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Art Student Julia Arredondo Hopes for Diversity in Academia

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

It is refreshing for me as an adjunct teacher when a student tells you how valued they think you are. The hustle of an adjunct's life is real, and there are many times you have to stop and ask yourself if it is all worth it. Most people will say yes, because why would we have chosen to do it in the first place? Julia is a creative, who is first an artist, but with a background in book and paper arts. I have worked with her on a couple projects at Columbia College and I was instantly fascinated by her view of the world, and even more about education. I recently went to see her art featured in the President of Columbia College's home, where I had the pleasure of getting to know her a little better. She cares deeply about education and has real concern over the same old curriculum that has for so long been fed to students way before college. In her opinion, positive change can begin by offering new contemporary books to read, new historical figures to understand, and teachers who care about creating a more diverse education system.

What are you studying at Columbia and how has the experience been? I'm in the Book & Paper MFA Program and have been supplementing my art degree with business studies. The experience has been good, although frustrating at times. The level of diversity that needs to be dispersed throughout academia has yet to be achieved and decolonizing education is an absolute MUST (if our current educational system is to be sustained).

What is your hope in decolonizing education?

Moving away from your eccentric studies and taking more consideration of the histories of indigenous practices or cities, to observe cultures of communities of color just as critically as eurocentric ones, which I feel has been shoved down our throats since we were kids. It is not that relevant, and it is so important to approach education from many lenses, such as diversification because people approach it as black and white but it's so much more vast than that.

Any ideas on how to start?

For teachers to not just pull from text and readings from old ideas written by white people…so much writing has happened and we should be exclusively reading the more contemporary texts, and not just those that are written for people with PHD's.

What are your thoughts on books written by PHD’s?

I love them because I'm not supposed to be there, where it's like a weapon in my tool belt. Yet they prohibit a lot of people from entering the spaces of knowledge..

What do you look for in education or a teacher? I look for an educational environment where I am valued as a student, and where teachers are active in their instructive roles, and not just following old syllabi.

Have you seen this happen both good and bad? How does a teacher show that they value the student in your opinion?

Tenured teachers tend to be the ones that don't value as much as an adjunct. I see more emotional and social labor from adjuncts. I want teachers to learn the students name, and make an active role in teaching, not just teaching the same thing until it's irrelevant which is happening a lot. Try to incorporate media, music, books, and bringing that into the class. Unfortunately I am seeing a disgruntled community of teachers and students with nothing being done about it.

What do you hope to gain from your time at Columbia and in Chicago? I've already gained to much from the program, from access to opportunities to the ability of working in incredible work facilities. I do hope that my degree is respected and that it upholds its value in the "real world".

Do you have a fear that your degree won't matter?

Not so much fear but that my practice is not going to make me the money from having this degree. I believe that the devaluing happens within the curriculum…I should not be receiving the same degree with some of my cohorts.

What do you want people to gain from studying or admiring art?

Art should provide an escape from the bustle of everyday or a space for contemplation or meditation, alternative ways of thinking, whether its subjective or just a change of mindset. It can give people that space to decompress because we are moving so fast that it's necessary to zone out because most art is not a technological advanced way to consume something.

What is your art inspired from? Much of my art is inspired by my socio-economic upbringing in South Texas, and a sort of "make-do" mindset. I challenge the notion that art is made for and by the privileged class, and I aim to disrupt the current culture that art is so heavily rooted in. My work takes many forms; collage, prints, merchandise, and I'm interested in blatantly combining art and business. I find it unfortunate that the art economy finds discourse about money so repulsive. I'm definitely here to challenge that and to understand the value system of the "white cube".

I am looking into studying music's effect in business identity and consumerism and my hope is that art can do the same. What do you think?

Art is being utilized in social propaganda, art and design, and so much of brand identity is art, not the gallery art, which I have a love hate relationship with. In our current economy we have to almost think like a marketer because we need to think of career. I do see the generational shifts happening though where the old artists are still not trying to promote themselves, but we are as a new generation trying to promote ourselves in many different ways aside from galleries. It's so hard not to be influenced by so much nowadays.

How do you like to connect with people? I feel that I connect with people best in-person, however, my online communities really challenge my views of online discourse. Social media has helped me grow incredible relationships that eventually turn into real-life support systems. I try to stay present in my everyday actions, so as to not miss out on opportunities of connecting with people. That's what keeps me sane in the big city, the smaller day-to-day connections that evoke notions of home and community.

How do you view life? It moves pretty fast, and sometimes we feel like we aren't doing enough or there are regrets. Do you feel this way and can you give another student some advice that you took away from an experience? Life definitely moves fast, but I'm one of those people who stays constantly busy. Luckily, most of my busy work involves art and culture in many I currently don't feel any FOMO. However, when I was younger, I do think I wasted more time than I should have in relationships that didn't help me grow in the right ways. I don't think there was any way that I could have avoided these relationships (my hormone levels were wild), but I also think it's important to listen to oneself and to take the amount of time one needs in order to grow. I think we're very hard on ourselves and the pressure to achieve success NOW is higher than ever. Life is short, listen to your body and try to weed out negative influences. The better you get at that, the clearer the "bigger picture" becomes.

Any books or films you are currently watching/favorites? Currently reading "100 Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and "Acorn" by Yoko Ono right before I go to bed every night. The two series I'm hooked on are "Insecure" and "Vida", both pertaining to contemporary culture in communities of color. And of course, I'm addicted to memes and watching vines on Youtube and Tik Tok. I breathe and sleep meme culture.

Visit her website or see more of her work here.

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