James Membreno/ Courier Erika Nieblas poses for a portrait outside of the CC building on Wednesday, November 20, 2019 in Pasadena, Calif.
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Erika Nieblas struggled navigating exactly what she wanted to do with her life. She went from wanting to be a dentist to wanting to be a nurse. When she convinced herself that art wasn’t going to be financially sustainable, she was not motivated to continue her passion.

“I told myself when I was five-years old that I wasn’t going to make money from art so I discontinued that,” said Erika Nieblas, a studio art major at PCC. “I literally remember coloring when I was about five-years old and telling myself, ‘you’re not going to make a lot of money as an artist’ and so from there, I felt so detached from art and pursuing that sort of career.”

She was set on going to Mount Saint Mary’s University in Los Angeles to study Political Science. It wasn’t until a couple family members mentioned PCC as a good option for her that Nieblas was intrigued by the idea of community college.

Nieblas realized she wanted to pursue art the day she was walking to get donuts with her mom. 

“I told my mom, ‘yeah my friend and I have a joke that we want to win an Oscar for something we work on together’ and she was like, ‘yeah, okay!’ and so that really confirmed it for me,” she said. “I’m going to do art.”

Nieblas always felt lucky to have strong support from her family in regards to her artistic career. 

“I’m so blessed to have that type of support because I have so many friends, Nieblas said. “Not just Latinos but other people of color, who all have huge pressures from their parents in terms of what their parents expect them to be.”

When she was in high school, she was moved by the Black Lives Matter movement which sparked her interest in social justice and activism. She really became immersed in politics her senior year when Michael Brown was murdered. 

“That one just really hit deep,” said Nieblas “I wanted to do something that will change the world, even if it’s through art.” 

When talking to her dad about the racial disparities that brown and Black people face, her dad told her “asi es la vida” meaning “that’s just life” and hearing that from him made her realize how much he just accepted despite the severity. This made Nieblas sad and she wanted to do something that expressed that. She expresses that through her art. 

Some of Nielba’s favorite artists are people she has been following on Instagram and Tumblr for years. Tumblr is also the place where she was first exposed to political movements such as Black Lives Matter. It was also the place where she discovered her favorite artist, Karina Padilla who Nieblas has been following since she was in the sixth grade. Padilla is a painter and illustration artist who focuses her art around gender and sexuality. 

“She really made me appreciate doing whatever your hand wants to do,” said Nieblas. 

Erika was also heavily inspired by the art culture in Pasadena in general. She commutes every day from Hollywood to attend PCC and says some of the most influential people in her art career are the professors she has taken at PCC. Some of which include Shane Underwood, an English professor and advisor for the Critical Theory club which Nieblas was president for. 

“Being here (at PCC) has introduced me to so many gnarly people” said Nieblas. 

Nieblas’s art can be seen here on Instagram

Michelle Arias

Michelle Arias is the Managing Editor at the Courier. She is majoring in Journalism and plans to pursue a career in documentary filmmaking or photojournalism. When she is not writing articles, she can most likely be found in a thrift store hunting for vintage clothing, records and cassette tapes.

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