Welcome to the first in a series of interviews with IPaintMyMind board members! Each board member forms the diverse group of folks who come from many backgrounds, and are drawn to the IPMM mission. It’s so interesting to hear their stories, perspectives, and experiences watching IPMM grow and continue to better serve our communities with each iteration.
Roxy Piersanti started as a partner teacher with IPMM’s Shared Walls™ program, and fell in love with our organization’s commitment to underfunded and underappreciated schools. Roxy is an arts educator, an arts administrator, and a teaching artist. She’s also an artist who practices fiber arts, painting, and more. She’s passionate about providing her students with the creative tools they need to tackle future projects and goals. Her love of Chicago and IPMM is infectious and this interview is a must read!
Lillie: What about IPaintMyMind’s model resonates with you the most?
Roxy: When I started teaching I was working at Austin College and Career Academy. This school was my heart and a place that I called home for six years. It was also a place that was often overlooked because of the community it served as well as the lack of funding/ budget. So when I reached out to IPMM and Evan showed up the next day with art for my school I was so taken aback. That was one of the first times an organization had shown the compassion, and generosity to help beautify our school- and at the same time create a gallery in our hallway.
Lillie: What is the most challenging part about working for a non-profit?
Roxy: Not everyone understands the mission or is as passionate about it as we are. It’s hard to constantly keep telling others how important it is…
Lillie: What’s your relationship like with Chicago? Have you/do you currently live here? What do you love most about the city?
Roxy: I’ve been a Chicago Public School teacher for 8 years and teaching in the city for 10. I went to college at the University of Illinois at Chicago and grew up across the street from Chicago – in Elmwood Park. I currently live on the Northwest side of the city.
I love the people, the food and the art. I love the grit, attitude and pride our city inherently brings to the people who are from here.
Lillie: What do you wish your art education had looked like as a child?
Roxy: I had a great art education program. The school district I was in made sure there were a variety of experiences for kids – which is where I first found my love for art. In middle school I was able to take Home Economics which is where I found my love for fiber art.
Lillie: How did you come to be an IPMM board member?
Roxy: I was asked to be a board member after being a returning teacher for three years! I believe in our mission that all children should have equitable access to artwork, art programing and arts education in our city.
Lillie: What is your vision for expanding IPMM? What do you want it to look like in the future?
I believe that one day IPMM is a brick and mortar community center that will serve the people of Chicago. It will have arts programing and community resources and an open gallery for all artists to come show their work.
Lillie: How must the art world change during and after the COVID-19 pandemic? How must it change as the BLM protests sweep across the world?
Roxy: Art has been the one thing that is constant throughout any pandemic or impactful movement. The art that is created throughout this time will serve as a documentation of time as well as a message from the people. It is the voice of this generation and it should continue to use social media and digitize so that it is accessible to everyone.
Lillie: How could arts education be systemically overhauled and reimagined throughout CPS?
Roxy: First Chicago Public Schools should get rid of student based budgeting. This means that schools with a small student population do not receive as much funding as schools that have a booming population. This type of funding hurts arts education programs and ultimately can eliminate positions like art and music when schools are faced with budget restrictions. Arts Education is important, and is proven to be an indicator of success later on, so why wouldn’t you want the children of your city to have those opportunities in the arts?
Lillie: Why is it so important for IPMM to uplift and support artists?
Roxy: IPMM does a great job of bringing a diverse group of contemporary artists to their collection. This is such an important part of the program because it is the art that the kids are seeing in their hallways. The artists’ backgrounds and the art that they make reflects the life that we our students are experiencing. Supporting artists also fosters a relationship that values artists and the work they do!
Lillie: How does your perspective as a CPS arts teacher add to your sense of urgency and purpose at IPMM?
Roxy: I know the work we do at IPMM is meaningful because of the mission and vision of the organization. At the end of the day we are passionate about exposing, teaching and creating art to all the students in our city. At the same time we are showing students a variety of artists that have their own business, that are entrepreneurs and who are from a diverse background. IPMM wants to support teachers in their learning, create an art community that fosters relationships between artists, teachers and schools… there is not really anything else like this that I’ve experienced which is why I’ve worked with them for years and am a Board Member.
Stay tuned for more fantastic interviews with our Board Members! 🙂
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