October 5, 2016

Wanda Raimundi Ortiz
“My favorite part of teaching- being able to bend minds!!
I love that “AHA!” moment in a young person’s eyes.”
The faculty at UCF serve not only as expert resources for students, but as representatives of the university in their respective fields. This week the Women’s and Gender Studies department interviewed someone who continuously embodies this role: Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz. Wanda serves as an Assistant Professor in Studio Art, as well as Associate Faculty in Graduate and Women’s and Gender Studies. Wanda creates art through a variety of mediums, including paintings, drawings, and performance art. Her work has been met with critical acclaim, including the BRIO Award and the Ralph Bunch Fellowship. In 2016, Wanda was a semifinalist in the National Portrait Gallery’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition in Washington, D.C. Her most recent work is a tribute to the Pulse shootings, focusing on the Latino heritage of many of the victims. Here, Wanda shares her thoughts on pursuing art as a career, following your dreams, and finding inspiration in race and gender.
Q: What first inspired you to pursue art?
A: I’ve been making art since I was a kid. I was inspired by comics in the newspaper, fashion illustration ads, Bob Ross, and the old masters. I was accepted to a really respected arts high school- it’s been a part of me that I could never ignore. Always creating and drawing. Art chose Me.
Q: How were you able to translate your artistic abilities into a career?
A: I think I did everything possible to not be an artist, since art making seemed to be much less practical than, say, working in an office. I did all kinds of other jobs that I was really lousy at! Mainly I was miserable trying to fit myself into the mold of the everyday work force; it wasn’t until another working artist that I’d met invited me to assist him in teaching art workshops in after school programs that I’d found a way to make a living that afforded me time to work in my studio. There was no turning back after that. After that, I only took jobs that offered flexible schedules, such as waitressing or teaching workshops and made art as often as I could afford. I started finding creative ways to get my work seen in public. People started to take notice and offered me more highly visible exhibition opportunities. I got good at teaching workshops and was able to sustain myself. The rest, as they say, is history.
Q: What advice would I give to someone that is hesitant to pursue their dreams?
A: If you have a dream that is tugging at you- listen to it. Don’t ignore it. Become the thing you want to be. We’ve only got one shot in these bodies. Take that chance.
Q: How do your experiences of race and gender translate into your artistic work?
A: It is the source of my work. My experiences as a Latina in the US has been the wellspring of my work, since it is a constant presence in my interactions with folks, especially after leaving New York City. The work is usually a response to a micro (or not so micro) aggression, conflicting experiences within my intersecting communities (high art vs urban/urban Latina vs academia etc). I use art to help me unpack, dissect, satirize, contest, or sometimes simply vent. It is my way of communicating.
Q: You have worked at UCF since 2010: what has been your favorite part about teaching and interacting with UCF students?
A: My favorite part of teaching- being able to bend minds!! I love that “AHA!” moment in a young person’s eyes. I love being able to help a student “crack the code”. The code is different every time. It challenges me to listen to my students, to be vigilant of their needs, and adapt my teaching strategies to get them to the place where my crazy ideas make total sense. Then, their work explodes with character, individuality, and deeper purpose. I absolutely love that moment. It keeps me excited about teaching- it’s what school was like for me and I am honored to pay that gift forward.
Check out Wanda’s website to see more of her incredible work and learn about her exhibitions!