Martha Penaranda

Penaranda HS

Don't just dream about your fantastic ideas, get started—even if it's in the wrong direction. Martha Penaranda , Fashion Instructor , The Art Institute of San Antonio, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston

Was there a defining moment when you knew you were destined to become a creative professional?

It’s hard to isolate a single moment. From an early age I’ve been fascinated by the possibility of transforming what’s in front of you...the what if. I have to admit, all the cutting, gluing and painting things around the house got me in trouble a lot.

How do you weave your professional background into the classroom experience?

Throughout my career I’ve worked in quite different settings. As a computer pattern design developer for a knitwear firm in Florence, Italy; running workshops in coloring and dying with indigenous communities in rural Colombia; and designing costumes and scenery for a great variety of plays and audiences. That wide range of experiences gave me the ability to recognize the value of the task at hand, and taught me that every individual has something to offer. My goal in the classroom is to recognize that diversity of aesthetics and skills, and develop them according to the individual.

What class assignment exemplifies your approach to teaching and mentoring?

A creative career is a process of discovering possibilities. It’s the what if that drives us to explore different paths. I’m a firm believer in research. I urge students to look beyond the obvious. The web is a panacea of information, and we greatly benefit from its richness. But we should look beyond the computer. The world is full of patterns, colors and motifs. I want students to take risks, step out of their comfort zones, explore, discover, act on their ideas, fail, recover, and keep going.

How does collaboration contribute to students’ success—particularly when students from various programs work together?

Theater is the most collaborative art form. The work of playwrights, directors, actors, designers, and crew come together to provide the theatrical experience. Everyone contributes their craft to create what the audience ultimately receives. Here in school we have such a big pool of diverse talent talent under one roof. I’ve brought together visual artists, musicians and photographers, and I’m looking forward to much more collaboration.

What’s the most important thing you impart to students to help them succeed in class and the real world?

Be flexible, be open-minded, rely on good research, but most importantly, take action. Don’t just dream about your fantastic ideas, get started—even if it’s in the wrong direction. Mistakes can take you to great discoveries.