Netsanet Tsegaye is an artist trained in 3D animation and computer programming. In her work, she explores digital mediums like 3D modeling, digital images, videos, and coding. Her passion for arts began with more traditional mediums and, to this day, she spends most of her time painting, drawing, exploring collage and sculpture.
Netsanet is one of Arts Umbrella’s multi-talented instructor team delivering classes for children and young people across Metro Vancouver. She is working on Artful Afternoons in Surrey, a program funded by Prospera Credit Union which offers young people a space to access arts education in their community. Netsanet delivers visual arts programs to those ages 6-8, 9-12 and teens.
We believe that everyone deserves high-quality arts education. Artful Afternoons is just one of many Arts Umbrella community programs aimed at widening access to creative education for families facing financial barriers. Here, Netsanet speaks about her approach to classes, the joy in what she does, and her personal connection to arts and creativity.
What does art mean to you?
Art is where I go for meditation, quietness, to lose myself, to stop thinking. When I need the time to figure something out, to feel, or even to hide. I think art education is quite literally what saved me from bullies as a child. Specifically, art teachers have been my shield and I want to provide that strength and care for anyone stepping into the studio.
I strive to create a safe space where artists feel free to explore, learn something new and build confidence – not just in their artistic practice, but also outside the studio in their daily lives.
What is the most satisfying part of your job?
I consider myself lucky to be doing what I love and the biggest joy of this job is seeing the changes that take place as the weeks go by. The sense of achievement I feel comes from the transformation I see take place. It could be as small as when a toddler figures out how to cut with scissors, or when a child finally feels safe enough to explore their artistic practice without reservations. Or affirming moments like when a young person with harmful attitudes about their artistic skills and themselves transforms into a confident, happy being.
I always plan one collaborative project for each of my classes. It is always amazing to see even the most reserved child run around, engaged and excited about art but also about working as a team.
Why are programs like Artful Afternoons so important?
Studies indicate art education helps with fostering empathy, compassion, and boosts critical and visual thinking. It is also associated with high scores with STEM programs and higher graduation rates. I think giving children and young people a safe place to go to after school is invaluable, and I can’t emphasize enough how important that is, not just for the kids and their families but also for the community at large.
Art programs such as ours expose kids that might not have the opportunity to high-quality art education, and the chance to work with a practicing artist in a studio environment. This can help them foster new interests, expand possibilities, and open doors to new opportunities – from mentorship to careers in the arts. They are learning to express themselves visually and to think critically about themselves, their environment, and society at large.
What artistic styles and mediums have you been exploring this year?
It’s a year-long program and that has given us given us ample time to explore various mediums. We have explored water-soluble graphite pencils, tempera and acrylic paints, oil and chalk pastels, watercolors, inks, and other mediums.
What is also amazing about Artful Afternoons being year-long is that we can expand on a topic further. We can explore an artist’s work, preferred mediums, inspirations, or art movements they might have been involved with – and then move on to studying another artist that picked up where they left off.
The Teens have been examining contemporary artists like JR, Liu Wei, Kara Walker, Chila Kumari Burman, Kehinde Wiley, and others. I wanted to expose my class to diverse artists with varying practices examining both contemporary and timeless issues. It is also to keep them interested and engaged by choosing to explore artists and ideas they might be able to relate to.
The 9-12s are exploring Canadian artists, including Lawren Harris, Tom Thomson, Douglas Coupland and David Milne. The 6-8 class is full of brave artists with bold color palettes and a love of fantasy creatures, so I have exposed them to French symbolist artists like Odilon Redon and Paul Ranson.
Artful Afternoons are delivered at Arts Umbrella Surrey Centre (102-13678 100 Ave, Surrey). Learn more about the program.