Rogelio Casas is a Museum Educator at San Diego Museum of Art. He continues to bring his passion for the arts, community, and culture into his work in the midst of the Pandemic.
How did you become a Museum Educator at San Diego Museum of Art?
I was working at the Centro Cultura de la Raza when I heard about a residency that was opening up at the museum to teach kids and be a part-time educator. I had interviewed with the hiring manager in the past and they knew what I was about, so I took on the part-time residency. I heard after I was hired that they had other people they wanted to work with, however none of them wanted to work at the museum only part-time. Which was great for me because once a full-time position opened up I was first in line. Now I’m a full-time Museum Educator and I love being able to work directly with students and their various communities.
How have you adapted your work during COVID-19?
As an educator, our main thing is to serve students. Before COVID-19, we would host students in the park, or teach kids in schools or juvenile hall through our outreach program. Now that’s not the case and the pandemic really threw us for a spin. Everything happened so fast. We had to quickly figure out what digital programming we had in place and create a virtual plan, all while balancing our personal lives and home situations. But eventually, our team did an amazing job and now we offer virtual workshops, exhibitions, and more! We are currently prepping 1200 art supply kits for our School in the Park program. Although we are teaching virtually, we still strive to get much needed art supplies in their hands during these hard times.
Any exhibits or programming you’re excited to see at The San Diego Museum of Art?
So right now I’m into the Visions of the West: Highlights from the Bloomberg Collection. It’s an exhibition of American Western art, and I especially like the Southwestern, Native, and panorama pieces. I also love Cauleen Smith’s interpretation of Juan Sánchez Cotán’s Still Life with Quince, Cabbage, Melon, and Cucumber for her modern installation, Juan Sánchez Cotán and Cauleen Smith: Mystical Time and Deceptive Light. It’s amazing to see an African American woman brought into the space and create such an iconic and immersive exhibit.
And I know I mentioned this earlier for my personal work, but I love our work with kids in juvenile hall. I’m grateful to work in such a transformative space and offer art as a way to grow. The kids are so creative and brilliant, and It’s such an amazing opportunity to work directly with them. I will be connecting with them via Zoom this winter.
We know you value IDEA (inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility), how do these concepts inform the work that you do?
I’m a part of Balboa Park’s internal IDEA team and I think it’s important for me to value this initiative since I predominately work with youth. It’s vital for me to be a voice of the voiceless and encourage my students to use creative processes to do the same. An example of this is showing them how vulnerability through creativity is powerful and courageous, since it requires learning, overcoming fears, and stepping into their identity. I want to show them that true external work starts off with deep internal work and being responsible to their communities. The larger systems in place can only be dismantled with us and our communities first. My students and I must never stop learning, growing, and evolving to have a future that benefits us all.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work in your free time?
So it’s funny because as an art teacher, I don’t like doing art in my free time. My wife will humor me and ask me to draw something for the kids, which I like to jokingly respond back with “ I’m off the clock”. During my free time I like to stay connected with my community and all my peeps over cultural work in the Chicano Community. Before COVID-19 there were days where I’d teach all day and then go out to hang up some displays and do other cultural work till dark. I’m also really passionate about volleyball. I played all throughout highschool and college, and was a volleyball coach for many years. I miss playing and can’t wait to go back when the pandemic is over.
Now my family and I are trying to use this time to deep dive into the San Diego lifestyle, by taking up paddle boarding, getting our San Diego Zoo passes, and visiting the beach.
What are you watching and listening to right now?
I don’t watch much T.V. because when I’m home my kids usually get the final say. But when I do, I like to watch sci-fi or dystopian series like Star Trek, Deep Space Nine, or the Mandalorian. My friends try to keep me up to date on what to watch, but I like to watch everything at my own pace.
When it comes to music, I like to match the beat and the tempo to whatever work I need to do. Most of the time that includes instrumental stuff. But when I need to crush some emails or quickly get work done, I’ll turn on some classic rock or ska, and maybe sprinkle in some reggae or East Coast hip hop.
What’s your favorite spot in Balboa Park?
Oh, that’s a hard one. There’s a lot of really cool spots, but I’d have to say the Zoro Garden. It’s an amazing spot for me to take a break during the day, and I love that it’s a butterfly sanctuary surrounded by beautiful trees and its quirky history of once being a nudist colony in the 1930’s. My wife and I actually got married there too, so now I can always go back and reminisce on our special day.
And I would have to say a close second is the Japanese Friendship Garden. Having done a curriculum all about Japanese culture like the Samurai in ancient Feudal Japan, I’m able to have a deeper understanding and reverence for the garden and its meaning.