Alumni Testimonial: Linda Fernandez

A graduate of Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, Linda developed a passion for creating art by engaging communities, and went on to work with the Philadelphia Mural Arts program. From 2008-2010 she lived in Barcelona, Nicaragua, and Guatemala where she continued to study contemporary art and create murals by engaging with community members from impoverished neighborhoods. In 2010 Linda returned to Philadelphia where she has been working as a teaching artist and engaging members of the Hispanic community through creative workshops.

Why did you decide to apply to CAELI?

I really wanted to improve and build upon my leadership skills alongside a supportive community. I was working as the Manager of Youth Programs at Fleisher Art Memorial, a community art center, and had recently co-founded Amber Art and Design, an artist collective focused on community engagement through public art. With these two distinct roles being fairly new to me, I was encountering situations that were challenging me in new ways. I wanted to attend CAELI to dive deep into my leadership style, reflect on my current practices and challenge myself to see leadership in a new way—not as a role, but as a lifestyle.

What takeaways did you have from CAELI, for yourself and for your organization?

CAELI provided me the time and space to reflect on my work, my mission and values, and help me to focus on my “true north.” I learned that something I had been doing for years, journaling, is one of the most powerful restorative tools in my leadership toolkit. Though my practice of journaling is not a daily practice, I write when I’m at a beach, it has been a force that drives me forward while allowing me to retrace the steps of my journey.

What were your highlights from the seminar week at Bryn Mawr?

Everything was so well organized and presented, every moment felt like a learning opportunity and I was just soaking it in. It was a great mix of fun activities (one which involves throwing stuffed animals), and deep conversations and discussion. We had an amazing group of people from all over the country who built lasting bonds of friendship. It’s wonderful to reconnect and share our challenges, dreams, and successes.

How did working with Ronnie Brooks, John McCann, and Mary Parish impact your thoughts on leadership?

I owe so much to these three incredible people. I still channel their gems of wisdom when I have a challenge to overcome and need to do some creative problem solving. It was great to have coaching sessions with Mary following the week at Bryn Mawr; it helped to keep the momentum from CAELI in the forefront of my consciousness and retain the information we learned.

Do you keep in touch with our CAELI alumni network?

We had an amazing group of fun and supportive people who wanted to stay in touch, continue to share updates, stories, and ask for advise. Facebook has been a great way for us to all stay in touch and many of us get a chance to reconnect each year at the Guild's Conference for Community Arts Education. 

What advice would you give to a prospective CAELI applicant?

Participating in CAELI is one of the best things you can do, both personally and professionally. You will walk in not knowing exactly what to expect and you will leave feeling refreshed and reenergized to do amazing work and have a positive impact on your community.