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VMT rises through its art department

The Magnet Tribune: Belen Silva
Senior Arelee Castro works on her cow sculpture in her art classroom in A Building.

Belen Silva, Staff Writer

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Take a look at the art work you see in the hallways. The infamous horse that has made us all smile to the festive decorations at the Hispanic festival to the mesmerizing decor at Winter Ball. Thanks to the Visual Arts department, run by teaching assistant Mario Teniente and instructors Alfonso Santos and Gilberto Rocha, VMT rises through their art.

For the past 21 years, Teniente, or Mr. T as he is affectionately known, has been helping the school show its true colors, literally. Teniente dedicates his time, not as a teacher, but a walking artist who is willing to help anyone.

“Teachers come and say they have a theme or idea for the event. And after that, the teachers and I work together from there,” he said.

Off to the drawing board, Teniente decides what colors, patterns and materials to use on the latest design. There are many steps to take when making such a masterpiece, luckily the art students are always there to help.

It helps them to know that these kids at this age are doing that kind of stuff.”

— Arelee Castro

When students are put to the task of organizing a float or making decorations, they are challenged to meet deadlines and make their school look exceptional while representing its authentic character.

The art department doesn’t have much time to create one of their pieces. It takes them about one to two weeks to get a project finished. Unlike most fine arts who take months preparing for a concert or recital, there is no hesitation in the ability of the art department to get things done within a short amount of time.

Although many hands go into making these projects, Teniente has a firm grasp on any situation at hand.

“It’s gotten to a point, I think, everyone is confident with what Mr. T does. Like we just had a meeting about the medallion ceremony and like, ‘Mr. T you got it,'” Rocha said.

Alongside Teniente is Alfonso Santos. He has been teaching art sculpture at V.M.T. for 7 years now. He always encourages students to have absolute freedom in the art that they create.

Martin High School senior Arelee Castro has been working diligently on her newest sculpture — a cow made up entirely of milk cartons.

For the past four years, she has been displaying her sculptures at the annual Art Exhibition at the Center for the Arts along with the rest of the art students. The community of Laredo is invited to attend this student exhibition. This year over 700 people attended in April. This kind of exposure serves as a learning experiences for both students and the public.

“With the art that we usually do, we see all kinds of people there, asking questions like, ‘What is that?’ and it helps them to know that these kids at this age are doing that kind of stuff. I think that’s pretty cool,” Castro said.

“It also reassures students when they receive compliments. It makes them not feel like what they’re not doing is just for fun. It has an actual impact on people,” Peter Sanchez said.

Sanchez recently displayed his video art project at the Art Exhibition. It consisted of shots from Mexico City and Laredo. It was meant to portray a mixture of contemporary life and popular culture in both cities.

One of the clips in the video shows La Virgen de Guadalupe with Kim Kardashian’s famous crying face.

“The project was about appropriating these iconic images and fusing them with everyday acts. It was meant to show how extremely glorified La Virgen is in Mexican culture as well as show how Kim Kardashian receives the same amount of adoration,” Sanchez said.

As for the art teachers, their talent does not stay within the walls of a classroom. Santos recently developed a Valentine’s Day-themed sculpture exhibit featuring his own work. Many Laredoans attended his show on Valentine’s Day. He is now developing pieces for a new show for this summer.

“I’m working on artwork that deals with the new political climate that we’re in. I’m working on a show this summer having to do with the proposed building of the border wall, immigration… all sorts of conceptual pieces like paintings, light installations, and maybe a couple of video installations as well,” he said.

Seeing how their eyes glow when they finally get it. Like it’s magic.”

— Gilberto Rocha

The same goes for Rocha. After the mural Rocha painted at Veterans Park in Cotulla, he has since been working on new projects. He will be working on a group show on May in San Antonio along with a solo show displaying his own pieces in July.

Knowing their students have been impacted by art makes their job all the more rewarding.

“Seeing how their eyes glow when they finally get it. Like it’s magic. When somebody struggles, and struggles and after many tries and they finally get it and you see in their drawings the pride, that really gets me,” Rocha said.

Art transcends not only through paintings and sculptures but everyday life as well. From the design on a t-shirt that you buy or a video game you enjoy, art is able to put your words and thoughts into tangible existence.

As a former art student, I can personally say that being in this class has influenced me in so many ways, both artistically and intellectually. Many ask themselves does art imitate life, or does life imitate art? Here at V.M.T. we learn to live our lives as though they are works of art.


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A state- and nationally recognized student newspaper
VMT rises through its art department