Erica Opstad and Keith Opstad

Recorded January 22, 2020 Archived January 23, 2020 36:11 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: ddf000459


Erica Opstad (49) speaks with her husband and best friend Keith Opstad (48) about the people who fostered artistic interests in their childhood, Keith's impact as a high school arts teacher, and the lessons they take from these experiences into parenting and their daily family life.

Subject Log / Time Code

KO and EO speak about parents and educators who fostered their interest in art. EO recalls organizing and hosting a mock Olympic Opening Ceremony at school in the 6th grade.
KO speaks about making the decision to be an art educator, and expresses his love of fostering creativity in other kids by building problem solving and alternative thinking skills. EO speaks about the way KO inspires their son to do what he loves, and his role as a coach for students.
EO recalls first meeting KO, and the first time they brought their son to the New Children's Museum. They discuss the fluidity of "unstructured play" in the museum, and how inclusive it is for children to explore curiosity and creativity.
EO and KO discuss the growth they've seen in both the museum and KO's students. KO discusses empathy vs. sympathy and the way he embraces students' desires to try to make a living from art.
EO and KO speak about encouraging others to explore art, and being an example for others with their attitude of being "kids at heart." They discuss the way KO teaches students with various methods and promoting a "can do" mindset.
KO speaks about his role on the city's arts commission, and his passion. KO and EO discuss how the "power of play" brings diverse cultures together, and how it has shaped the city of San Diego. They discuss the need for more "craft"-oriented educational experiences, and different learning styles.
They speak about cultural events in San Diego, such as the comic book conventions they enjoy. They share praise for the museum staff and recall some favorite moments at the museum's gala.
KO and EO share their hopes for their son's future and their gratitude for art in their lives.


  • Erica Opstad
  • Keith Opstad

Recording Location

The New Children's Museum

Venue / Recording Kit

Partnership Type

Fee for Service


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00:01 My name is Erica opstad. I'm 49 years old. Today is January 22nd 2020. I'm at the new Children's Museum in San Diego and I am here with my wonderful husband Keith.

00:15 My name is Keith opstad. And I'm 48 years old. Today is January 22nd 2020. We are the new Children's Museum and the person that I'm interviewing today is Erica opstad my best friend.

00:29 Repeat when you were growing up, what did you want to become and who inspired you to kind of get that spark?

00:39 Yeah, I've been able to draw since I could walk and my parents are both Educators. They sponsor that creativity but really when I got into elementary school, I had to absolutely amazing Educators who really gave me an opportunity to become an artist and explore that because there's not something that I was right in line with my like I said child of teachers. They didn't know how to be an artist. We didn't have a lot of artists friend. They didn't know, what to do with me really not the first time definitely not the last but this is hardly a realized in first grade that I could draw better than she could and so I got to teach the class how to draw a present Lincoln as part of present-day weekend back in the day and actually still have the piece. I'm in then fast forward a couple years to 5th grade at a wonderful teacher for 5th grade. That was mrs. Jane knecht Nekoosa who's no longer with us, but she really fostered. My heart encouraged me to take risks really promote the quality of work that I was doing in 5th grade and gave me my first one man art show in the library.

01:39 You gotta open it up and was an open house like a back to school and people walked around and and and made comments and people didn't know that something I could do and it was really cool that a teacher took the time to Foster that interest in me. And that really that was a mom. Like I want to be an artist on your parents probably being Educators to they probably saw that and they can probably figure out how to help you along which is really good and same question. Do you want to become was 1984? I was in sixth grade and the Olympics for coming to California. They were going to be in Los Angeles and I went to a really great school where Sister Barbara Jones. She was my are my elementary school teacher. I was in sixth grade. We went K through 8, the Sister Barbara Jones and said America you really love to be creative. Let's do something to celebrate the Olympics. So giving me

02:34 Although the power to do whatever I wanted. I created a parade of a flag parade with all of the grades the students created their own Flags. We made the metals out of paper mache. I called the fire department and ask them to come and help do a relay with a Fleer Flair which was our baton. It was our our torch and we lit a barbecue which flame for the rest of the day, but it was the first time that a teacher really let me be as creative as possible use resources all around me and she also really encouraged me to bring the community into it. So having the fire department, they're having the police department there. It was just a really great way to celebrate a pretty cool opportunity that came into our community.

03:22 But you know that inspiration it leads us places. And I know for you Keith you mentioned that the teachers and the art Educators that you were introduced to but where did that inspiration actually lead you thought was your path in your journey.

03:55 Growing up in San Diego. I knew that I wanted to pursue something in the Arts just didn't know what it was going to be and at my parents didn't want me to be a starving artist. And so the graphic design major Cal State Long Beach for my undergrad got my teaching credential there. I'm and I will keep working with young people at the time. And that funny thing is as much as I want to be an artist in and change the world and it didn't make these really cool logos and people recognize my work but I really did it is a loved working with young people and and still be an artist and so being an art educator with a natural combination of those two skill sets. So became an art educator graduated Kelsey Long Beach got a job teaching in Poway Unified Ceramics than one of the drawing painting AP Studio Art and now 25 years as an artichoke catering Poway Unified. I still not sure what I'm going to do when I grow up but what I love is having kids come in my class who have this either preconceived notions what they can or cannot do or what art is supposed to be and what I do is I

04:55 Basically open their eyes to what it can be and has a great quote by Walt Disney says, I don't know what art but I know I like it and that can be anything arts and culture related whether it's dance whether it's the symphony Music Theater Fine Arts, whatever happens to be so we get these kids to be able to open their eyes and their minds to the world around them and become thinkers. One of the optimism is IU's is memorize the rules and learn to break and not to create children of Anarchy or anything like that. But there's in Arthur so there's not a black and a white way of doing it for show me different ways of creating a really well educated guess or solution. How am I going to do create this composition? How am I get more colors? Am I going to choose how to get the kids or high school kids to be able to do this and just see them bellossom even that the shy one also can stand up in front of people are someone who had a speech impediment Sunday gets in front of a class can do a 5:10 to speak without even stuttering whatsoever. It just gives me goosebumps and likes and that's why I continue going to work and will

05:55 Being an artichoke it just walking into your classroom. You can feel that I mean first of all is probably the most artistically decorated I've ever seen my favorite thing in your class Jimbo is your ghost a Bob Ross which when you do your landscape teaching Bob Ross is channeled through you and you said that's that's one of my favorite things in your classroom and you're upset doesn't of course, you know, I also really love when you bring our son to your classroom. There are times when he comes home from that day. So inspired the scratchboard painting that he made you know, those things he's watching you do something you love and

06:41 Honestly Keith, it's going to be the greatest thing for him and his life to see a parent doing what they love and teaching other people and inspiring them. You'll find something that you got some natural ability for find something that you're passionate about and find something you can make a paychecks. You're not a mom and dad the daimyo for the rest of your life and we can find something like that. It's a magical thing cuz it's really not work. It's your doing something that you love when I'm canceling my might my parents at back to school night. I I know I spend some of them that way I tell him his head look has never been a better time to be a working artist. I so there's no such thing as starting artist. You're starving artist. You're not a good artist. Number one. You're not a good businessperson. It's a lifestyle choice or some combination the first three and what I'm doing is saying luck if we value for artists, we should properly compensate them and whether you're a designer you're working in film. You're a colorist you're setting up a window display in in in a shop you're using the elements and

07:41 Is R22 make a living doing what you're what you're enjoying and making the world a better place 1998 and we met and the conversation we had you would just come off of doing a video tape. It was part of what you were making money and it isn't too you know, I'm working at the teacher but the conversation we had and then the realization through just conversation between you and I that we both really like the superheroes that you don't came out and from there, you know, they grew into this friendship and the flood that we've had forever and that's kind of the start of our own artistic journey in a way. I'm even from the day that you sent the tape to my parents which was mission impossible to find it. It's right to marry me.

08:41 And you know growing into the couple that we were being really actively involved in the community.

08:51 But being a actively involved in the community at unit came from the work that I do as a community investor is a grant maker and the way I think about that. We as a family have been able to enjoy some really interesting experiences. And the one that always strikes me is the when the new children's museum opened up and I think about it because not only did we have a small child and just come into the world, you know, one of the greatest gifts we could have ever had but it was the day that I walked into the building and I remember going downstairs very distinctly and even coming here today for the interview. You saw me peek over the edge didn't you and what I was watching but down on the bottom floor, is it a space where kids can explore and they can create with unstructured play it is the way I grew up. It's you know, bunch of fabric and things that you put together, you know, you create your gypsy costume or whatever it was and you use your imagination and soul.

09:51 I saw that I felt like this is the kind of place. I want my child to be it's an asset to our community and with the new children's museum building. I mean, it was just an amazing experience. So having to share that with the family was one of the best things when we brought her little guy here for the first time. We just looked at the pictures. I mean, he's just he is like just blowing through the through every single but sound for me when I think about our journey is a family when I think about the art experiences, we've had the places that we've been within the city. This one stands out for me and you even before the new children museum. I had been here at the Children's Museum and this was probably the mid-90s where a group of other art teachers and I we came down here just looking different areas in in powys only 30 minutes north, but it's a totally different environment than it is downtown. And in this is you in the mid-90s San Diego downtown was not what it is. Now. This was just a big open warehouse and a bunch of parking lots.

10:51 And an old buildings in this country this complete Resurgens and I got to tell you I hate you in just a senior instructor play and what I did might take away the day was your not every school has an art teacher and I have been very fortunate my career to non-league have a job as an art teacher but there have been several apps on the same campus so we can collaborate and bounce ideas off each other end of a kids falling through the cracks a little we can usually kind of help lift them up, but it's a really amazing thing is so down here. This has has provided so many thousands of kids over the last several decades tens of thousands of kids the opportunity to be a kid, you know, when I think about this Museum, it's it's think and it's funny because that's a very similar Mantra do I have my classroom? Mine is mine is think have fun in create of is your kids that would not have that experience cuz you know what they were probably born and put on this planet to be an artist, but if they do,

11:51 Have that option to be creative and express themselves and interact with people of different colors in ages and in Dynamics Bell never turn into a reach their potential huge need for all of San Diego for so many years, but I agree with you that it became a game-changer when we started our own family and our own journey and you would be able to come in I refer to the museum has been very fluid because you go to Disneyland and you know, what experience is always going to be the same I grew up going to museums in Balboa Park where you were allowed to look but not touch to have a museum during hurts to touch you you're supposed to make a mess. It's so against but many of us grew up with and that's a fantastic thing to be able to push her own boundaries as a human being and also as an artist to see those experiences Through The Eyes of a then two year old and a 13 year old. It is really cool. And it's been it's Museum many times and it's never been the same experience continues to change and evolve and presenting new opportunities to expand

12:52 I couldn't agree more and when I think also about what that did in our connection to the museum I feel like this is a it's a similar path for a lot of people when you start to really touched the exhibit be a part of the exhibit explore the exhibit you've actually become part of of the museum and threw that our connection grew by being more philanthropic with Museum and you know providing our own giving to the museum attending the most amazing wonderful parties I've ever been to in my life and drawing our friends in right there are friends of ours that don't have children but even the experience to know that this is here and when they have nieces and nephews come into town they have a place to take them at a safe place right to have fun of course in her children however it is experienced I saw grandparents out there laughing and having fun and little teeny tiny ones that are still in diaper

13:52 Running around and squealing noise that just sound that is very unique to this amazing Museum. You know, what's the next phase and where is it going to take us and one of the things I've loved watching you over the years is how you've grown with your students to provide them different experiences. And you know we talked about this earlier was one of the things that you do is the speed paintings and and I have to say this Keith, you know, I grew up in more in the sports and in high school and there's a cheerleader and we got to dance in front of the school. You gave your students an opportunity to show how would an artist does by putting those force-feed paintings in each corner of the gym and let them show their talent and their art it's amazing and I think that that recognition and what you've done for your kids to be able to have that instagrammable moment. It's a wonderful thing and it makes

14:52 Show more part of the campus.

14:55 I'm with went to high school went away came back in after 25 years of sexy to talk to my kids today about empathy vs. Sympathy and an understanding that comment experience that yes, you might be wearing different clothes. You might be listening to different types of music and that was when they refer to 80s his old music and I had to Enlighten them. But anyway,

15:19 It's really easy to put on your hoodie and be quiet and sit in the back of the room and just be there and then look for that clocked in and then rinse repeat that hold a start over again to find something that is cuz like I said a genuinely good out there. There are so passionate about that as a parent. That's what you want your children to have in NM Thrive with but you had to see those kids that are whether they're traditional athlete or whatever. They leave Embrace that part about high school experience of 270 do a painting in front of 2200 peairs is incredible. I am in 45 minutes. Enter something that makes Westview unique but it's in a memorable experiences kids will never forget you and it's also something that I love to share with other people across the country. I've had an opportunity to see other children's museum Discovery type museums and I do have to say we've got a jam here and one of the really interesting programs I saw out there was really teaching the Arts on that's her the business of Art and you know when it be wonderful here someday to be able to showcase.

16:19 That with the students and show them how they go about doing that. You you paint murals and you bring your students along you show them how to price they're doing and just all of those intersections to me is part of the community and who we are but it's also helping the students kind of grow and nurture a potential career going to work with or alongside have been wonderful. Are you and I think that in order to really Embrace that and continue to get better and demonstrate or even have street cred as I would call my classroom. I didn't pick him up cuz I wasn't could make as an artist I am I guess you do very well as hard as bad as an art educator. I really loved that job. So as you said when I when I'm painting murals during the summer and I'm employing my former students. It's really fun to put my baseball hat on backwards and go out and paint and I've got kids to come back from to have those kids.

17:19 Paint a straight line on stucco. This is how you work with a client to teach all those things. I only learned that by accident or these kids now after a couple Summers can go off and do their own thing. And I honestly I get sad when I don't have that connection with my kids anymore, but then I was going to get an email or text out of the blue saying hey mister. Oh just so you know, I graduated work as an artist. I just did my first mural I use the same paint that you taught me how to do I didn't get paid until my client was 1% happy. I never use a color straight out of the can like listen to all those things that you're not sure if young people are actually paying attention and that's just a goosebump moment where you like while you're going to do amazing and thank you for the compliment inspired us and then we were inspired here at new children's museum.

18:12 But one of the things I love about our relationship and our marriage and our family is how we Inspire our friends and our neighbors and we were talking about this the other day with just the group of neighbors. And that is we inspire people to decorate more around Halloween. We we've got the haunted mansion house with the paintings of stretching portraits the whole nine yards absolute and people come they walk into the house. They see what's new every year those big batch of soup to share with our neighbors and their people who we literally have we only see once a year at Halloween has Brad Pitt. That's what they were saying. Is that being a kid at heart and having that I don't want to say courage that might sound a little funky but just having that, you know hate we can do this and it tonight.

19:12 Goofy, or geeky or anyting else? But it is really does inspire our friends and the other piece of that is it enriches Our Lives who has a Thanksgiving where you dress up like a viking and you eat giant turkey legs and everybody's there in costume having a really great time. But, you know each of those themes for Thanksgiving it brings kind of a new food and it always brings an art project. And so that's something that we do you think about all the years and all the crafts that we've done with the kids that this year was but the shields teenagers and what they want to just be on electronics and and and and do whatever but the funny thing is that are Viking themed Thanksgiving like a is is mr. Rogers dead or is Blake's dad can be doing the arts and crafts in full on wooden Viking Shield jazz singers. They learn how you see some power to life and it rained. It was like it never rains in San Diego.

20:12 So I can everyone I was wearing a cape and still pull it all together. It's exactly what happens in the museum Edith Elsa dress up weathered superheroes are the Village People all of those things. Just kind of for me. I love this life as a big part of my Heart chords for like we had a Google to see what you look like not to make up with your silver makeup dresses, mr. Freeze or as as Wonder Woman or in your heart growing so you can never quite know what we're going to be doing next.

21:12 You know it all comes back to me for that that creative ability to bring that all together and bite people and not make it scary rides make it something where one of the things that people say is. I can't even draw a stick figure and I think to myself will okay, that's fine. But there are other things you can do when you have an imagination and it maybe that's your musical. It might be like you said earlier there's different forms of art, but even when you sit them down and you give them a bunch of material and they create oh, what did we do that when you're at Easter we made hats out of Easter baskets, and I think Amy still has hers and she it's like it's the most glorious thing. I was at boho chic thing and that she walked around with that thing on her head all afternoon. I'm color-blind. I said, what does this one say? This one says yellow. This one says blue. Yes. Yes. Yes.

22:12 I said are you really colorblind feel like I'm not colorblind. I was joshing and like totally fine assistant make me green. Okay, you are an app that you're fairly competitive how many different greens can you make and so this child went from I can mix green to they want and send me a couple kids Behind there's a comeback find healthy competition like this. Can I do this? I said go for it and we had it. It looks like a Home Depot Swatch on the table get there about a thousand different Greek take someone that thought they couldn't do something and show them only. Can you do it? You can do it better than anyone else this last year when you got to join the Arts commission was probably one of the proudest moments for me. I've been actively involved in the community for the 22 years that I've been with my my company.

23:12 U.s. Bank, which has been great, but prior to that I'd been at the city and new the importance of our commissions and our commissioners and no honey. I I will say I'm so proud of you and just makes me happy when I think about Willie what made you want to do things Beyond just power unified and so when the opportunity came up to read some of the application for the arts and culture commission, I thought wow what a really cool on between those so out of my comfort zone. And so I think that's another thing that's really important you to continue taking risks and you're not going to be successful at all of them, but you're also not going to grow as an individual or person if you don't at least taste take some of those risks and you definitely did that you offer your expertise which is different than other parts of the commission, which is really do appreciate how diverse they have the different backgrounds of the people that are on it.

24:12 It does for our city and our community is it makes it an opportunity for all types of Arts to come into play and funding things that are small medium large whatever they are, but it's that I think was a moment for me watching you get sworn in with the Daisy Ted. That's pretty fancy. The more maybe teachers could have those opportunities are baby step outside themselves to offer some of that time would be pretty awesome to If people could could take that that opportunity because when I think about you know, what inspired us what inspires are friends now what inspires the community what I love about the power of play is that it brings diverse cultures together and I see this in my work everyday, I see it with the team that I lead Across the Nation. That's I think probably the greatest thing that I have is I get to see this art and this will work in cities all

25:12 Around whether you know, it's an urban core or a rural community. I love that Arts brings those people together. It allows people have a conversation at the most advanced civilizations have still in common with the most primitive. So whether it is clothing, whether it's dance music food art, the ferryman in every group has a fried donut of some sort right away or whatever that is, but that for me, it's I look at how awesome is that we get to live in a place that open set up and down but we have some really cool opportunities here and our weather is spectacular, but you know culturally we aren't and your we aren't Chicago. We we are in San Francisco, but our weather is much better. We surely could be and just

26:12 Your sign you're not in any of the quality of our arts and education if we help to promote that everybody benefits to Walt Disney record that I said earlier. If Symphony isn't your thing you love the Opera if it fine arts isn't your thing but you love the culinary arts. There is literally something for anybody on any given weekend in San Diego and that's what I love so much about the city and raising her family to touch and learn and really growing like I mentioned earlier and he goes into your classroom learns a skill and Neighbor Next Door brings over a skill and if she does is little mini art things that he loves that he's now in that seat the theater program where he's building the sets and that is just awesome. So yesterday and respecting the tools. Fearing them.

27:12 Phillips and flathead screwdriver as a community as a new Children's Museum and is it the opposite family? I have to wonder what the next you know thing is going to be and when I think about the new children's museum they've touched on some of the digital they've touched on you know, the the technology the stem programs, but at the end of the day when you use your hands and you just have as we said you can get messy I still think that there is such high value in that and I do my my future view really is that that's going to come back that more people are going to take that time and I am maybe you call it an arts and crafts and it's a more of a craft two people will it start? And so I thought that's what I see in the future for this museum is that it will continue to have some

28:12 Technology experience, but you can't not have two hands and eyes in mind in it. There are so many kids do not ever because of visual or auditory hearing you hand me those kinesthetic learner the ones that can build your cabinets to fix your plumbing that that can see something and see if vision for a fence to Define. Your house is an idea the new children's museum School trade school. There we go. And it will you looking very different in 10 years than it does today has the San Diego's change as the culture changes and it will continue to give traditional as well as Contemporary Art experiences to children of all ages. I will also say that we've got really great conventions that come into town which allow us to explore our inner superhero.

29:12 Comic book hero have some wonderful things happening here. But I love the comic book convention and you're being married to you and meeting you when we first met and you telling me what you were dressed up as as Halloween the year before we were both characters in the same movie and I love it. I love it with our family. It's something that we get to go out and walk around I can walk around like Wonder Woman no one knows who I am, but you know, that's cool. I do love it. I think it's one of the things that the city has grown and the new children's museum being right across the street from all of the action. They've open the space up. They've had all sorts of great displays and activities, but it's by far one of my favorite. I can't wait for next year because Wonder Woman 1984 is coming out as I said, you know 1984 is when I had my first big creative experience in with my Olympic parade.

30:12 What time I'm looking forward to it. I am.

30:16 I agree and like I said when the entire downtown area is transformed and that middle to third week in July. It's magically have to go inside the convention center to experience it. Never know what you're going to see cultural artistic experiences cosplay literally something for everybody or everyone in the museum staff is so great to open up the doors to me to supporting the activities and you know about this beautiful place the people inside of it make it but it is Judy Forester has just been a gem and somebody who's grown the museum into a thriving thriving organization and I am I'm so proud of every single person. I know what it takes and when you walk in especially on a really on a rainy day, we don't get many of those but on a day where there are tons of kids in here.

31:16 They just keep the ball rolling. So that's another piece of of the museum that always impresses me every single time. I come even today when we walked in. Like I said, there's a little girl say that the grandma the grandmother and then it was the little girl and then it was just a fun conversation to find dialog in you I think sometimes museums and get bad raps about you and not being for everybody. This is in the museum for the people for everybody for the kids for the adults for the young at heart of the new children's museum.

31:54 When it opened and Blake was about to

31:59 There was a Volkswagen bug on the bed exterior patio and kids were invited to paint it and they are already been about 20 coats of paint on it and that got to where you could barely even Define what part was underneath but kids want to come back with a different color paint and had more to and see if they left a mark from previous. That was a really cool part.

32:24 I've been so many exhibits over the years design 14 tiny ones. There was a couple exhibits at the team Cafe that gave team something to do during eating rather than you and getting getting in trouble or doing something out in the community and it was really open beyond by the typical hours. Would it be and I was kind of a game-changer cuz the 7925 know who said museums ever had to be open during that time the events at the museum has put together to really showcase all of the parts of the museum. Every year there. Annual Gala is one that I never miss and it is something there's something for everybody that attend but you know, we've dressed up like everything that you can imagine to come to them Village People this last year we were tecnu people superheroes, but my my one memory that just makes me laugh so much to this day was being at the I think it might have been the superhero Gala and they auctioned off a it was what was it 8 Playhouse

33:24 Yet what would Jesus eat Yaks? Okay, maybe I don't. And there was a like a Willy Wonka golden ticket so you can buy tickets and have your first choice all the architect who designed the museum made a playhouse. There was a sporting event. They're all different ones. Well are large table the ladies and stood up to excuse themselves off the table and the two gentlemen were there and Todd won the tickets and they said will what do you want and we look who's on my I don't know what I what do you want? I should take that. I don't know and like you got two young kids me to take the playhouse. It's really cool. So I need to be picked the playhouse right as his wife comes out of the building and about 5 When We Were Young.

34:11 Fashion way into the nice thing is that went for the weekend for his wife still doesn't speak to me 10 years later, but that's okay. They had a wonderful experience. You know, that's as I look through and I'm looking forward to the years to come and even unite I can see our son may be working here someday, you know who his love and passion for art, you know, that might be a future. Maybe he'll be the executive director. Who knows that I think that's very possible but it's it's a pleasure bad for me just to watch it grow and really when I think about the job, I do the the donations we made over the years every single one of them has really resonated. We've done a lot with in a military families, you know, you mentioned it's a military town. This is such a great

35:11 Opportunity for parents to come and unwind watch their kids in a squeal and just love life. So for me Keith, I am really grateful that this is part of my life, right? It's just it's there's not a moment. That doesn't go by that we don't have something artistic going on in our in our home in our neighborhood colleagues. Our neighbors my students. It's definitely a part of our lives. But if I was to ask a question,

35:47 That may be the last question. What are we going to be when we grow up?

35:55 Superheroes

35:58 I love you.