Staff Q&A: Gabe Garcia, Residency Program Associate

Gabe is a new recruit to Urban Gateways; he started his role in the Program Department just a few months ago, in November, and he has quickly integrated himself as a crucial part of the team in his work with schools, teaching artists, and more. Plus he’s an artist himself! We thought we’d introduce you. Get to know him a bit better below:

UG: What first sparked your interest in arts education? How did you wind up at Urban Gateways?

Gabe: I became interested in arts education kind of by accident. As a high school student I was introduced to an arts program similar to Urban Gateways. At the time I was not sure if I was even interested in the arts but after the first class I became hooked. I started as a student mentor and then moved up to a teaching artist, and now 12 years later I am still in the arts education field and loving every moment of it.

I have many friends and colleagues who have worked or still work with Urban Gateways. This organization is renowned, and working with other arts programs in Chicago, Urban Gateways was a name that came up a lot.


UG: How would you sum up your position as Residency Program Associate?

Gabe: As a Residency Program Associate, I wear many hats and everyday is different. I work with Teaching Artists to coordinate their residencies and I work with many schools as a liaison between the Teaching Artists and the schools to provide engaging programming for their students. I also evaluate the success of an Urban Gateways residency and provide feedback to the Teaching Artists.


UG: Of the many things you do in this job, what do you find most exciting?

Gabe: I am always so excited to go into the schools and watch how the students interact within the art classes. Seeing the joy on young people’s faces when they learn a new instrument, learn dance moves, or take part in a visual art lesson is the most rewarding part of my job.


UG: How about any personal artistic endeavors? Tell us about them!

Gabe: I am currently illustrating a graphic novel in collaboration with my father. He has many amazing stories from his childhood which I am trying to recreate as a multidisciplinary art series.


UG: What do you do when you need inspiration?

Gabe: I gain inspiration through many channels. I like going to museums and viewing the works of the masters. I also really like checking out the city’s many public artworks and murals. Additionally, watching movies always inspires me; 2001: A Space Odyssey is one my favorites.


UG: What are some of your favorite Chicago activities? (In any season – no need to get stuck on winter!)

Gabe: FOOD! This city has some of the best restaurants around. I also really enjoy hanging out at the lake in the summer.


UG: If you could meet any artist past or present, who would it be and why?

Gabe: I would give my left arm to have met Willem de Kooning, the abstract expressionist painter. Although I consider myself to be a realist painter, the movement in his work inspires me to apply more action and confidence in my art process.


UG: If someday an Urban Gateways ticket finally wins the lottery, what are three things you’ll do with your share?

Gabe: 1. I would do the responsible thing and pay off my student loans and invest a good chunk of it. 2. Give many generous donations to various nonprofits (of course I won’t forget to give to Urban Gateways!). 3. Travel the world.


Gabe at Mission San Jose in his native San Antonio, Texas.

Relaxing on an ottoman at Target. (“A typical weekend for me – I love Target,” Gabe said.)

At work in his studio.

Thanks for chatting with us, Gabe! Read about an Urban Gateways program that Gabe recently worked on here. >>