversy that surrounded the painting and the artist.
What are your personal and professional art dreams for the future?
The very substance of the ambitious is merely the shadow of a dream.” (Shakespeare, Hamlet). My dream is to be able to create my artwork and sell it, and if per chance I do something special, I will take the fame and fortune too. However, creating and selling will suffice, not just for the money, but for people to enjoy the artwork and for me to avoid storing it.
Marlon Zuniga, artist
Art by Marlon Zuniga, For more information: email@example.com