By Nethan Sivarapu and Maxwell Taniguchi-King
As you enter Room S-4 at Summit Public Schools: Tahoma, an anticipation of the day’s work can be felt. A hum of excitement in conversations can be heard throughout the room, accompanied by calming hip-hop music emitted from speakers seen at the head of the classroom.
Behind said speakers sits Mathew Scicluna, Tahoma’s visual arts teacher. As an art instructor and freelance artist, Mr. Scicluna enjoys teaching and holds many passions regarding the arts.
He claims his passions lie within “anything movement based, or aesthetics for artistic creativity.” This passion is clearly reflected in the classroom. A certain energy and enthusiasm is held during what could be monotonous lectures.
Being one of the most popular Expeditions classes at the school, the class is full, not only with students but with diligence and determination. Despite the apparent chaos of the room, with conversations and outburst of laughter frequently, it seems as if every student is productive and efficient, each possessing a folder filled with various pieces of artwork.
Mr. Scicluna’s responses display his dynamic personality as he lists his countless interests: “Obviously doing art, I am a twenty-year breakdancer; I’ve done gymnastics and martial arts, and I’m a yoga instructor.” The teacher also meditates regularly and dedicates much of his focus towards nutrition and dieting.
Nearly all of these passions have been sparked from an initial event in his past. Mr. Scicluna described his memory of this event “as crisp as a snowy day.” “There used to be a rollerskating rink, right down the street called Golden Street Roller Palace; but at the time it was called Roxy, and [my class] went there for a school event; and in the back there was a little tiny practice area for little kids, but no one used it; so the breakdancers would go every Friday night, and they would battle each other,” he explained.
He continued: “I remember very specifically seeing feet flying through the air and people going ‘OHHHH’ and just this culture I had never seen, and on the sidelines were people drawing in black books doing graffiti and all kinds of street art in their books and I was just so into what this culture was that I had never seen before and that’s what sparked the whole curiosity of art.”
Like a spark for a fire, the experiences Mr. Scicluna obtained via the roller skating rink initiated an immense cascade of passions over the following years. His devotions have not ceased growing and are continuously developing.
These devotions are currently propelled by Mr. Scicluna “never feeling like you’re going to be the best and that there’s always something to work on. You can never be the best … and as you get better, you grow as a person, too.”
Mr. Scicluna also believes society plays a role in his art. “Society fueled my passion for art by not always being understood by authorities or adults and not always having someone who is older and wiser than me giving the ability to teach me something and having to go to peers,” he explained.
“And even if peers didn’t have it, the answer I was looking for, finding it myself and then expressing it, whether it was on a two-dimensional drawing or whether it was in a three-dimensional form of dance,” Mr. Scicluna continued. Many pieces of art produced by the artist represent these expressions.
Similarly, Mr. Scicluna holds a strong opinion on social media and its impact on his art. “I feel that social media is a double-edged sword, because you can see things that we would never see 15 or 20 years ago. For example, breakdancing video or art videos on YouTube didn’t exist, so everything you were inspired by was local, but now you can see things that are happening all over the world at real time. And it’s awesome because we can learn so much faster.”
“But the double-edged side is that there’s so much competition, and it’s so easy to get down upon yourself thinking that you need to be as good or better than other people in comparison. So learning how to balance that inspiration at the same time of realizing you can only be yourself and do your best and you have your own ability to offer it really tricky,” he added.
Social media’s influence on current art is vast and will continue to grow. In agreement with Mr. Scicluna and according to Artwork Archive, “In the past year, over 80 percent of all Generation Y art buyers bought fine art online, with almost half of online buyers using Instagram for art-related purposes.” Social media is also changing art in other ways, such as street art.
As an artist who has generated assorted murals and pieces of street art, Mr. Scicluna deems street art as “one of the single most important things that people who have opinions can do without having some type of support system on why they’re doing it.”
“What I mean is that you’re not being paid by a corporation, you’re not being paid by a commission, you’re doing it strictly because it’s something you believe in and it’s powerful enough to risk your freedom to go out and produce your street art.” While driving downtown, that power for which people risk their freedom for can be clearly seen on San Jose’s walls and buildings.
“Now that’s like the illegal side of street art,” Mr. Scicluna said. “There’s also like the paid murals and stuff which is still so important, because … we’re very visual beings and as we’re moving through the world any little thing you see, whether it’s something you’ve seen 100 times, or whether it’s something you’ve seen one time, affects us. And a big mural on the street or a big sculpture, or even like a live performance can affect someone’s emotions and their balance so dramatically that it can send someone off into a whole new direction of the way they live their life.”
According to the Huffington Post, originating in Philadephia, then New York during the 1960s, street art has long been a way for individuals to express themselves. In contrast to graffiti, street art assists people in sharing their opinions whether it be political, social, etc.
Art, street art, dancing and graffiti foster a vastly unique environment. Said cultures invite participation from people encompassing the world, creating a place of shared emotions and opinions.
The following video, recorded and edited by Tahoma freshman Nethan Sivarapu, showcases Mr. Scicluna’s remarkable personality as an artist and teacher: