Student Multimedia Productions at Texas A&M University-San Antonio

ENLACE MEDIA LAB

Student Multimedia Productions at Texas A&M University-San Antonio

ENLACE MEDIA LAB

Student Multimedia Productions at Texas A&M University-San Antonio

ENLACE MEDIA LAB

Culture Corner: Karen Arredondo

March 22, 2023

Culture Corner

Episode 1: Karen Arredondo

Terry talks to Karen Arredondo, a multi-talented artist, in Culture Corner’s first episode. Discussion topics include Karen’s work in theatre, her debut book of poetry, and more.

Rose Gold Poems (2:25)

Initially, Karen thought that her first published book would be a memoir. Then, in 2021, she discovered poetry to help her overcome her stage fright, and she started attending open mic nights, which eventually led to the forming of a writers’ group the following year where she also met many talented poets. Each week, she would create new poems, which would eventually be published in her book.

Karen: I have this really silly fear, especially with the field that I work in, I have stage fright. And so I told myself, I was gonna get on a stage with a microphone, and I was gonna, you know, share my soul in front of strangers to just say I’ve done it. I used to randomly go and seek out cool artsy things in town and the Budo Slam Poetry event happened one Tuesday night. When I  first was introduced to it, I think I saw a flyer or something and just stumbled upon it. I got to hear these amazing spoken word artists, poets, and kind of just fell in love with it. So years pass, and I’m back in town, I’m working in theatre, and I rediscovered this poetry scene. So I find myself attending the Bla Bla Bla Poetry Spot, which is a Wednesday night, weekly, open mic event for poets of all experience levels. I just kind of fell in love with the place, with the people, and started writing. It took me several months before I actually got on stage. Still, these people, this event itself, I think I owe a lot of credit to because had I not given myself this crazy goal of writing a new poem every week to say on the mic, I don’t think this book would exist.

Rose Gold Poems: The Title (5:54)

The title of the book comes from different aspects of Karen’s life. Her middle name, Rose, for one thing, is also the same as her mother. The word “rose” having multiple meanings is another reason, and how it refers to love and resilience. She values the idea of gold, and she additionally sees writing as something that is valuable. Her words can convey various emotions and are precious in their way.

Karen: [With] all the symbolism different cultures hold with gold- the political stuff, the capitalism, and all that hoo-ha – gold is seen as precious. [The book] is precious to me [because] this is me. So yeah, it’s like my gold.

Rose is my middle name, my mother’s name, and it’s also kind of like a family name. There are people in my family on both sides with the name. It felt very fitting. Some of the work in there is about family, some of it is about me, and some is about even just roses. I don’t directly talk about roses in this one, but roses are very hardy. They’re the symbolism between love and all of that.

I feel those two words (rose gold) combined can box up a lot of themes in this book.

Themes (8:26)

The various entries in this volume reflect her thoughts on her life experiences. Although they weren’t direct ideas, the poems also reflect her observations about certain things, such as the Latinx working class and her journey as an artist.

Karen: I like to write about the everyday person. I don’t like talking about celebrities and don’t care about pop culture that much. I think there’s a lot to learn from the people we work with- that we live next to, stand in line with at stores. There’s so much people can give and don’t get credit for. Like my parents were working class, and I think, in a lot of ways, this was like a pet project to honor them and their roots. So the poems that talk about my family are also a showcase for people in our community. I mean, I don’t want to speak for a lot of people, but I could state that a lot of the work in this book are observations of the community that I live in and that I relate to. The losses, the grief, the happy things, the good thing, the lovers, all of that.

Thespian Talents (13:34)

The theatre industry has been another important part of Karen’s life. It allowed her to develop skills that she would later use in other areas of her life. After she learned that she could make money working in the theatre, Karen decided that was what she wanted to pursue.

Karen: I discovered theater late. I went to private school most of my life and transferred to a public school when I was a junior in high school (maybe it was late sophomore year, I forget now). I was going to be a doctor- it’s funny to think about that now. The courses they offered at the school had a fine arts program back when I was there and a lot of the classes they offered were things that I always wanted to take, but I was not sure [about]. So I enrolled in an architecture class, and I took theater. It was Mr. Robert Rehm, who actually is a founding member of Jumpstart, who was my theater teacher and introduced me to what theater is. He saw that I’m kind of like this super organized, super straight lays type-A personality. He’s like, “You could be a good stage manager.” I was like, “Oh, okay.” I like gathering people and making sure everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to be doing. 

Then I went to a junior college and did like a two-plus-year program. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and it wasn’t till my dad was like, “You know, you can get a job at the college in the auditorium. Because you like drama.” I was like, “Really? I could do that? Oh my gosh!” So I applied, was hired, and started off working backstage. The auditorium at SAC (San Antonio College) is where I met my husband, some people I’ve collaborated with on projects, and dear friends. I worked there off and on for like 15 years. I went to different campuses over time and worked my way up.

The theatre has always been a vital part of Karen’s life, even though she has started to focus more on her other artistic endeavors. In February 2023, she participated in a theatre festival called Screaming Into The Void, produced by the performance company, Jumpstart. Through there, she produced a few of the plays featured, including her first directorial project. It made her incredibly proud.

Karen: Jumpstart Theatre, which is one of the two companies in town that produce original work, is where I got my start. One of my dear friends, Holly Nañes, put on this passion project of hers. [2023] is actually the second year of her doing it. I wasn’t able to participate in the first year, although I wanted to. I was there on opening night and supporting [Holly]. For this second round, I made a point to be involved. With all of the writing I’ve been doing, I wanted to challenge and push myself to do something new. I told myself, “I’m gonna direct a piece. I want to give it a go.” I took classes in school, and I enjoyed the process. My teachers thought I might have a knack for it. Holly was open to the idea and let me choose the script, the people I wanted to work with. At the same time, I submitted short pieces to be produced. I wrote two pieces and directed one. The festival only had six pieces, so I was heavily involved with this one and feel super blessed. Holly and I already talked about what we want to do next year and what we want to amplify. It’s been wild.

Her Artwork (25:39)

On top of everything else, Karen also is involved in the visual arts. For her, making art includes working on a project and feeling like a part of it. Although she has taken classes in various mediums, her work in theatre has taught her how to enhance her visual art using different techniques. She usually chooses a medium or color palette to focus on, and she doesn’t want to force herself to create art.

Karen: My grandfather was a painter, my mom likes to draw, and my sister is a really good artist. I grew up surrounded by art since my grandfather’s paintings were hung up on the walls, and my mom always encouraged us to express ourselves creatively. She put us in art classes, and I took art classes in college and high school. 

I find it’s like an emotional release. It’s like, “I’m in a mood, and I need to get this energy out.” I worked as a scenic artist in various capacities. Outside of San Antonio, I worked for a fabrication studio in Chicago. I was paid to paint things to look like other things. I was painting wood to look like marble to look cracked or polished. [I’d paint] mural paintings, receding paintings, and large drops for a couple of museum installations outside of Texas. So those skills manifested in my personal stuff. Whatever I’m dealing with- I’m angry, frustrated, sad, happy- will come out in a piece. I’m not looking for a specific end product since it’s about the process. It’s about the movement, the action that goes into getting something out of me onto a specific piece of whatever I’m working on.

Always Busy (30:20)

Karen has a passion for everything she does. Even though she’s always on the go, she prioritizes her life and trusts her gut when making decisions. Although Karen is always on the go, she is still focused on her life and prioritizes her mental health. She also trusts her intuition when it comes to her projects. She prefers to work on projects that she enjoys rather than take on commission work. Depending on the task at hand, Karen’s creative process can vary. For instance, her painting technique might differ from what she’s doing with her designs or writing.

Karen: I’m pretty particular on projects that I’ll agree to. I have to love the story, the people, or the overall, and it’s got to work within a timeframe. So if two of those boxes are checked, there’s a good chance I’ll do it. When I was freelancing, I was overextending myself to make ends meet. I didn’t enjoy it- like it became work, and the playfulness, the creativity, and all of that suffered as a result. I stepped away from that lifestyle for now. As far as what I choose, I have to want to do it. I do start like personal stuff, but again, because a lot of things I create are to just process thoughts, feelings, and events that have happened, I don’t always follow through and complete things. So that’s one thing I feel I need to work on, but maybe not. I don’t know.

Watch Culture Corner featuring Karen discussing all this in greater detail

Follow Karen Arredondo on Instagram to keep up with her work:

https://www.instagram.com/citaface3/

See her work in both set design and painting on her website. There, you’ll also find behind-the-scenes photos of her projects:

https://www.karredondodesigns.com/

Karen’s book, “Rose Gold Poems,” can be purchased through Liquid Cat Books:

https://www.liquidcatbooks.com/product-page/rose-gold-poems

Literary Journals featuring Karen:

Exemplary Poetry

https://www.pearl-press.com/sharedspaces

https://www.borderlinepress.com/product/common-ground-issue-01

 

 

 

 

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About the Contributor
Terry Perez, Storyteller & Podcaster
Terry has a passion for writing and has demonstrated her skills through her work with the Enlace Media Lab, creating various types of content, such as a podcast called Culture Corner, which she hosts and interviews local artists from San Antonio. She aims to continue interviewing standout individuals and document her experiences doing so. She believes that the right person should be present to listen to their stories and that she could be that very person.