Javier Robelo ’22

TOSS, Morganton, NC

Javier Robelo '22 on laptopThis summer I had the wonderful opportunity of interning at The Old School Studio (TOSS), an art studio located in Morganton, North Carolina. I was drawn to this internship due to my previous interest in art education and my commitment to exploring art-making as a vehicle for change. TOSS was started as an after-school studio and has expanded to include art events, workshops, and public art initiatives that generate new opportunities, 
foster community, and empower individuals.

After the first conversation with TOSS, the studio’s distinguished mission of leading and sparking collaborative and direct impact in their communities was clear to me. Throughout the summer, I had the opportunity of not only witnessing but participating first hand in their use of creativity and art for transformative ends. Through a series of assigned readings provided to me by my supervisor, I learned about what they do and how they do it. Given that they wouldn’t be able to host their in-studio summer camp due to Covid-19 restrictions, TOSS was looking for alternative ways to take the art learning experiences to the student’s homes and thus, I was tasked with developing a series of video art-making lessons. This was an interesting experience as I had to limit myself to materials that were readily available at the student’s homes and things that could be easily reproduced for them to be engaging in a remote format. I developed videos where students could learn to create a colorful sculpture of a monster or a geometric mural with nothing else than a cereal box, scissors and markers. This pushed me to develop new skills such as video production and instilled in me a new appreciation for archiving my own artistic process.

In line with TOSS’s commitment to their community, each intern was expected to work alongside one of their partners, other organizations and institutions in the Morganton community who shared their commitment to social impact and bettering their landscape. I choose to work with Little Guatemala, a small family business in Morganton. I was determined to utilize my previous experience with graphic design to help them in any way possible. I worked to develop a flyer for the indoor soccer field they were inaugurating soon. I also produced a series of illustrations that highlighted the five main aspects of Guatemalan culture that they sought to share: coffee, chocolate, soccer, street food, and crafts. 
I hoped that my colorful and graphic illustrations could effectively capture the equally colorful spirit of their 
small business.

While at times the remote aspect of the internship felt somewhat challenging, I cannot deny that this was an incredibly enriching learning experience for me. I am thankful for the generosity of Dr. Shern and Ms. Lee, the support from the ’68 Center for Career Exploration, as well as TOSS for making this opportunity possible; I found it very inspiring to learn how impactful work through the arts can continue at times like this.