Q&A With Laguna Beach-based Artist Ali Rybczyk On Her Growing Youth Art Program

Photo by Mariah Tauger
Photo by Neighborhood Creative

Ali Rybcyzk, whose vibrant and colorful work ranges from free-hand illustrations to larger scale paintings, talks about her growing youth art program in Laguna Beach. 

What sparked your interest in pursuing art as a career?
My first true experience of knowing I can make it as an artist, was when I was attending college in Santa Barbara. I was working at a cafe, and a customer commissioned me for a birthday card. That felt so me! It was that defining moment that showed me that there is no right or wrong “way” for an artist, and we never know what that path will look like, or how it may begin.

Photo by Mariah Tauger

What is the most important thing to you as an artist?
My relationship with my community. When I moved to Laguna Beach, I carried with me a sense of open-hearted encouragement. I am much more than my art; it is the energy that I lovingly share with the community. In Laguna Beach, I have worked continuously alongside other creatives at places such as Sourced Collective, Garage Collective, Areo Home Goods, Vertigo Home, lala: Kerry Cassill Home, Hailley Howard Photography, Poler Outdoor Stuff, and Roots Beauty. In addition to my freelance commission work, connecting to local families has paved a way for me to grow my youth art program.

Can you tell us more about your youth art program?
My passion working with youth began a couple years ago, working as an art director for a type one diabetic youth service camp program. I fell in love with the concept of teaching, making messes, and sharing art. After moving to Laguna Beach, I met a wonderful friend who also happened to have three aspiring artist daughters. This friend later asked me if I would work with her daughters’ academic classroom program, CLC at Top Of the World Elementary, to create two murals. From that moment on, I knew this vision needed to grow. I proceeded to host an independent “Pop Up Art Camp” out of her home that summer from the relationship with the kids I had already met. One of the murals I created last fall at a school event is now hanging in their auditorium, and it feels like the greatest accomplishment!

I linked up with my friends at Poler, and they opened their doors for me to host art winter camps, and a few months later, Top of The World Elementary called me and said they needed a one day after school art program! I said, “Let’s do two days!” This past semester, I have been able to continue working with the youth at Top of the World and developing lesson plans for each class. Currently, I am looking into local commercial spaces where I can give my art camp a home and expand on my offerings.

You recently created a mural at Poler. What was that experience like?
The parents from the CLC program at Top of the World asked if I could  reunite the kids who were previously in the program through art. I asked Poler if we could host the private group sessions out of their space and they said yes! When I knew I wanted to do something large scale, like a mural, it was the same time Poler asked me if I wanted to paint their back wall. I was like, yes, I will do this with these kids (28 of them, to be exact). The experience of painting the mural at Poler was adventurous, to say the least. The piece began on a First Thursday Art Walk, where I began to cover the wall, and developed a poem called “A Poetic Landscape.” The painting is divided by the words of the poem, and I assigned the kids a section of the wall to express themselves with the part of the poem they got. The kids arrived the following day and we had a very paint-stained party. After several hours, the mural was full of life, shapes, and drips. I went back a few days later to unify the overall vision, while still incorporating the hearts and ideas of the kids who helped create it. I couldn’t have done it without them. Overall, logistically speaking, it was a pivotal moment for my art camp career. I learned more about my needs as a teacher going into something this large scale and supervising this many people while trying to remain colorful, yet professional for everyone involved. With that, I am so grateful for the parents and Poler staff, who volunteered their time to help conduct this special mural event.

Photo by Neighborhood Creative

What’s next?
As I mentioned, I am looking into a more permanent space to expand my art camp services. That feels like a major project itself. I would like to be able to offer more intimate art classes and extend it to teenagers. Other projects include an outdoor residential mural at Friendship Shelter in Dana Point. I am working with the head of the program, so we can hopefully get my concept approved by the city! I am also continuously selling my personalized portraits through Instagram which has been so awesome. I never thought I could do it, but it turns out, my customers are my followers! I would also like to start doing paint-at-home parties, where women (or men) bring their leather goods such as purses or denim jackets, and I paint them on the spot! On May 12th, I am doing an event at Roots Beauty on Forest Ave. in Laguna Beach for an exclusive Mother’s Day beauty event. I will be painting portraits of mothers and daughters while they receive facials inside. I am also working with an O.C. organization, Uplift Yoga Foundation, for a Yoga Bash event they have this fall in creating a really exciting, big piece… Stay tuned!

Photo by Neighborhood Creative

To learn more about Ali’s art, click here.
Instagram: @loveincludeseveryone



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