Megan Dickerson and Paola Villaseñor
DescriptionFriends and colleagues Paola "Panca" Villaseñor (33) and Megan Dickerson (40) sit down to talk about their relationships to art, art memories that shaped them, and what it means to them to work with and for children.
Subject Log / Time Code
Recording LocationThe New Children's Museum
Partnership TypeFee for Service
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00:01 Okay. Hi. I'm I'm fine, I'm 33 years old today is January 23rd 2020. We're at the new Children's Museum and I'm here with Megan and she is my loyal curator. Oh my God. So uncomfortable to say that it is Megan Dickerson. Today is January 23rd and 40.
00:35 I turned 40. I'm at the new Children's Museum and I'm with Ponca and she is my loyal artistic servant.
00:46 We both yes. Yes.
00:53 So I already chose one question and it's pretty open. But who are what first brought you to the museum first thing that brought me to this Museum was actually my best friend like that one friend that you was asleep. Best friend likes pill. Still talk to her but you know, we both have our own lives, but I will never forget her her mom would take us on these outings and one of them was to the Spaghetti Factory and then we came to the Children's Museum and it was like the most amazing time ever. Like I didn't even know how to describe it to my parents when I got back. I was like, oh my God, I think it was the first time I had ever been in a such a interactive Museum ever, you know, ever ever. So it was definitely it marked me. So my my friend's parents brought me. So yeah, that would have been
01:53 And he was 92 93. So I think that this location had just opened at that point. So it was probably the crazy Warehouse. Yes. It was a warehouse. Yeah, and I remember very much the what we had to wear. It was like these suits like these little like, you know kind of like dexterous foods, but there it was so cool cuz you and you felt more immersed into the situation your leg while I'm painting this like car and getting it all over and it's okay so difference from school, you know, they had to be careful and everything. So it was really neat. I mean just the act of putting on this suit that you've never worn in this place that you'd never been. I mean, I wonder what made you feel comfortable doing that, you know, this is all new things all at once. Yeah. I think it was it was a loud and that's something that you know hanging out at the Museum talking to the people that work here. They've told me that it had to tell parents at a lot of things are okay and I think for me
02:53 Am I household has very strict and my friend hurt her house is a little more, you know laid-back open and so the fact that you know, I was with them. I felt a little more at ease and more myself and then not only that but then they take me to this Museum where I like you can paint in like actually that's the point. So I was really cool and you got spaghetti. Yeah. So yeah, I mean what else so how did you get started as an artist then we'll around that same time. I think even that same year. I mean there was an artist there is an artist is very well-known hearing wildin and I remember he came to my school and he painted the mural right outside of my classroom and I are just remember just like the teacher was hot like
03:53 Walking in shortly blah blah blah cuz I kept thinking the the mural is was like, oh my God, he's hanging outside right now. And the teacher is like talking to me and I was like like not even like listening to me like a Charlie Brown. So I think that made me realize that I loved murals and then also my parents took me to a few museums in Mexico City, there's tons of murals and you know in the city, so all that combined I think around that time I I just realized that it was just something I did, you know, whenever I was alone or bored and my siblings were a lot older than me. So I was alone a lot so it was kind of like something I used to do to pass the time and to entertain myself and also to kind of keep myself busy and it was also like a nervous thing. I think I did and I also realized I did it to relate to adults because I was around adults Allah
04:53 And so I couldn't really, you know, keep a conversation, you know with an adult but I could like show them images and kind of communicate with them and my family said that I would do that like drawing on napkins and my family they would play Domino a lot and just drink coffee and like me no smoke cigarettes. And so I would just like to slip the napkins like a cloud of smoke in Lego napkin with the drawing, you know, and I think I would do that to my uncles and my grandparents. It was like sitting around table or dislike. Tiny Ponca. Yeah. Yeah. There's a couple I wish I would have kept all those those notebooks. But I remember I drew them listen to we go to Mexico because it was a time that I was like alone alone with just adults like like eight year old people and four
05:53 In 60 in a box and my cousins were off doing things. So I was alone a lot and I would just fill these books with drawings and I have a couple of them but they're just like people doing things like, you know, I love to animal also a lot of like I would I think I would like kind of draw what was going on stuff like that, you know, very similar to what I do. Now. It's kind of funny. It's like nothing you've changed and play a lot of what we enjoyed doing his kids is what we really are at Gatwick or that thing continues and some people get to continue doing that kind of play and then some people just seem to forget about it seems like you've been able to continue that into now this really great career. Yeah. It's it's it's fine. It's it's really cool to meet places like this that you know, that kind of encouraged that and then you get in touch with that and then it opens up a whole part of you that you're like, okay, this is cool. You can you know help other people.
06:53 Will find it. So yeah. Yeah when I think about you I think about you as a really good Observer and watch her right I thinking about that, you know the degree of detail on the faces that you draw, you know, each one is different and you feel comfortable in that role as kind of an observer, right? Yeah. Definitely. It's sometimes I don't realize how much I observed some time with my calm. And you know, when you observe you you're just constantly learning learning so it's it's kind of a kind of great. But yeah, he can't turn it off is Oscar. I guess but when we first met with you, it's cooked. So that was two years ago. Yes. What were you thinking cuz we kind of cold called you. I think we could you have Instagram or Diana had contacts here like yeah. What were you expecting? What did you think this is going to be? Well, I mean, I I thought you guys were going to like offer me. I don't know what the job at the store or something.
07:53 No idea like I had no idea, you know just might my artist was soaked my art is and very visible and raw and in so many ways that but I always felt like I was connected to like my inner child. So when you guys called me, I was just like God hello like okay, you know like it was cool. I was super excited and right away. I actually called my friend. I was like Ashley guess what, you know, like, you know this and that and and she's she's kind of like, you know in the background like rooting for me cuz she's super excited about it. But I mean, I was super super overwhelmed and I thought wow this is definitely something that I feel like a seed, you know, like I felt like it was it wasn't me to like yeah. I like this gig. I just felt like something that if it was going to work out it was going to grow and slowly and it really did it took a minute. But with the first project it's it's been really great. So, I don't know so far. It's been my best experience name.
08:53 Yeah, you guys are really great to work with really great to work with the whole team. So it's it's great when you kind of sort of know right and it's it's weird that probably sounds funny. But the it's like dating you just you made me know you made an art as soon as this makes sense, and I think we were talking about
09:14 Anna Pee-wee's Playhouse in Robocop or whatever immediately and it just felt like I was Jill and Diana and you and your friend was with you I think but yeah and it's funny because sometimes they didn't like the best things here have started slowly where you kind of get to know each other a little bit because I think trust is a big part of what makes this possible here. Yes, because we do is this different right? If you do a commission for a store or another Museum, I'm usually at Sears of all work on the wall, but here it's it's different like me. It's like get to know the environment and get to know what kind of people are coming here why they come here who is taking care of them why they care that they're taking care of its that's so many layers and it's like I think that's why I prefer it in comparison to like like a contemporary Museum, which I love all so, you know, I'm due.
10:14 So right now but there's a different like the shows are it's kind of more like a jungle Wildlife because if you know, if you will like beat you up and pick you and everything in here. It's like I got Chris teacher buy some kids love hardcore, but it's a lot. I don't know. I just don't I feel like a lot more pressure. But at the same time, I feel like the environment is just so much more softer and kind of beautiful because it does involve kids and there's other things here. Appreciate aside from my college. Visit New is it her style is it it's like no it's like it's for kids. You have to kind of think about it a different way. So I like that very much about the museum holistic holistic like not even like spiritual but just like
11:04 I don't know like that whole connecting engine to your inner kid thing. You know, you have to like oh, that's currently no that's dumb. It's like well, yeah, but you're thinking about another friend what you have to see it in the eyes of a child and how this will make them kind of think and what good will this do will this entertain them? And this muscle is a lot of things, you know, they go into it, but and when you're in the show in like a contemporary art show it's like more ago, I think like a little bit like I'm not trying to show off your I'm trying to like get kids to have a good time. Exactly and if that's actually makes it harder, but
11:44 But it's cool. It's a good heart. You know, I don't like all this is a horrible situation is like no, it's it pushes you more so that is it. So what makes it harder on the fact that like if it had an impact on you as a child and you don't want to like like kind of like not get to that level to another to the same kid, not the same kid, but like a whole generation. So you have to kind of like know how kids are today cuz the kids aren't the same as when I was a kid Lego laugh out with the stuff that you know, I probably watched so they're like, you know, so I need to
12:17 But the fact that you know that I think that people often think of kids just kids just give them something brightly colored and it'll be fine. Yeah, right and to know that there are differences depending on when you grew up and who you grew up with and where you grew up and to know that everybody is different right and don't think of kids as
12:42 Kind of human. Yeah, there's some sort of like embryo or larval stage right vs their people and they're pretty sophisticated at very low like they're seeing this in a deeper way that you know that I am because I have all this all these clouds of thought and other things that I've seen on the movies or whatever and they see it in a different way. So I'm in there there mold of eating molded a little mind. So it's also you have to be very careful with that and it says like a big responsibility so it's not like an easy thing. But at the same time it makes it like that much more precious to like be able to I don't know to get something good growing and let me know it's really cool that reminds me of what you mentioned earlier when you were developing smile the mirror on the bridge and you graciously came to the street art camp one of our many summer.
13:41 Accounts and you sat at a table with maybe 12 or 13 kids who critiqued you and you were so humble that is it in in in a way that wasn't the same you're describing the contemporary art critique well in contrast to the standard trying to situated in some larger art historical narrative, they were just what why yeah, what about this and I I'll never forget somebody and one of the kids mentioned is so simple but it makes sense because it shows you that you can do it and I was like, oh my God, just keep got it. Like that's literally what like the basis of my work isn't like you should write my thesis my teachers like this is really really good. Like it's basically that it's like, you know, you're not trying to like, wow this kid, you're trying to get them to realize. Oh my God, I can do that. That's a large-scale version of a drawing that I could do, but it's on the
14:41 But how is it why is it that you know those questions, you know start kind of Brewing. But yeah, that was the greatest experience with kids cuz he can ever let you know, I have my nephews and nieces and I have a couple of artist friends that their kids are just like these little Geniuses because they've been around them like I've walked into their house and they're like with a hair dryer and they're like really not even looking at me and they're just like drying the dry and they're paying like I do that but and they tell me all your next show going to do the same thing. Are you like they're so like and that that experience was even more like in 10000. Wow, cuz those are the kids that we're going to be seen that mural. So it was it was very very nice reality check really ask them what they thought you said it in a way that wasn't
15:35 You guys what do you think? Yeah where I don't really want to hear.
15:39 Tell me what you think you're like. So what you think of this is why I'm working on you were just very real with them. Right cuz I know that mean all day kids get down to but they know that they have to get spoon-fed a lot of things because they are children and they need help, you know, we are going to school and this and that but for a moment for them to have like the power to tell like an adult what they think about something that's going to be around them is like really cool. So that's what I kind of was like being equal. Here we are but you know, I'm going to give them like the driver the driving mostly say I like the the wheel and let them drive this and see what where it goes cuz they maybe they give me an idea. I don't believe that out. You know, they could possibly tell me what why don't you send her that or why don't you why is it so off to the side? I don't know like they could I've had little kids telling me stuff and I'm like, wow, that's kind of a good idea.
16:40 You know stuff like that articulate at the mission.
16:49 Trust trusting each other and also this idea of that nobody's a teacher and updates the student. You know, there is a I don't know if I talk to you about this Paulo Freire who's educator and writer and wrote this book The pedagogy of the oppressed pedagogy of the oppressed and he talked about how there's this banking system of Education where we're so used to thinking that here. I am the expert and I'm going to put all this information into my student and I'm just trying to deposit that information and if I've deposited all my information that I've done a good job right vs this model where we're all teachers and we're all students and we learn from each other mediated by our environment and I feel like that's just a better way to live where you are open to that.
17:42 Yes, and I think that's something that I I since I was little I mean if my parents are immigrants and there was just like the very, you know typical family that you know, the that the dad and the mom and you know, they were always right and you know never even if they were wrong they were not going to apologize they were wrong. And so when you're a kid and you know, sometimes you know, they're wrong this is wrong with Society is wrong and and all that see no, you know, what kind of reminds me of that you have to yeah, and as a kid with somebody gives you a chance to kind of decide and so if it's this kind of a great thing says she may have a museum that lets you do that to run around and that's that's a difference between
18:27 The typical Children's Museum because here because we are a contemporary art museum. There's such a focus on critical thinking and it's not just delivered to you in
18:39 An already digested way we haven't figured it out from my perspective as your loyal Kirito toriel servant. It's we're constantly trying to figure it out. You know, you and I are going to be working on this project in the next year and we don't know like I can't imagine what it's going to be. You probably have a better idea what it's going to be at this point because you're thinking about it. But but we're at this point point where we don't really know right and being comfortable with that and knowing I think is someone unusual and it goes back to trust because same I mean that I don't know either but I do know it's in it's in there. I do know and you know, it's going to be great but you guys also take a huge risk with artist doing that and you know as what I can see the the exhibitions are outside that are amazing means that you guys have made the right choices and I mean for me it's super super.
19:39 Nerve-wracking, but you know all these work work. What do you call it?
19:45 Experience is that we're going to have kind of get me excited and take the the fear away, you know about it. So I'm pretty I'm pretty stoked about that.
19:58 So you talked about this a little bit, but what do you hope people see and feel when they are playing in your insulation?
20:12 I think number one freedom freedom to play and to be themselves and also to kind of also also as just as much as for the kids for the parents, you know lately a lot of my friends have been coming to the museum and they're just they go bananas and and I know that a lot of them we know they want to sit down and they're very appreciate art. So I want both ends to have freedom for it from their daily life. That's like new hectic just for kids and adults and then also stimulation visually definitely is like on the top, you know, just I just want to take advantage of the space and just kids to be overwhelmed but in a good way overwhelmed by simulator simulator visually and also to be at peace
21:12 So it's kind of like kind of like a overwhelming then experience that can come out of this and also, you know get in the physical part of it. You know, I want there to be like a climbing out of you know type of thing because I I believe like the physical activity part of it is really creamed corn for kids and that way again kid and be inclusive for kids a little bit older and smaller and like also like problem solving in the way. I don't know. Where do you see that happening now in the museum when you kind of you think about what's existing?
21:53 Like that feels closer that feeling I would say a combination between the Wonder space and Pico and also and also the the thing cuz that's like the physical and then it has also like the creative part and the thinking and also like the little world and all that like, you know, the
22:22 The emotional part of Tanya's exhibition is so cool. Like I love it. You know right now we saw that little baby in there with the hat. It was like, oh my God, I want to be that made. He's like a little baby with a pointy hat. Look a little like Snowman on white Aster Drive in the moment, you know, but yeah, like seeing that all that get to super excited cuz I think I meant, how can I make this like to give you glory of me sitting here in like enjoying their time make it the best for well and you spell spend
23:01 Far more time installations here than in any Contemporary Art Museum hours. Yes, and you can touch stuff like that to the road and all that night. I love it. And I love every time I get to go but you know, there's that barrier because it is I mean, you know, what's want to touch but here the fact that you know, you can like put your kid in the art is really cool.
23:41 Moment for you during
23:46 I think the most impactful moments for art of it. So I think one of them is actually religious and it's really weird because when I was little my family would I think it's because they were immigrants they wanted us to like cuz you know, we were getting like super americanize over here and they wanted us to go to all these places in Mexico. So we would and then it was always a thing to go into the freaking church and they have these really really elaborate like dramatic as heck like like, you know crucifixion all these like Mona's and they took me to this Wednesday civically and that's cool.
24:31 UNAM Mexico would like they sell it raw like the the the silver comes from we always go there and stick a super nice town and we were there and their famous for having like a really dramatic crazy church. And I remember being like 10 and it was the first time I don't know what this is what I was five and I remember they told her they told me look bad idea Cito. It's like a way of saying but that's that's God like in a nice way and I am misunderstood osito. So I thought God was a bear for like like a little bit like a like a little bear likes we have to pray you'll see toenails. I was praying to a bear so like to me off in like the whole art of like religion just like just imagine like the Virgin Mary in like a bear-like. So for me, it was just like okay that doesn't make sense. So anyways after I went to that church it kind of wake me out and I asked to not ever go into like a church again, like if I could just wait outside, so that was one and then once they realize, you know, I wasn't into that they started like
25:32 You know gave me books and they go to bed and we had art hung in my house. And then another moment there was kind of big for me was my sister went to Spain to me. No study and she started sending me postcards from you know gallery and I love you know that I went to this Museum and that kind of opened up the whole song realistic part, you know, cuz so far away. I had just thought was like Frida and not so I was a little
26:10 Backed up. So that was really really impactful. You know that but the religion part I think is is something worth noting because you know, it says so in your face and and I think that even in some of my paintings it kind of tends to come out and it's just like the like the dramaticness so that you know, it's like if I don't looks like it's like the Virgin of Guadalupe.
26:41 That is just like
26:45 But it gets in there, right? That's it. That's a super big grew up in a comment as a child. And so we actually were like super agnostic but like the the family that didn't really like to church stuff. So that was like the only thing and it wasn't nothing before me to be like, maybe it was he so maybe we have you ever done a bear in your work. I have drawn a bear. There's a few things. I actually can't draw for like to save my life. And if you saw my drawing you'd be like you're not an artist so freaked out like I don't know why I can draw chickens. Like I know you guys have a thing that chickens here, but like I can't draw chickens. I can't draw elephants really. Well. It's like something happens and then something have ya and like my Bears look weird to like, it just looks like weird like Mickey's like
27:45 Like Mickey Mouse Paris Yellow Cab Mickey Mouse like Kendall out like it's so weird.
27:52 But I did yeah, I kind of want to draw a ninja with the chickens bad like chicken super super mentionable like a hidden chicka. Ya like kind of like have you ever seen that thing where it's like badly made stuffed animals DIY? What do you call him when you stop them and they die and you put them in the car first before I'm sorry. If you're a psychic that looks like that. I don't believe we sidetracked. All I would have talked about it weird Taxidermy fares. I watched how could I watch part of that show Midsomer that movies at the movie have ya Oki I took my friend to see that movie cuz I I really like the first movie he did.
28:52 The the movie The hereditary. Yeah. Yeah it a few movies scare me enough to where I can't turn off the light in my house and I couldn't turn off the light in my house for 3 months. So that one thing you know what I mean. But anyways, I told her Summers. Yeah, I went. I told my friend who like I love sweetea and I like and I'm like, no dude like this isn't like a Swedish Like Mike movie start movie so mad and it was like, I'm so sorry. I took you to see this movie and I know it is weird, but there's a certain parts asking if it is beautiful and it's a lot about Society. Yeah. I'm like are norms and relationships and talks that the director said it was a movie about breakup. It's over.
29:52 Yeah, it really is that reminded me of it because that could really get be a God the bear heart like just like it like a bear say yeah, and then just put the thing with the girl I froze and if your girlfriend has flowers and you get back to your work. But because you
30:22 Like you're at your work is so bright and colorful, right? Everybody would think of me and there's a lot of them but it also has that aspect of just like that weirdness.
30:35 Who is the real question but what is it in your life? Like what what made it possible for you to just like on your weirdness just a little weird right now. That's a good question. And that's actually going back to the to the art stuff that Mark me as a kid and I would definitely say in this goes back to the same friend that brought me to this Museum. So the reason that me and will not have the reason but my brother and sister take me to The Twist sick and twisted Festival as a kid because he used to be like outside over there in a La Jolla and so I went a couple of times it's probably wasn't under my parent's knowledge and they took me and I discovered Ren and Stimpy and I discovered like young flat all the stuff that was kind of intense, you know, he was invited and all that and Daria and all that stuff and I remember that first day of school. I was like bouncing the ball and she came up to me and he was like the sweetest voice ever like like, you know Forrest Gump like you can say he
31:32 If you want she was just like it if you want to be my friend and I was like, yeah, I don't know anybody and and we started talking and she was like, you know, what do you like and I'm like, I'm going to lose a friend right now. I'm a librarian Stampy and she was like, I love her and so her parents let her watch I had to watch it in secret. It was like like what is says, you know, so late like she had a shirt like I had my shirt like the way I don't even have a shirt. It was like no way, you know, so I think that that weirdness likes and so much I was so excited about her an instant be that I was supposed to get picked up from school and she told you the last door latch I said that she was like, well, I like down the street. Mom was late. I was like, okay, so there I go in like first day of first grade and I leave and let's just say that the cops had to come and get me cuz I was watching
32:32 Yeah disappeared and I like what was she last seen the cause and everything and then I was at my friend's house. Looks like your first day of the cops called in summary. I had a friend but the police were involved them know I was here. There's a little you don't know it was like to have a cell phone.
33:04 Play I love him to my friend Vera was here with her cousin and he came out of wamic. Yes, and he's like I made a friend and then just like a little kid who's liked exactly his height like came back. They're just standing there. Like she's like, yeah, I miss friend and suddenly she's making plans with the other kids caregiver about where they're going to go next and it's just it's so simple to see if Ray Bans are made so cute that adjusting back to the do you want to play with me? It's like that's so cute, you know like but that's how I felt when I met you when we're sitting there at that table and it was just we immediately geeked out on Willy Wonka. Yeah. Yeah. It's it's it's like you said, it's almost like dating it's like oh hey you eat
34:04 Godlike that you how can you not broke up 3 hours about Willy Wonka at the tunnel and everything exactly and it's very scary. Yeah, it's scary but we don't know which way is going Yeah Yeah Yeahs Elder and everything is good or We Are The Music Makers? Yes. I should know that we should just sit at their occupation of Dreams.
34:40 Oh my gosh, I still need a like at some point of my life swim in a chocolate River.
34:51 Yeah. Oh, yeah. Yeah is amazing. I don't know. I'm super excited to get the workshops going and working with the kids and I kind of want to see what the camp kids have to say about what I have going to get their approval before I set forward Cheyenne who made the sticker saying that she had given she made a sticker and she's asked Diana. Can I can you ask Tonka if it's okay that I've made the sticker right? Because it was play off of what you made of it. Yes, and
35:49 And then what she gave it to you she made three and she gave me one word that I put on my phone and it was like on my phone for like a year good ink by the way, because it didn't let me know what you got on your hand and everything and then my friend my friend who just bought his baby. He saw and he was like, oh my God, and he didn't even give me the options of there was to let me have that and he put on his phone. So like and then the other one I managed to keep when I put it in like my memory box. So they know I'm keeping one. And so yeah, like I did that thing was like photographs and like I think for like any Sophia took for like the six months or was really visible. It was like all in my selfies it was you and I would always tell people story. Like I really really really like this and it was exactly like the mural so it was like wow.
36:43 She really she really liked. I think you're really aware of the power that you have is an artist. Yeah, and my niece got super into street art after meeting you and still talks about you and you know, so she's really excited that you're coming back and she wants to come see you but one that one thing was going to be 30 minutes of your time talking to that group of kids had this huge ripple effect. What I think is really beautiful is it didn't have to have a ripple effect for them. It also had a ripple effect for you. Oh, yeah, I think more on me and then and then also the fact that they're a little girls because like me growing up like I let me know I talked to you about wildin and stuff and like I think I can remember the the teachers in the people that live in the women that were like, you know, specifically like looking out, you know, nothing like all you're allowed your you describe the more, you know, you're not paying attention or you you always go to the nurse when the math stuff comes
37:43 That's what I would do, but it was like they knew that I you know, I had something in there, you know, so it's like I don't know like always pay attention to those. I loved it in a little girls are are able to like get excited. So Michael
38:09 2 minutes
38:17 Oh my God.
38:28 It's super it's really gnarly to have that effect because you know at the same time you are who you are, but you also have to realize when it comes to doing, you know an exhibition like this you filter out so many things of you, you know that are not perfect but you get to a point where it's like super beautiful and you can express that part and also it's almost like making like a little diamonds. You know it that's pretty much what it is that out of a lump of coal. So that's pretty much what it is when it comes to working with kids. So I think so.
39:09 Gear Up
39:15 Yeah, yeah. Was that the question what was the question about your role model with an ulcer your Lego man? You know, I'm not perfect. So it's like you have to like kind of let kids know like okay, like I'm a work-in-progress kids like, you know like but this is what's coming out and never give up and basically that's the best thing you can tell him, you know, like going yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
39:49 Yeah, I'm not trying to let out the I got it all together by but I definitely want to the give out the you know, keep going by.
39:59 Q don't start believing. Believing. Yeah, yeah.
40:18 I Love You by my artistic partner. I love you too, baby. I agree. I just deserve it. That was really 40 minutes. Wow. Oh sorry. I ruined the whole thing. All the blessings come down on the music comes on and we all just like, you know.