Family Ties

Mariela Montero and Paolo Salazar (MFA 2017)

Congratulations to Mariela Montero and Paolo Salazar—new alumni and parents—on their new adventures!

We asked them about their experiences in the studio and beyond, as they welcomed baby Aiza Salazar earlier this year. Here's to her graduation in 2042?

Tell us about your experiences at SFAI’s MFA Program.

Mariela Montero (MM): Working through the MFA program was a challenge in and of itself, and it became even more so of a challenge upon realizing we were going to have a child and that I was going to be pregnant for the duration of the second year. We did the best we could to prepare for our baby’s arrival while keeping up with the demands of the graduate program. I tried to complete most of my work in the months leading up to my daughter’s due date; however, we still had to pull a lot of late nights in the studio, and all of our time was split between working on art projects and assignments and preparing for the baby. In general, I would not have done anything differently in regards to both experiencing my first pregnancy and working towards my Master’s degree.

Paolo Salazar (PS): In looking back to the last two years, reflecting upon all those days and nights where I felt unsure of what I was doing as a graduate student, I can now say I am truly proud that I dug deep and did whatever it took to realize my artistic vision and potential. Going through intense seminars and critiques really broke me down, and as time passed, I had no choice but to trust in the process and to figure out how to build myself as an artist. Guidance from the SFAI faculty and my fellow students provided a rich collection of voices from which to pull inspiration. The realization of our little miracle-to-be, Aiza, just magnified the voice inside me that proclaims that I am an artist, and that I am capable of doing great things.

How did you balance the pregnancy and your degree?

MM: When I found out that I was going to have a baby, I was grateful that I had already undergone my most transformative point in the program—that I had found my voice through my work and the rest of the year would be spent experimenting with different ways to convey my ideas.

Many of the professors I worked with and my peers were supportive of us. I am proud of the fact we were able to keep up with the demands of achieving two different milestones simultaneously. Not only did we transition into becoming parents for the first time but we were also able to create strong work and launch our careers as professional artists by finishing our MFAs.

PS: We couldn’t have made it through without the support of our SFAI community—our professors who teach not only about art but of life, our loving peers who threw us a baby shower in an art studio, or the hard working staff who supported us by addressing any possible health hazards and special needs. My SFAI experience is definitely unique but I came out stronger and hungrier to take on the world.

Image credit: Photos by Claudine Gossett.