During an afternoon in late December, students at the San Jose Art Academy (www.sjaart.com, 2905 Homestead Rd. Suite A, Santa Clara) were busy at work. Some were carefully mixing shades of acrylic paint and gently dabbing colors onto their canvases to create a duplicate of a preexisting image, such as a snowman or a cardinal on a snowy branch. Others were constructing holiday trees with loops of construction paper and then sorting through gems, pom poms and beads to decorate their tree. In another room, students were painting bright holiday trees against a nightscape.
“The goal of the studio is to provide high quality and engaging art classes to students in the Bay Area,” said Vanessa Chung, seasonal teacher and daughter of studio owners Paul and Esther Chung. “We try to create art lessons and projects that allow students to explore different materials—such as watercolor, poster color, collage, drawing, colored pencils, ceramics—and different art techniques—figurative drawing, modeling, drawing from imagination and developing technical skills.”
The San Jose Art Academy accepts children as young as four years old. The school also hosts after school art programs with a number of schools, including Santa Clara’s Pomeroy Elementary School and Central Park Elementary School. The Academy’s portfolio program for high school students is intended to assist those applying to college as both non-art majors as well as those who are applying to four year art programs, art colleges and universities.
The art school is actually located in Santa Clara, where the Chungs once lived.
“The reason why the school is called the San Jose Art Academy is because it was originally located in Campbell with a San Jose zip code,” Vanessa Chung said. “My paternal grandmother Helen Shin started the studio in Oahu, Hawaii in 1991 and then she moved to Campbell, California where she brought the business with her. [Later] she moved to Santa Clara. In 1998, my parents acquired the studio. By then, the studio had moved from its earlier Campbell location to a location on Pomeroy Ave. in Santa Clara. About five years ago, the studio moved to the location where it is now, on Homestead.”
Vanessa Chung’s experience helping out in her parents’ art studio during her early years prepared her for studying art in academia. As an undergraduate, she studied Visual Arts at University of California, Los Angeles. Currently immersed in the Arts in Education Program at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, Vanessa Chung hopes to someday create public art programs for students of color from low-income families.
“When I got to college, I learned there was a real disparity between the schools I attended and the art programs I had access to and the schools I was teaching at in my work study job,” Vanessa Chung said. “This ties back to my parents’ studio because they’re actively trying to share art in a community that’s very STEM focused. There is value in learning art. I feel like students need a platform where they can share their ideas freely and express themselves in a way that traditional STEM learning might not allow them to do.”