Marwen: What are you doing now?
Bianca Diaz: Since graduating, I have been researching, writing and illustrating a children's book for children with incarcerated mothers, with the help of Project NIA and a RISD Maharam STEAM fellowship. I am also a volunteer for Project NIA and have created several flyers for various events and workshops - talking to children about incarceration, standing as silent witnesses for sexually victimized incarcerated youth, and one that encourages viewers to picture a world without prisons. I have also continued working as an assistant teaching artist at Marwen.
M: How did Marwen impact your journey?
BD: Marwen helped me get where I am today by showing me the possibilities of who I could be. The first class I took at Marwen was called Mapping Your Future. We went on field trips to different businesses to see how people were doing real work in the arts. After that class I started to take myself more seriously as an artist because I now believed that I could be one. I had always been encouraged to pursue it, but as a hobby. This class was solid proof and encouragement that I didn't have to do that, that I could pursue the only thing that really excited me and live, not just survive. Everyone who works at Marwen is proof of that.
I tried to take advantage of what Marwen had to offer as much as I could, though at the time it didn't feel like I was "taking advantage" of things. I just felt excited to be a part of that family. My best friends from Whitney Young were also Marwenites and we would volunteer for the gallery openings as much as we could, mainly so we could have fun and joke behind the snack table and be there for the whole event but still feel useful, never out of place. Marwen was a second home. I took a lot of college planning classes because the idea of art school was so intoxicating to me. I would finally be able to focus solely on what was real to me, what made the most sense.
The college classes helped me imagine that dream into a reality because they helped me see what steps I needed to take to get there. I learned that as lost as I felt in physics or chemistry, I needed to seek extra help and not just give up. I needed to care about my grades because a good GPA would help me with scholarships. I needed to apply for the FAFSA. I needed to get great letters of recommendation. I needed my portfolio reviewed. I learned about saving money and balancing a budget. I learned to talk about my work with others. I visited New York with Sarah Atlas and a handful of other Marwen students to visit colleges. I am so thankful for that because I wouldn't have been able to afford to make it to the east coast to see schools otherwise. RISD was not a school that my family could pay for, but Marwen showed me other ways to get the education I desired. I never saw RISD before my first day moving in, but I learned as much about it as possible from the Internet and from my teachers at Marwen who had gone there.
M: Share a story of a favorite memory/experience at Marwen.
BD: There are a lot of great experiences I've had at Marwen. I remember being on the Student Advisory Board and planning a show called Perspectives. If I remember correctly, those of us on the board created work that responded in some way to the different stages of life. I chose childhood and created a portrait of my brother using 15 different kinds of beans glued onto the canvas. This process was special to me because I remember sitting at the kitchen table and doing this with my mom and brother when I was young. When the show went up, someone bought my piece. My grandma was there and so was my mom and it was cool to share that moment between my two families, and to know that someone appreciated my work enough to pay for it. That was a great feeling.