A love of art has led Tashina Garcia-Garza ’08, ‘14 MA from Victorville, a small town in the California high desert, to Los Angeles where she runs the municipal art program at the Los Angeles International Airport.
Tashina, an Arts Manager with the Department of Cultural Affairs for the City of Los Angeles, is responsible for curating all the art that hangs in the airport’s terminals. She loves working with artists from southern California and figuring out how to display art in a busy public space. And she’s grateful and amazed at how all of her disparate experiences led her to this point.
Her experiences at Dominican, which included three internships and a network of connections both on and off campus, nurtured Tashina’s interest in art into a career in art.
Growing up in Victorville, located between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Tashina was always fascinated by history. She knew she wanted to stay in California for college, but she didn’t want to be in a big city or at a large university with a “cookie-cutter” campus.
“San Rafael and Dominican were pretty perfect,” she recalls. “The campus wasn’t intimidating. It was beautiful. It caught my eye very early on and I sort of had my heart set on it.”
Tashina soon knew art history would be her path. At freshman orientation, she met in the Department of Art, Design and Visual Studies with Dr. Leslie Ross, chair of Art History, who would later be her graduate thesis advisor. Tashina leapt into an introductory class in her first semester.
“I was very serious about it from the beginning,” Tashina says. “I remember my first art history class with Professor Sandy Chin. It was mind blowing...I just fell in love with it.”
Those three internships helped Tashina land a job after graduation at a gallery in San Francisco’s Ghiradelli Square. The job led to her working with the traveling Tutankhamun exhibition at the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum. It was an eye-opening experience that introduced Tashina to working with third-party companies that organized exhibits that organized exhibits specifically for museum shows.
Eventually, Tashina decided to earn a master’s degree in humanities with an emphasis on art history to open up even more career opportunities. While she was a part-time student, she was hired as a curatorial assistant at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.
“I got exposed to a lot of things as I had to think of how to use my degree,” she says. “You have to have your hands in all different kinds of pots and your mind always has to be thinking about the next step.”
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Upon completing her MA in Humanities, Tashina moved to Los Angeles. She accepted an emergency curatorial assistant position at the Barnsdall Art Park in Hollywood, a Los Angeles Municipal art gallery. It was public art, which she knew little about, but her varied experience made her an ideal candidate.
“The director of the gallery really threw me into this exhibition,” she said. “It was the best thing that could have happened to me.”
Public art is Tashina’s foundation for the time being. She entertains the idea of pursuing her PhD, yet still reflects on interests that were stirred in the School of Liberal Arts and Education — namely by her master’s thesis project centered on untraditional images about the Virgen de Guadalupe that transformed the religious image into a cultural icon.
“I love art too much to stop talking about it,” she says. “It’s just how I understand the world at this point.”