North Shore Volunteer Spotlight: Vanessa De Leon
Vanessa De Leon is our very favorite ukelele-playing, choreography-creating, psychology-studying volunteer! Her bandmate Hector Jones (pictured above with Vanessa) sat down to grill her about her life, her relationship with the studio and her thoughts about Van GoGo's upcoming gig at SPACE in Evanston. Let's listen in on their conversation...
Hector: How did you hear about the studio?
Vanessa: I found out about the studio through my college’s career website. I came across it and thought it would be something fun. “Artist mentor.” I decided I wanted to check it out. I came in and was welcomed with big arms. Elise showed me around everywhere. After that day, I decided I wanted to volunteer here more. Eventually I started working here.
H: What are your tasks as a volunteer at The Arts of Life?
V: I volunteer in the music program for Van GoGo. It is a lot of fun because I play ukulele for the band. Last week, we all helped make choreography for our upcoming show at SPACE. That was fun because I got to incorporate what I love doing as a dancer along with the fact that I love playing music. Plus I got to work with the artists.
Vanessa discusses choreography with Van GoGo bandmates Danny, Ted, Russell, Niki and Montell (L to R).
H: How long have you been at the studio?
V: Not even a year yet. I started in October, so almost 9 months.
H: Have you volunteered anywhere else?
V: I have. My first volunteer experience was in high school. I also volunteered intensely when I was in college. I did some work at Children’s Memorial with the kids in the inpatient center. I also volunteered at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in the radiology department. And I volunteered as a social media representative for a health center for Filipino Americans. A bunch of other little stuff, too, mostly health related.
H: What do you do when you’re not at AofL?
V: I go to school full time for clinical psychology at Roosevelt University. I dance hip hop -- contemporary lyrical. I play music. I like to do art making. I like to sculpt. I love exercising and running.
H: Are you an artist? What is your expertise?
V: Professionally I’m not at all an artist. But I like to do a lot of things on my own. I like to paint with acrylics. I also love to sculpt little doll figurines. I like to a lot of Do It Yourself projects. And dance is an art! I do a lot of dancing.
H: If none of your career exploitations were in the works, what would you be doing?
V: Well, I want to get my doctorate in Clinical Psychology and do research. Hopefully I get into that. If I don’t, I guess I would like to pursue dance -- open up a dance studio.
H: What do you like the most about working with the artists at The Arts of Life?
V: I like that I can come to the studio happy and leave happy. When I’m here, I leave inspired, happy and fulfilled because of the work we all do with each other.
H: Do you consider yourself a role model or mentor (or both) to the studio?
V: I don’t know about role model. Mentor -- YES! I have a lot of experience I can offer. Hopefully one day, I can become a role model after I build my artistic reputation. Right now, I see myself as a peer and a mentor.
H: Who’s your favorite artist that you’d want to work with professionally?
V: There’s a graffiti artist, Alice Pasquini. She does a lot of graffiti art but she always makes it in the slums and in ghetto neighborhoods. It’s very inspirational art. She’s authorized to make it by the cities to inspire youth to direct their art making toward something positive.
H: If Ms. Pasquini was available, would you bring her here to work with the artists at the studio?
V: Of course! But I don’t think she speaks English. I think she speaks fluent Italian.
H: Last question: For the show coming up at SPACE in Evanston on June 22nd for the recording of our live album, do you think it will be a hit CD by Van GoGo?
V: I think it will be a very big accomplishment for Van GoGo. I think for us, just having the opportunity at SPACE is very big. And so, right now my fingers are crossed and I’m hoping for the best. It just depends on how we pull together as a group that day. If we’re all in the right mood and mindset, we can accomplish it!
H: Thanks Vanessa!
V: Thank you, Hector!
We're so grateful for Vanessa's amazing mentorship and participation in our community. Think you might have what it takes to join Van GoGo or mentor an artist? Fill our our volunteer application today!