What is Art?: Victor Hugo Zayas at TEDxArtCenterCollegeOfDesign

What is Art?: Victor Hugo Zayas at TEDxArtCenterCollegeOfDesign

Translator: Emma Gon
Reviewer: Tatjana Jevdjic Hi, guys. I love painting naked women.
(Laughter) Great, thank you. You know, I was thinking, I mean, I was trying to think
what to say, very smart, and I was having a real hard time. And I realized that
making art is something amazing. It really doesn’t matter
if you sell it, the idea of making art is actually
to make the object. And I truly love making art,
whether it is art or not, just the enjoyment of making art
is amazing to me. But, there is another part of this
that I’m really quite touched by and it is kids. And one of the reasons why,
is because I had the experience of working with kids, in an indirect way
and then in a very direct way. So, this is a — I truly believe that if you introduce creativity
to kids at an early age, the possibilities for these kids
are just incredible. So I decided to do something
really crazy and don’t ask me why. But this is a little map
of where my studio was and it’s on 59 and Slauson, in the middle
of South Central Los Angeles. And you’re wondering,
why would I do such a thing? The only thing I can tell you
is that I felt like it. (Laughter) So, the second week
that I was there I opened the newspaper one day, the article said
where crimes happen. And in one side there was
a map of the United States and in every state
there were little red dots. As you get to Chicago, New York,
there were more red dots And when you get to the Los Angeles
there was just a lot of red dots. Then in the other side, they took
that section of Los Angeles and they amplified it. And right in the middle
of all the red dots, said 59 and Slauson.
(Laughter) So I was in real trouble, because
I didn’t realize how dangerous it was. And while I was there, I decided
to do something about it. So I decided to teach,
to get kids out of the streets, and bring them into my studio
and expose them to art. This is just a picture of some of
the kids in my studio in South Central. And these kids are ages between
10 to 14 years old. And some of these kids have
to take the bus for an hour to get to my studio. And the sad part of it, is that
they only live 3 to 5 miles from me, but they couldn’t walk,
because it was so dangerous. So it was really touching, I mean, some of these kids shouldn’t be
on the bus alone and they were. And they had an impact on me. Here is the older group,
which is 14 to 19, I think. So I watched through
every semester the incredible progress
with these kids and I was just amazed by it. Because some of these kids
have never taken art before. They were so serious and they were
just [making] magnificent drawings These drawings were done
by kids of 13 to 18 years old. And they can compete with
some of the guys here, by the way. (Laughter)
This is amazing. And I have to tell you
something else, too. These kids, 99% of these kids are doing
something related to art, right now. That’s pretty amazing. And some of them are here. They are going to School of Art Center
and that is to me really incredible. This is their reality
outside my studio. These are all the guns collected
by LAPD from the streets of Los Angeles. And by the way, this is our city,
I remind you. So I was wondering,
I had the opportunity when I was there, one day,
this group of police guys walked in. And I said, “OK, I’m done,
I’m gonna be arrested, what am I doing here?” And it happened to be Charlie Beck,
who is the chief of police today. But at the time,
he was not the chief of police, I think he was a part of a big station. He came to me. He was, you know,
“What are you doing here?” And I said, “This is what I’m doing in.” He was so compelled that I was
actually teaching art to kids in the middle of
the most violent place. He said to me, you know, “One day,
you and I are gonna work together.” So, the time went by
and five years later, I talked him into giving me
two tons of guns destroyed from the streets. And this is one of the pictures
of some of the guns. And then, they break down
the guns and they become this. Last year I happened to lose
a very closed friend of mine. And he just fell in love
with this woman and he gets a call,
six months after that and it’s her husband. So he, of course, he didn’t know. And he was such a gentleman. He said, “Why don’t you
come over my house and talk? Because this is kind of news to me.” So the guy came over and killed him.
Just like that. So I was thinking —
it had such an effect on me, that this is a portrait
of my friend, Efren. And I decided to do these portraits
with guns, based on our relationship. This is my attempt of making art. I brought one here,
so you can see it physically because it’s so different when
you see it in a photograph, and you see it — it weighs
about 250, 300 pounds and the material is — it has
a certain kind of energy because these are guns,
and these come from crime scenes, and I don’t know what
else to think about that except that it was — the response
was completely unexpected. When I had the opportunity
to work with kids and see them up here,
how amazing these guys are. They’re so pure, I guess, is the word, but, just to encourage them,
and to open up the door of creativity for them, I saw this transformation. For me it was just like magic. Because, I’m busy
doing my own things and I didn’t think that something like that
really would have a major effect on me. And I realized that art
is a very powerful vehicle for you to express yourself,
and it has actually changed me. Now I’m looking at art
very differently, even though I’ve been
painting for 25 years I really don’t care whether
people like my paintings or not, and I don’t paint them to sell ’em, I just do what I want. Sometimes I get lucky
and I sell a painting or two and sometimes I get an exhibition
and it’s pretty incredible. But I have to tell you
that there was one moment where I was invited to
the Pacific Art Foundation. And right in the middle,
I asked a question, I said, “What is art?” And, you have to understand, these are the people
who are in the arts business everyday, and nobody wanted to say anything. Nobody wanted me to look at them
and I kept saying, “What is art?” And there was this silence. And I said, “Well, I’m gonna
answer that question for you, because the best answer I’ve ever
heard was from an 8 year old.” And this was, of course,
a very smart guy, very bright little kid, I was having
dinner in my friend’s house. And this kid was just incredible
and we were talking back and forth. And I asked him,
“What is art?” And without even
thinking about it, he says, “Art is when you draw
the heart of something.” And I said, “Oh, wow.” I mean, oh my God,
this is amazing, you know. It was beautiful. So why should I ask anyone else? This comes right from the heart.
It’s so simple, right? This makes sense. It doesn’t have a political agenda,
it doesn’t have — it’s just pure. And I thought,
“How amazing is this?” Recently, I had the opportunity to work
with kids at the Laguna Art Museum. And I happened to walk in
for an interview. But instead of the interview,
I was interviewed by a hundred kids. It was sort of an accident, I walked in, and one of
the teachers recognized me and says, “Would you mind saying a few things
to the kids and take a few questions?” And an hour later,
I was answering questions to every [kid] between
4 and 10 years old, and it was — just the most
amazing questions. But right in the middle of it,
one of the teachers says, “You know,
you guys can ask any questions.” You know, I was in trouble there
and I didn’t expect this one. And all of sudden this kid raised his hand.
I said, “Yes,” and he says, “Who is God?”
(Laughter) All of a sudden everybody
wanted to quiet him down, you know. They felt very uncomfortable,
because that is a loaded question. He didn’t know that.
That was beautiful. And I said, “No, no, let me
try to answer that.” So I said, instead of trying
to really answer that question which is sort of difficult to answer
for an 8 year old kid — When he says, “Who is God?”
I said, “What is art?” And it was just incredible. The kids went,
“Oh, OK, that’s good.” (Laughter) And I got away with that one.
(Laughter) But I would like to leave you
with the same question: What is art? And I thank you very much
for the time of you here. This is amazing.
(Applause) Thank you.
(Applause) Thank you, guys.

Dereck Turner

9 thoughts on “What is Art?: Victor Hugo Zayas at TEDxArtCenterCollegeOfDesign

  1. Andrew Heard says:

    I love what he left people with. 🙂

  2. chillstudentvlogger says:


  3. Robert Van Tuinen says:

    Guns aren't inherently evil though…

  4. Chrisanthy Petra says:

    gr8 talk…inspiring!

  5. Nobert Stanel says:

    Beautiful speech

  6. MUSAFIRI Ibrahim says:


  7. Kaiyang Guo says:

    It is amazing, very amazing, super amazing

  8. DJ Hypergirl says:

    "Art is when you draw the heart of something"… beautiful

  9. The Article says:

    So, like the vast majority of TEDx videos, this video is blunt, dull and vacuous, thank you very much.

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