Conversations | Luiza Teixeira-Vesey, Designer & Marketing Associate at NYFA
“Being an immigrant makes you see things from a different perspective, and that’s something employers, jurors in open calls, or gallerists may value.”
Luiza Teixeira-Vesey was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She is a Designer and Marketing Associate at The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) and works directly on the design of the Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter. Teixeira-Vesey is also an Art Historian focused on the influence of Afro-Brazilian religions in feminism, art, and popular culture in Brazil. Read on to learn more about her role in IAP and her experiences as an immigrant arts professional in New York.
NYFA: Can you tell us a little bit about your projects as a designer/illustrator? Are you currently working on any projects?
Luiza Teixeira-Vesey: My life in design is a product of my passion for books. My first full-time job was as an art director for a small publishing house in Rio. It’s a funny story because I didn’t apply to be a designer; I was actually trying to be an illustrator for children’s books! Later I’d illustrate two published books for kids, but I consider myself very lucky that Laura van Boekel, the editor in chief, invited me to be a designer instead. That job was the foundation of my career; I learned so much, not only about book design but literature, writing, work ethic… Laura was a wonderful mentor!
I rarely work with printed publications nowadays and my career as an illustrator has been on pause for a few years. I like digital a lot but seeing my work on paper gives me an extra joy. I was beside myself when the art catalog NYFA made for Artists as Innovators exhibition came back from the printers.
NYFA: Can you tell us about your work at NYFA? What is your role regarding the IAP Newsletter?
LTV: As you know, NYFA is a small organization with people that are very driven and passionate about what they do, so we all end up wearing lots of hats. I do most of the design work for NYFA, and also assist with the monitoring of Classifieds and their design services for advertisers, along with other marketing efforts for all of our programs. This is where the IAP Newsletter comes in. My job is to help the Learning team make the newsletter as reader-friendly and relevant as possible, using email marketing data and statistics to make informed decisions. Some of this data analysis led to its redesign last year.
NYFA: What was your first impression when you first came to New York?
LTV: I remember thinking there were way too many people everywhere and that was very disorienting. I come from Rio de Janeiro, I’m used to big cities, but nothing can prepare you for the speed at which things happen in New York. I was also amazed that suddenly I had live access to all these works of art that I had only previously seen in books. I’ll never forget the first time I entered a public library: I couldn’t believe Americans had access to so much culture for free!
NYFA: Did you face any challenges when first arriving in the city? How did you overcome them?
LTV: Plenty! But I am very fortunate because I didn’t come here alone. My husband is from New York and his family took me in as one of their own. That helped a lot while I was adapting to a whole new life. Professionally, though, I had to figure things out myself. When you move to a new country, your whole previous professional life almost vanishes, so I basically had to start from zero. It was very difficult and it takes a huge emotional toll on you.
Going back to school, for an M.A., helped me regain a sense of belonging. Finding activities related to Brazil and the Portuguese language was also very helpful. I became a volunteer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and that opened several doors for me in the art world. I was in the visitor services department and my job was to provide information about The Met (and, a lot of times, other museums as well) to Portuguese-speaking patrons. So it was basically 3 hours a week that I had dedicated to talking about art and meeting wonderful people in one of my favorite places in New York! Plus, it was one of my fellow volunteers that told me about an opening at The Morgan Library–my first art-related job in the US.
NYFA: Any advice for emerging immigrant artists?
LTV: Don’t try to tackle this city by yourself. Find your peers. And by peers, I don’t mean people that come from the same place as you (though that also helps), but people that have the same drive as you. Also, be proud of your roots. Being an immigrant makes you see things from a different perspective, and that’s something employers, jurors in open calls, or gallerists may value. Last but not least: apply for the Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program!
NYFA: As a Brazilian arts professional, what do you think about Brazilian art (art made in Brazil as well as art made by Brazilian artists) in particular, and Latinx art in general, in New York?
LTV: When it comes to major retrospectives, I cannot complain at all. Since I’ve moved here, we had Lygia Clark and Tarsila do Amaral at The MoMA, Helio Oiticica at The Whitney, and Lygia Pape at The Met Breuer. There’s also plenty going on in terms of music. Brasil Summerfest brings in wonderful musicians every year, for example. The same goes for Latinx art in general. New York even has a whole museum dedicated to it, El Museo del Barrio! It’s great to see that the diaspora is looking after their own in the art world.
NYFA: Are there any challenges particular to Brazilian/Latinx artists in New York?
LTV: There are challenges that artists from all peripheric countries deal with when approaching the mainstream art world: how do you break through the stereotype? There’s this sense that we must always be addressing the struggles of our home country or the struggles of ourselves as immigrants. But maybe we want to make abstract art or experimental theater or classical music, and when that happens, there’s always someone to say you’re not being Latinx enough. But we’re slowly making progress and showing that Latinx art can be any kind of art.
– Interview Conducted by Alicia Ehni, Program Officer at NYFA Learning
About Luiza Teixeira-Vesey
Born and raised in Rio de Janeiro, Luiza Teixeira-Vesey (née Luiza Costa Teixeira) is a Designer and Marketing Associate at The New York Foundation for the Arts and an Art Historian focused on the influence of Afro-Brazilian religions in feminism, art, and popular culture in Brazil. She holds a master’s degree in Art History and Criticism from Stony Brook University; a B.A. in Advertising from Universidade Federal Fluminense in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; a specialization in Art and Culture from Universidade Cândido Mendes, also in Rio de Janeiro; and communication design training from the Fine Arts School of the University of Lisbon, in Lisbon, Portugal. Luiza has published two children’s books as an illustrator, A escola que eu quero pra mim (Ao Livro Técnico, 2011) and Amor de Mãe d’Água (Escrita Fina Edições, 2011).
This interview is part of the ConEdison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter #111. Subscribe to this free monthly e-mail for artist’s features, opportunities, and events.
Image: Photo by Doris Tamai