Q&A with Josh “Dr. Tre” Trejo
Published 12:19 am Tuesday, March 1, 2016
By Michael O’Hearn
Think back to your middle school years. Were you lucky enough to have an art class as part of your curriculum? Polk County Middle School students are fortunate to have studio art as a “wheel class,” or elective. The art teacher, Mr. Trejo, has a reputation among the students for being “way cool,” “lots of fun,” and an inspiration to many budding artists. Mr. Trejo’s classes are small, around 10 students, allowing both individual attention and group collaboration, boisterous activity or quiet conversation. Step through his sticker-covered door and into his art-supply packed classroom for a look at this street art inspired young teacher.
Q: What inspired you to get into this profession?
A: Everybody has a dream so I was planning on being a professional soccer player. And then I tore my ACL my sophomore year in college and realized I needed a backup plan. I was always good at art, but I never thought I could teach art. I never had that motivation to paint or draw and do things every day like a paid artist where, if you don’t do something that day, you won’t get paid. So, I like to teach and help people out.
Q: Do you have any inspirations as an artist?
A: Yeah, of course. I’m not an old school artist or into Renaissance art or the Baroque period and stuff like that. I’m a big street art fan, with people like Keith Haring or Banksy or Shepard Fairey with the “thinking outside the box” kind of thing. Picasso and cubism and stuff like that, it’s not bad. I like Van Gogh, and he had different stuff. You’ve got Raphael, Michelangelo, Donatello, basically the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Q: What is your favorite part of being a middle school teacher?
A: I would love for one day to teach high school art, but you have Mr. Thomas at the high school. He’s the man. He’s just himself, and that’s part of the reason I wanted to teach. I did teaching at the elementary and high school levels while I was in college and didn’t think I would like it and I came in here and did some long-term subbing and it just blew my mind where, with these kids you would think you would have to baby them, but you really don’t. We do projects in here and they are really engaged. Every one of these students here wants to do art. None of them are like, “I’m too cool to do art.” It keeps me feeling like a kid, even though I’m 25.
Q: How do you inspire your students? What should they be able to take away from your classes?
A: With some teachers, I feel it’s like they have their one way to do something. With me, there’s so many ways to do something, anything. For example, if we do a project with elements, I’ll give them the elements but I won’t be like, “You have to draw a dog in a house.” No, here are the elements and you can do whatever you want with them, as long as it’s on your own. I don’t set boundaries. Think outside the box. I don’t give them boundaries, and I try to push them to be more creative. I try to inspire them by showing them that I still do it, through my work. I show them works of different artists, too, and what they can do.
Q: Do you have any pieces on display around this area? What is your favorite piece?
A: I’m working on a few things right now. Some I don’t want to reveal just yet, but no, I don’t have any pieces anywhere. My favorite set is “Es Mi Vida,” which I did for my senior show in college on illegal immigrants. My dad inspired that, and it includes people who have been inspired by illegal immigrants. If he didn’t come over here from Mexico at 15, would I have been able to do what I have now?
Q: What is your philosophy on life?
A: I want to change the ways in which people look at things, because I feel like people have been programmed to look at things in one way and they think it’s the right way to do it. There are other ways to do it, but are you willing to put in the effort to do it? If you really put in the effort, you can do it. If you put in the work, you can do it. I’m still doing something I wanted to do besides being a soccer player. Nobody should just give up.