Celeste Ortega


Celeste Ortega

How did you first get involved with ASLD and when?

I started taking classes at ASLD because of my friend Holly Hurd, who teaches at ASLD. I always have had friends that were amazing artists. I saw ASLD years ago but never took classes until Holly invited me to her class. Quite simply, I also wanted to be an artist or see and express like an artist, through that lens. Aubrey (who was the Customer Service & Database Manager at the time) saw me struggling to pay for classes, so she helped me with a Big Heart scholarship.


How has ASLD shaped you as an artist?

I have felt nurtured and supported in classes like drawing, painting and clay, and learning from guest artists, just to name a few. I am immensely grateful. I have been shaped by  teaching staff sharing their artistic skills. I enjoy their diverse personalities.


What faculty members have you taken courses with as ASLD?

I first took clay with Jeff Wenzel. I have had a class with former faculty member Martha “Belle” Heppard, who gave me some painting supplies to get started. Class with Pam McLaughlin and Steve Griggs taught me style and technique; both are very kind, mellow teachers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, I took online classes and cannot express how thankful I am as it helped ease the intense anxiety. I also have learned from guest artists. One  portrait artist looked at my painting closely and said, “you can do this,” as she gave all of the students encouragement.  Melanie Yazzie and Will Dickinson taught me self expression, helping me to find an artistic voice, something I struggle with. I was recently accepted into a show called, “Art Against Racism.” I am so happy to have anything I have done be accepted. It is called, “Man with Baby.” As an adult learner, I didn’t expect to have the opportunity to learn art skills, but this has been nurtured at ASLD as a person who learns differently.

What do you like about the ASLD community?

I like that ASLD is local and I don’t feel pressured. I am generally quiet.  There is a community of artists. People are kind and non-judgmental. I like the relaxed and natural feel where people can just be themselves. I am just so grateful!

Celeste’s piece “Man with Baby” is about the children/people who have passed on due to racialized violence as all moms want their children to grow up.