Big Artist Interview with Angel Ortega

Big Artist Angel Ortega

Angel Ortega is a Big Artist mentor to TWO Little Artists, Angie and Melanie at Allison Elementary. Learn about her experience being an artist and arts mentor.

How long have you been a Big Artist?
This is my first year as a Big Artist. I loved it so much that I took on a 2nd Little Artist!

What is your favorite thing about the program?
I love seeing the creativity of my Little Artists. At the beginning of each work day, we talk through what we were going to work on and they are always creative in accomplishing it. It’s very cool to see them complete their work.

2017 Big Artist Angel Ortega

What is it about teaching and mentoring that makes you happy?
It is always fun to help people grow and learn. I learned so much from my mentors and I hope I can have that same influence on others.

When you were a kid, did you have a mentor or someone who gave you a push toward art?
I learned a lot of skills from my junior high and high school art teachers Ms. Fundis & Mr. Kolache. They encouraged me and often loaned me art supplies so that I could practice my skills. I still use a lot of what they taught me in my work today. In my 30s I went back to school to study graphic design. Austin Community College has an amazing visual communications program and I learned a lot from Gail Bayeta, Oen Hammonds, Edd Patton, and Sam Coronado. My greatest mentor is my dad. He always encouraged me to draw on the entire sheet of paper.

Where can people find your work?
You can see a fun collaboration piece I did with my Little Artists April 27th at the Dougherty Art Center. It’s going to be a great show. The future is talented! I have my own graphic design company, Garzig Design. You can find me online to buy merchandise. Keep up with all my work on Instagram.

Big Artist Interview with Jeremy Wahlberg

Jeremy Wahlberg

Jeremy Wahlberg is a Big Artist mentor to Little Artist Hikaru at Govalle. Learn about his experience being an artist and arts mentor.

How long have you been a Big Artist?
This is my first year!

What is your favorite thing about the program?
My Little Artist! And, the opportunity to provide art mentoring for our young community.

Jeremy Wahlberg

What is it about teaching and mentoring that makes you happy?
Being there and witnessing the Little Artists ‘get it’ — when they finally have breakthrough or get really excited – that is just amazing to be part of!

When you were a kid, did you have a mentor or someone who gave you a push toward art?
This is a long list! I had many wonderful mentors and still do – that’s why I am doing this, too. I couldn’t be where I am or doing what I do without their support.

Where can people find your work?
Right now the best opportunity to see my work is through our company website Delineate Studio. We have some great architecture projects going up around town. Also some of my personal art projects work are here.

An Interview with Gabi Williams a Little Artist Ambassador

Learn about the experiences of Gabi Williams, our first Little Artist Ambassador, who went from being a student in our LaBA program to exhibiting at the 2016 Cherrywood Art Fair.

First, I’d like to know about your overall experience in the Little Artist BIG ARTIST program, and how has it impacted you personally within your artistic goals?
Answer: My close friend Stella and I were paired up with a weaver named Patricia Day. Visiting her home/studio and being exposed to the life of a full time artist was amazing to see as a fifth grader. It was the first time I realized that I could potentially go into an artistic career and make a living off of my art. Overall, it motivated me to take more art classes and become more interested in the art world.

What did you enjoy the most during your Little Artist BIG ARTIST mentoring sessions?
Answer: I very much enjoyed being able to work in an artist’s studio. Seeing someone with that dedicated work space was inspirational. I also enjoyed being able to discuss the process of selling art with someone who knew all about it.

If you were to give advice to a young artist what would that be?
Answer: I would tell a young artist to create as much as they can. The best practice is making art whenever possible. I would also suggest experimenting and learning about different media types because you never know what you are going to end up enjoying.

How did your BIG ARTIST help you and what was important in your relationship?
Answer: Participating in the LaBA program has really been a big part of my artistic career because it is something that sets me apart from others. I thought more people at my Fine Arts high school would have been in LaBA but there are only a few of us. When I applied to the program at McCallum Fine Arts, I brought the pieces I created alongside Patricia as part of my portfolio. I think having that unique, individual artwork was what made it possible to be accepted to the Fine Arts Academy. Having input and creative critique from someone other than family or teachers was one of the best things about working with Patricia


Gabi, although only 15 years old now, represents exactly what we are trying to accomplish with the Little Artist BIG ARTIST Program, future creatives developing a sustainable future. She is a graduate of the Little Artist BIG ARTIST Program and was one of our ambassadors at the Cherrywood Art Fair (CAF) last year. Gabi had a booth set up next to her BIG ARTIST at the Cherrywood Art Fair and sold her very own art pieces.

Attend the Little Artist BIG ARTIST Opening Night Reception on April 27, 2017 from 6–8 pm at the Dougherty Arts Center to see the works of our 2017 LaBA Program Class. The Spring Art Exhibition will continue to be displayed through May 21.

If you’d like to get involved in the Little Artist BIG ARTIST Program click here for more information.

9th Annual Little Artist BIG ARTIST art exhibit

Our next event is the 9th Annual Little Artist BIG ARTIST art exhibit opening. Join us Thursday, April 27 from 6–8pm at the Dougherty Arts Center. The art exhibit is the culmination of 10 weeks of work by our 40 Little Artists and 35 BIG ARTIST.

Our Little Artists are 5th and 6th graders representing six East Austin elementary schools. Each Little Artist will show one of their two artworks alongside a piece created by their BIG ARTIST mentor.

We’ll also have live music from the Blackshear Soundwaves Orchestra, Maplewood Ukulele Choir, Allison Dragon Choir, and the Barbara Jordan Choir. The reception is free, and Spanish translation will be provided. Come out and experience a unique Austin art scene!

HUGE thanks to our Little Artist BIG ARTIST sponsors, Pentagram, KLRU, Verts Mediterranean Grill, Lantana Hummus, Wheatsville Co-op, and Nothing Bundt Cakes for their dedication to the arts community in Austin!

9th Annual art exhibit

RSVP here for the Little Artist BIG ARTIST opening reception

Can’t make the art opening reception? The artwork will be available for viewing through May 21st.

Introducing Our New Executive Director

The Chula League Board of Directors is pleased to announce our new Executive Director, Ann Flemings.
Ann Flemings is an artist, mother, wife, and nonprofit all-star! Ann joins us from UT Austin where she worked with the Butler School of Music and the Jackson School of Geosciences. Always committed to local nonprofits, she currently serves as a board member of Generous Art and she served on the St. David’s Episcopal Church Grants committee. Ann is also a professional artist with a studio in East Austin.

Ann brings the perfect background to lead our charge in helping to fuel and sustain the arts in East Austin. Let’s learn a little more about her and her plans for Chula League…

You’ve been on the job just over two months. What has been your impression of Chula League so far?

I am amazed at how well run this small, volunteer-based, nonprofit is! It has created a sustainable income stream through the Cherrywood Art Fair (CAF) and we are so effective at managing money that neighborhood organizations have engaged us to serve as fiduciary on their behalf. That says a lot about the professionalism of the Chula League board.

We are doing so much, on such a small budget, to help the arts thrive in East Austin. We provide a productive marketplace for artisans to sell their work. We cultivate the next generation of artists as they turn their concepts into art, and their art into a business. Chula is doing its part to provide the tools needed to make the arts sustainable in East Austin.

The most heartwarming thing about Chula is the people. Everyone has been so welcoming! Our board members are committed to making this organization shine and some of our program volunteers have been with us for many years. It says to me that there is a lot of passion here, and I think it must be great fun to be a Chula volunteer.

What excites you about this position and how does it build on your prior professional experiences?

With my background in fundraising, I hope to expand our grant funding for Little Artist, BIG ARTIST (LaBA) and I am keen to build a donor base of individuals that support our mission. Right now, I am working on expanding sponsorships for the Cherrywood Art Fair.

The past 15 years have seen the fair grow to become one of the most anticipated holiday shopping events on the “shop local” scene. The Cherrywood Art Fair proceeds benefit Little Artist, BIG ARTIST, thus it becomes a real win-win for our sponsors. As a free, afterschool arts mentorship program, LaBA brings the best of Austin artists together with East Austin elementary school children and creates a 10 week experience which empowers all involved.

If we can increase fair sponsorships by 20%, that will help Little Artist BIG ARTIST go just a bit further. Opportunities are still available to co-brand your business with one of the few juried art fairs in Austin, so give me a call!

What do you think are the most significant opportunities for the organization? Challenges?

We are expanding the Little Artist, BIG ARTIST program and adding artist professional development workshops. The more people understand what we are working to accomplish, the bigger impact Chula League will be able to make. Board leadership is creating a strategic marketing plan to share our message with the goal to engage more people across all channels.

My job is to put the right resources in place — dedicated volunteers, adequate funds and beneficial partnerships — to move our programs forward. Working with the board, listening to our constituents and heeding the advice of our volunteers is important to my role. In fact, a fundamental responsibility of Chula League is to assure our programs thrive and that our volunteers are provided for and valued.

If you could say one more thing to supporters of Chula League, what would it be?

It is an exciting time to be part of Chula League. Become a volunteer with our programs, serve as a BIG ARTIST mentor or apply to the Cherrywood Art Fair. Donate to us and help raise Chula’s star across the 6,000 nonprofits that call Austin home. I encourage everyone to put the Chula League at the top of your “gift list” this year. We want to make giving to Chula a year-round habit.

Thank you for letting me share some thoughts about the future of Chula League. Please contact me at to get involved with us.

5 questions for Big Artist Sara Senseman

We’re asking our Big Artists five quick questions to find out how they feel about mentoring Little Artists.

Next up: Sara Senseman of Cargo Collective

How long have you been a Big Artist?

This is my first year being a Big Artist.

What is your favorite thing about the program?

I love seeing my little artist improve. It’s amazing how much someone can improve on a skill in only eight three-hour sessions. My favorite part is looking back at their first tries at a new medium or tool, and comparing it to the final product. It’s always impressive.

What is it about teaching and mentoring that makes you happy?

For me, mentoring is a sort of stress reliever. You stop thinking about yourself and your life, and focus on helping someone else. It’s very relaxing and rewarding.

When you were a kid, did you have a mentor or someone who gave you a push toward art?

My high school art teacher really made a big impact on my life choices dealing with my art. She gave me the confidence to apply to good art schools for college and made me believe that my work was good enough to turn into a career. If it weren’t for her, I probably wouldn’t have thought I was good enough to even apply to art schools, much less start my own business with my artwork.

Where can people find your work?

My website is the best place to view my artwork at the moment: I am about to switch from Etsy to Amazon Handmade, so that will come soon. I also post artwork and updates to my art Facebook page:

Sara Senseman

For Big Artist Michael Sieben, Art is Something to Share

Big Artist M. Sieben

­By Lisa Wyatt Roe

Think about it: Why would busy professional artists invest the time to go to an art classroom or open their studios for a child they don’t know? And where do they even start if they’ve never been a mentor?

Big Artist Michael Sieben is pretty much the definition of “busy.” As an artist, writer, and skateboard designer, he’s built a creative career over the past 20 years with an impressive amount of initiative. When he couldn’t find a gallery to exhibit his work, Michael and some friends opened their own galleries, including Austin’s Okay Mountain. After years of designing skateboards, he’s started two skateboard companies; his current company is The Program. His illustrations have been in books, on Adidas shoes, on t-shirts, even on TV’s Nicktoons. He’s managing editor of Thrasher Magazine, which has more Instagram followers than the population of several countries. He has two young kids. And he skateboards — a lot. So, yeah, he’s busy.

This year, he took another gig: working as a Big Artist mentor with Little Artist Elias at East Austin’s Blackshear Elementary.

Michael’s path to becoming a Big Artist has roots in a commitment he made in his 20s. Fresh out of UT’s art school, he emailed 20 artists he looked up to for advice on how to start his career. He got one reply. That one artist taking five minutes to respond made such an impression that Michael decided he would share information with younger artists whenever he could.

“I remember thinking in my early 20s that I would never be someone who would ignore someone with questions,” Michael says.

Being an artist who’s part of the ever-youthful skateboarding subculture has given him lots of opportunities to hold true to that, especially with young artists who work in that style. Now in his 40s, he still answers emails. He also gives advice in his column for art and culture magazine Juxtapoz.

Reflecting on how his children are growing up more fortunate than other kids got him thinking about helping in a different way. It was a chance meeting in a parking lot that led Michael to the Little Artist BIG ARTIST program. While saying hello to Chula League board member Brian David Johnson, a two-year veteran Big Artist who teaches woodworking at his BDJ Craft Works studio, Michael got the same kind of gentle nudge toward becoming a mentor that Big Artists give to kids who want to become artists.

“It seemed like a great opportunity to put my time where my mouth was in terms of not just writing about sharing information but actually one-on-one hanging out with a kid and spending time in the classroom,“ Michael says.

As a first-year Big Artist, Michael had a few things to figure out, including what to work on with Elias. For Michael and Elias, their mutual love of drawing was a starting point.

“It was really great to be paired with a young artist who’s really interested in drawing in the same way that, at that age, I was just obsessed with drawing,” Michael says.

When it was time to choose two projects to work on, Michael’s studio full of skateboard decks and screen printing supplies made for a natural choice. “I thought, take the two things I know most about and try to make lesson plans out of those, but also try to explain how that ties into the bigger world of art or graphic design,” Michael says.

Elias and Michael started by working on a design for a skateboard deck in Elias’ journal. They came up with a color palette, then Elias hand painted the deck. “He was able to build up the colors, then do the line work based on his drawing in the sketchbook,” Michael says.

Designing skateboards is a definite niche. “You’re working with something that’s 8 inches by 32 inches,” Michael says. “It’s a very specific shape, so there’s a design problem there — ‘How do I make a design that fits well in this shape?’ — which can carry over into designing anything: an album cover, something square, a t-shirt design.”

The second project was screen printing based on one of Elias’ illustrations. “We did these really loose watercolor paintings,” Michael says. “It was just a very fun experiment of throwing down color on the page. Later we took those and screen printed on top of them, so we were able to lay an illustration down on top of these really loose color fields, and he got to see how that changed the look of his illustration.”

They did a six-print edition so Elias could donate one print to the Little Artist BIG ARTIST auction at the Cherrywood Art Fair, which will send the proceeds to Blackshear’s art program. He has another five that he can give to family or friends, trade, or sell.

That emphasis on the commercial aspect of art — making art that people will want to buy — is an important part of Little Artist BIG ARTIST. One goal of the program is to show kids that art can be a viable career. Michael took that to heart.

“When I was younger, I remember trying to exhibit black-and-white work and showing drawings, and nobody would buy them. And I started adding color into them, and I was able to sell my work. So I think people respond to color,” Michael says. Elias “mainly works in black and white, so I tried to show him some easy ways to inject color into what he’s doing, so if later he does present his stuff to galleries or if he’s trying to sell work, there’s color.”

Big Artists try to walk the line between suggesting a direction for the work and making sure it’s about what the Little Artist wants to express.

“That was a good deal of what we talked about — how to keep the essence of what he’s interested in, which is doing black-and-white work, but easy ways to inject color into it where it doesn’t feel forced or it’s not making him do something he’s not interested in doing,” Michael says.

They also talked about riding bikes, skateboarding, fishing — just whatever came to mind. That kind of one-one-one attention from an adult mentor tells a child, “You’re important.” The adults, however, may never know how important they’ve been to the child. ”It could be something you never get the feedback for, and that’s fine,” Michael says.

It took a bit of time for Michael to feel like he and Elias were connecting. Elias is a quiet, reserved kid, Michael says. But photos of them working together show a thoughtful young artist, quietly taking in what Michael is saying.

“Two weeks ago, he came to my studio, and that was the first time we’d been out of the classroom, and he got to bring his little brother,” Michael says. “It seemed like a less formal setting, and it seemed like he really started to open up. It seemed like the first time we were just hanging out as more like friends rather than teacher or student.”

Something Elias wrote in his journal bears that out: “I think that my artist was more like a friend by the end of the classes. I hope my artist keeps doing Little Artist Big Artist. It was the best thing ever.”

Seeing that on the page was an emotional moment for Michael.

“He just wrote it, closed the book and put it in his pile,” Michael says. “Then he started talking to a friend, and I opened it up and read it. It’s been a meaningful experience for both of us, but I didn’t know if it was just another day to him or if he was getting something out of it. And to read that was really . . . I almost cried.”

For any mentor, a tear or two can be the best part.

Michael Sieben

2016 Little Artist BIG ARTIST Opening Reception

Please join us for a family-friendly opening reception to kick off the Little Artist BIG ARTIST Spring Art Show. Fifth- and sixth-grade Little Artists from four East Austin schools and their Big Artist mentors will be exhibiting screenprints, linocut prints, upcycled clothing, bags, collages, jewelry, furniture, drawings, and handmade vegan soap. We’ll also have live music from the Maplewood Ukulele Choir, the Allison Dragon Choir, and the Blackshear Violin Orchestra. The reception is free, and Spanish translation will be provided. Come see what Austin’s next generation of artists is up to!



Opening Reception: Thursday, April 28, 6:00pm–8:00pm

Exhibition: April 28–May 15, 2016, Monday–Friday, 9am–4pm


Imagine Art @ ReNEW East Arts Complex | 2830 Real St. Austin, TX 78722 | across from the MLK Cap Metro Rail Station and on bus routes #20 & #465 .

Facebook Event: Little Artist BIG ARTIST Art Show Opening Reception

More details in the press release at the bottom of the page.

Amplify Austin & Little Artist BIG ARTIST

Quick – what was your favorite thing to draw, paint, sculpt, doodle, sew or craft when you were a kid? Do you still do that today?

Our Little Artist BIG ARTIST program is an arts based mentoring program that nurtures creativity and shows kids that being a professional artist can be deeply satisfying on a personal AND commercial level. Kids, educators, and parents love this program and we think you will too!

Help us bring this program to more kids by donating a few dollars during Amplify Austin on March 8th and 9th. It doesn’t take much and it really does make a difference!

5 questions for Big Artist Angie Diaz

We’re asking our Big Artists five quick questions to find out how they feel about mentoring Little Artists.

Next up: Angie Diaz of by Angie Boutique.

How long have you been a Big Artist?

This year is my first time participating as a Big Artist.

What is your favorite thing about the program?

My favorite thing about the program is that it allows artists with non-traditional mediums like myself (sewing) to show a child that art comes in many different forms.

What is it about teaching and mentoring that makes you happy?

I love spending time with my Little Artist, getting to know her, and seeing her excitement when we finish a project.

When you were a kid, did you have a mentor or someone who gave you a push toward art?

As a kid I did not have a mentor, but I think that if I’d had a chance I would have loved it!

Where can people find your work?


Facebook: @byangieboutique

Instagram: @byangieboutique

Angie Diaz