CHI Volunteer Spotlight: Ella Zhu!
The Chicago Studio felt blessed this Fall when Ella Zhu came in for her first day and told us that she would be coming in four days a week for up to a year. After volunteering at the studio for 3 months in 2014, Ella found her way back to us this year. “When taking a year between my undergrad and grad degree I needed something to do,” Ella said. “I thought about this place and this way I really get to know the artists which is nice.” Ella splits her time in our studio between providing daily supports to artists and leading a project to keep our art supplies clean and organized. Within her first month here, Ella identified this need in our studio and took initiative to implement a new supply structure. “It’s just a hassle to get things or put things back or find things,” Ella said. “It sort of bothers me when things aren’t clean. There is a sort of dignity to having a clean studio space. Also I’m a neat freak so I enjoy tidying. It gives me a weird satisfaction.” As she began the daunting task of organizing the supply shelves, multiple artists took interest in supporting Ella with the task, namely Kris and Jean. “When we were organizing stuff we found things that people didn’t even know we had,” Ella said. As a long time studio artist, Jean recognized the need for the project in the studio. “It’s good, it’s fun,” said Jean. “She had a little box to put the little glue guns in. She organized the other shelf over there. We need to organize and keep it clean so people can see where things are at.” Beyond her organization skills, Ella’s patience and care in her interactions with our community members set her apart. She takes time to give each artist individual attention, which can go a long way in people’s personal and professional growth. “I really enjoy when there is a mini breakthrough with an artist,” Ella explained excitedly as she reminisced on different times she’s supported someone in achieving their goals. “I also really enjoy just hanging out. Every artist has a fun thing to say.” Ella first heard about the studio when she was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and she attended an internship fair. Her background includes a range of art mediums. “I started art school doing fine arts, painting and drawing, then transitioned into comics and then transitioned into film directing,” Ella said. “I mostly did a lot of activist work like feminist or social justice films.” Outside of the studio, Ella has various hobbies. “I like to hang out with my cat,” she said. “I’ve been half heartedly trying to teach myself the violin. I’ve also been teaching myself to do clay sculpting. And I enjoy drawing random doodles and watching random stuff on YouTube.” In addition to her role with The Arts of Life, Ella serves as a Medical Advocate for sexual assault survivors through Rape Victim Advocates. In this role, she is on call to support survivors at local hospital emergency rooms. She hopes her experiences in these volunteer roles will be transferrable to her future endeavors. “I’m applying for graduate school now to do clinical social work,” Ella said. “I want to be a therapist.” We know you’ll be great at it! Thanks for choosing to spend this time with us, Ella! We appreciate everything you do.