Artist and educator Audrey Chan, who is creating the 2021 California Day of the Teacher and CTA ESP Day poster, has worked on several high-profile artworks and murals in Los Angeles, where she lives.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I’ve known that I was an artist since I first started to draw as a toddler. Art is where I found my confidence, joy and sense of self. I knew that I wanted to pursue a life as an artist around first grade, as soon as I started learning about artists’ lives and biographies. Over the years, I’ve been lucky to have supportive parents and teachers who encouraged me to pursue a professional career as an artist.
Was there a special teacher who was influential for you?
My art teacher throughout elementary school was the inspiring and hilarious Ms. A. I remember the time spent in her art room exploring materials as being my favorite part of the school day. In college, I considered pursuing a career in government instead of art. My mentor, Randall Exon, told me that my art would be my contribution to society. I’ve held that guidance close to my heart and I’m still trying to live up to it.
There is a social justice focus to your projects. Why is that important to you?
My passions for art and social change have been inseparable since I was young. I experienced incidents of racism from classmates that opened my eyes to discrimination. As I learned more about American history, I connected with the stories of people who faced bias and marginalization and was inspired by the work of individuals and movements to make society more just and equitable.
What role do you think art plays in social justice?
All forms of art have the power to appeal to our deepest sense of empathy and to communicate the complexity and nuance of human experience. When art and social justice come together, especially in the form of storytelling and narrative change, that power is multiplied and hopefully encourages people to see their own role in their communities and to not turn away from injustice.
Talk about how you brought this year’s theme to life.
The theme “Cultivating Minds and Healing Hearts” brought to mind the image of a field of California poppies to represent the nurturing role of educators and education support professionals in students’ lives, growing their capacity for knowledge and empathy. It has been an incredibly challenging year, and I wanted to create vignettes of healing and connection among the golden blooms. I deeply respect the work of California’s educators and ESPs, so it’s truly an honor to create advocacy-based artwork with CTA.
Look for this year’s poster at cta.org/dayoftheteacher and cta.org/espday. You’ll also find ways to celebrate educators on their special days: May 12 (Day of the Teacher) and May 18 (ESP Day).