Whether encouraging her students to preserve their cultural traditions through art, or giving back to the community at Plaza de al Raza, Monica (Perez) Bucknam is making a difference at Pasadena Christian School (PCS) and its preschool as a professional artist, and Latina.
MONICA (PEREZ) BUCKNAM- THE ARTIST
Originally born Monica Ofelia Perez, Bucknam is a first generation Mexican-American who grew up with the rich cultural traditions of her parent’s homeland. From speaking Spanish as her first language, to cooking authentic recipes handed down from her grandmother, Mexico and the bonds of family are still part of who she is today.
A native of City Terrace in East Los Angeles, Bucknam considers herself privileged to carry generations of Mexican values, while also being American.
Bucknam’s family relocated to Alhambra during her early childhood years where she quickly assimilated and became English-fluent by second grade. Living just a few blocks away from El Sereno allowed Bucknam and her family to further preserve their heritage. Having access to Mexican markets, and being surrounded by other native Spanish speakers, encouraged Bucknam to find balance between her native roots and an American lifestyle.
Traditional Mexican arts were also vital to her upbringing. She spent several years attending art, ballet folklorico dance, music, and ceramics classes at Plaza de la Raza, a Mexican cultural arts center situated in the heart of East Los Angeles. Eventually, she would return as an “alumni” to teach drawing and painting classes for four years.Although Bucknam’s parents worked hard to preserve their heritage, they also recognized that society in the United States is a melting pot of cultures. This is an important life lesson that she has never forgotten, and continues to inspire her work as a professional artist and teacher. She also strives to instill this lesson in her students which range from preschool to college age.
Bucknam is a professional designer, artist and the founder and Creative Director of Narrative, a graphic design and architecture co-op based in Los Angeles. She is currently teaching art at Pasadena Christian Preschool, in addition to serving as part of the Adjunct Faculty at Woodbury University where she teaches design courses in the Architecture Graduate Department.
During a time when schools across the nation continue to cut their arts programs, Bucknam is leveraging this valuable educational tool.
“As an art educator, I believe it’s important to recognize the valuable emotional and developmental growth that is fostered in children by creating visual art, while appreciating it’s aesthetic qualities,” stated Monica (Perez) Bucknam. “As a Latina, I also think it’s important to teach students to celebrate their own heritage through art- and the beauty of other cultures around the world. Embracing all nationalities and cultures is art in itself.”
Typically, Bucknam focuses on art from cultures around the world, instruments and seasonal changes while teaching her budding young artists at Pasadena Christian Preschool. From traditional mariachi music and flamenco, to French, Celtic and African rhythms, Bucknam also believes in the educational value of world music. As one of her best practices, Bucknam aims to incorporate traditional music specific to the art and culture she is teaching as part of the curriculum to heighten the experience. During Hispanic Heritage Month, Bucknam is teaching her students about legendary Mexican painter Diego Rivera.
Over the past 15 years, she has also worked as an award-winning conceptual art director for the film and television industry. Among the entertainment entities she has collaborated with include HBO, CBS, USA Networks, Disney Studios, Universal, Producer Eduardo Sanchez, and currently, DreamWorks.
Like many first generation Hispanics, Bucknam was instilled with a strong work ethic that emphasized education as a means to attaining the American Dream. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design from Woodbury University, as well as, a minor in Art.
ABOUT PASADENA CHRISTIAN SCHOOL-For over 67 years, Pasadena Christian School (PCS) has been empowering students in the San Gabriel Valley to “grow… soar… excel” by offering Christian-based academic training from preschool through junior high. Fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), and the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), PCS is an interdenominational, independent school centrally located on nine acres in the heart of northwest Pasadena. The campus has dedicated facilities for preschool, elementary and junior high plus a gymnasium and athletic field.
Student life is enriched by state-of-the art classrooms, two art studios, science and computer labs, a new library, and a nationally recognized outdoor curriculum at the preschool campus. In addition to core academics, PCS is dedicated to developing the whole child. The school offers a well-rounded education where students benefit from dedicated instruction in fine arts, computer science, foreign language, and music, which includes instrumental and choral. Public speaking and performance skills are introduced and reinforced at an early age. Junior high students can choose from a variety of electives including drama, yearbook, debate, fashion design, woodshop, cooking and photography. An award-winning athletic program focusing on basketball, football, softball, volleyball and cheer rounds out student options. Graduates from PCS are accepted to prestigious high schools where they continue to be life-long learners and thrive in the classroom. The majority of PCS students pursue a University education.
Pasadena Christian School takes pride in its culturally and socially diverse community and admits students of any race, color or national origin. Additional information can be found at www.pasadenachristian.org.