Vesta, what brought you to Spain in the first place?
I am from California. I was finishing my degree in Ethnomusicology, and I needed to finish the last couple of units in a foreign language, so when my (ex) boyfriend told me he was going to do an Auxiliar program in Spain I took the opportunity to transfer to the public University of Madrid, I finished my last semester there. I wanted to stay so I had to get a job, so I jumped on the English teaching bandwagon.
How did you become involved with Madrid for Refugees?
I have heard about them since back in 2016, I was working with BEDA program and through the grapevine I heard about how a previous Aux had started an NGO and I thought it was awesome. I started sending Madrid for Refugees emails back in 2018, and then later on Instagram. But it wasn’t until after I had spent a summer in Greece, then having come back to Madrid with more passion to really get involved did I finally reach them with relentless emails and messages. I officially started volunteering with Madrid for Refugees back in 2019. Now I am the artistic events coordinator, along with the other teammates we put on Paint and Sip events, mini-concert events, cooking events, and so much more.
How did the idea for Paint & Sip come about?
I have wanted to be the host of a Paint & Sip art project for quite some time. But the Paint & Sip idea didn’t really come about until 2015 or so when I started hearing that it was quite popular in California. I thought oh man, I could bring that to Madrid. There are loads of others doing the same currently, however, I really wanted mine to be directly connected to the NGO. Which is why at all of my events, a % of everyone’s ticket is donated to MFR.
What can people expect from a Art & Wine event and who typically takes part?
All materials, all snacks, and all drinks are included in everyone’s price. I take a huge part of my method from Bob Ross, where I really walk my participants step by step, I go around the room to make sure people are on the right track. We go over tips like how to hold the brush, how to utilize the brush to get the effect we want with our paint, using different brushes, how to manipulate acrylic in different ways, how to mix colors, and just recently we started a workshop learning how to use palette knives!
“For some time I’ve wanted to get over my fear of putting a brush to canvas. I’d heard great things about Vesta’s
Paint & Sip events and finally gathered my courage and went alone to face my creative demon. Vesta ran the session with
such warm and encouraging guidance. The group energy was fun and not too serious, enabling us all to relax, drop
perfection and simply follow her lead. And lo and behold, I walked out of there holding a painting I did by myself that is
actually proudly displayed in my home!” – Kelly
How have your past experiences influenced your current teaching?
As I have such a long history of English teaching and also assisting as an art teacher, now when I am working with adults I realize there are 2 main things that carry over which are SUPER important – positivity and patience. Like I said I like to take the Bob Ross approach to art – there are no mistakes, everything is happy and beautiful, everyone’s canvas looks amazing, everyone has a different style!
How do you combine art and music?
In some of my events, I invite a local artist to come and perform for my participants – a mini-concert to start, and then another mini-concert during a break! The musician is paid, as that is very important to me. I have some events where the participants paint along to live music as well, so they paint how they feel and just really let go – getting a chance to explore the paint on their own and without judgment. Some events are really quite fancy or special depending on the music – sometimes I’ll try to find a classically trained violinist to set a certain mood – or I’ll ask a local guitarist to play a variety of music from jazz to folk/rock so that the participants have a different experience. Having a live musician has a different feeling, it offers a really unique experience. People get to pause and speak to the musician and ask them questions, and share a special moment of creation with them. It helps the musicians connect with people in the city, and they get followers or participants adding their Spotify albums to their playlists and stuff!
What do you love about teaching?
I love connecting with new people and offering really unique experiences. I really get a thrill from someone trying something new, or overcoming a fear or a challenge, and being able to say that I have helped in some way! I love art, and I feel that in many cases it can be under appreciated. But honestly for me it is my therapy. It is something that helps me get out of the house when I am feeling quite low. Which is HUGE right now, during a pandemic. I am super happy and lucky that I have return participants as well, yea people who come back time and time again! That’s awesome. It means I am doing something right.
How can people find out more about your art classes and activities?