I don’t even think that I can describe my first experiences with the arts because, quite honestly, the arts have always been a part of my life. I was born into an artistic family and, literally, grew up in an art gallery because my mother, Carmen Torruella Quander, is a representational artist and curator whose personal studio and gallery (The Torruella Quander Gallery, Ltd.) also served as my childhood home! Growing up, my siblings and I assisted our mother on all sorts of exhibits and events and we each knew how to properly hang a show by the time we were 10 or 11 years old! The three of us have grown on to become professional artists in our own right: my sister is a fabulous fashion designer and artist living and working in NYC, my brother is a photographer here in DC, I’m an actor and, now, even my father has jumped on our artist bandwagon through becoming a published author—having written two books and already working on the 3rd and 4th! In short, art was just life for us.
Aside from all the art happening at home, I also participated in various arts programs and organizations around DC. I played the violin with the DC Youth Orchestra and took a number of after-school classes at Fillmore Arts Center in DC. On many occasions, I was the youngest person in my class and remember quite vividly sitting in the front row of the class, drawing charcoal still lifes, and listening to my 13 and 14 year old classmates marvel at the fact that I was only 9 years old! Not surprisingly, art gave me confidence.
At home—also when I was around 9 years old—I started to draw cartoons and caricatures. During this time, I focused my energies towards creating my own comic strips and hoped to, one day, draw for the weekend funnies section in The Washington Post. Although this temporary dream never materialized, I soon started my own Christmas card business called “Fatima’s Cards” where I created all sorts of hand-drawn Christmas cards that I successfully sold at my school’s annual Christmas bazaar. That year, I was able to purchase beautiful Christmas gifts for both my immediate and extended family and realized that, despite the fact that I was a 4th grader, I could make an honest dollar from my own creations! What an amazing discovery!
Many, many years later, I’m still successfully making an honest dollar from creativity and art! Although I’ve come to be a performer and not a visual artist, I have no doubt that my early experiences with visual arts—and the arts in general—have contributed to who I am today. They assured me of the power of my own creativity, ability, and resourcefulness and I am absolutely thankful for all that art has given me and continues to give me everyday of my life.
Click here to learn how you can help keep the arts alive in DC classrooms.
Click on the video below to watch Fatima explain why she believes arts education matters for DC students.