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Portrait of Ester Hernandez by Sara O'Sullivan
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Longtime Visual Arts Instructor Ester Hernandez Retires

Posted on September 13, 2016

Visual Arts Instructor Ester Hernandez is retiring after teaching at Creativity Explored for over 30 years. Throughout her tenure at CE, she has left a strong mark on the community and will be greatly missed by all. 

Hernandez is not only a gifted arts instructor but a very accomplished artist. She is best known for her depiction of Chicana and Latina women through pastels and prints. Her work reflects political, social, ecological and spiritual themes. She has exhibited in numerous solo and group shows both nationally and internationally. Among others, her work is included in the permanent collections of the National Museum of American Art - Smithsonian, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Frida Kahlo Studio Museum.

Her artwork Sun Mad, 1981, screenprint, 30 x 22 inches is on view in OUR AMERICA: The Latino Presence in American Art, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington D.C., a traveling exhibition, and WILD WEST: PLAIN TO THE PACIFIC at the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, CA.

In celebration of Hernandez, we sat down with her to learn more about her rich experience in her over 30-year career at Creativity Explored. 

What drew you to CE?

I had previous teaching experience in colleges, universities and community art settings and was interested in working with this population. In particular, the open studio structure of the program was interesting.  But more than anything, I was charmed by the creativity, openness, and warmth of the artists/members.

How has CE changed since you started?

The artists have changed a lot since I started at CE. When I started, the artists were straight out of hospitals. It was interesting but challenging since most of their lives they had been told they were incapable of pretty much everything, we sure proved that was wrong!

The younger population that now works at Creativity Explored are different. They have had the opportunity to been mainstreamed in schools and MANY live with families. They have much higher expectations for themselves, which is wonderful.

What impact has CE had on your life?

I have received more from being around the artists at Creativity Explored than the other way around. It is refreshing to be in a situation where in spite of everything, people are creating with true sincerity and joy. The art world outside of CE is competitive and difficult but here, there is freedom to explore mediums, materials and subject matters with very little, if any thought to it's commercial value. It kept the reason for making art real for me.  

What makes CE special?

Creativity Explored is and will always be family, friends and community to me. Having spent over 30 years at CE, we (artist/members, staff, volunteers, etc.) have shared our successes, losses, and challenges both artistically and personally.

What is one memorable experience at CE?

It is difficult to pinpoint one particular experience. For me, it is when everyone sings happy birthday. It is such a joyous moment of coming together to celebrate each other and life in general. It's really the only song we mutually know and we are totally rowdy and off key and it is fabulous!! I will insist that everyone sings happy birthday to me on my last day!

What has been the most rewarding part of being at CE?

Seeing people grow and develop as confident artists has been amazing to witness. It's was an honor to having had the opportunity to be a part of this process.

What are your next steps?

I'm going on 71 and am planning on channeling all my creative energy into my own artwork. I am planning on spending more time with family and friends and take art class in order to continue to learn and grow. For example, I hope to take printmaking classes in Oaxaca and paper making classes in Japan! I am very excited about this next phase of my life. 

My heart will always be here at CE. I intend to be an advocate for this population since I have seen the healing/joyful power of art in their lives and how it has beautifully touched thousands of others locally and globally.  As I live and work in the Mission, I definitely plan on coming by for much needed hugs!!  

Thank you CE for having allowed me to be part of your loving familia! VIVA CREATIVITY EXPLORED!!!!

Sun Mad, 1981, screenprint, 30 x 22 inches
Ester Hernandez and artists outside of Creativity Explored
Ester Hernandez (left)
Ester Hernandez (left), Charles Cruz, Robert Margolis, and Pilar Olabarria
Ester Hernandez (left) with Vincent Jackson (right)
Ester Hernandez (left) with Pilar Olabarria (right)
Vincent Jackson (left) and Ester Hernandez (right)
Ester with a watch by James Montgomery given to her as a retirement gift
Nita Hicks and Laron King say farewell to Ester Hernandez
Nubia Ortega says goodbye to Ester Hernandez

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