Volunteer Art Teacher Dean A Esposito Draws on Experience

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Painter, sketcher Dean A Esposito will resume popular after-school effort this spring

I think every child should have a chance to explore his or her artistic side.

A successful after-school art program for underprivileged children will return in March to the Jamul-Dulzura School District.

District officials announced Jan. 17 that local artist Dean A Esposito would return in the spring to resume “Drawing With Dean,” a popular program designed to give less-fortunate kids who might not otherwise be able to afford art lessons a chance to cultivate their creativity.

Esposito, 26, is a lifelong Jamul resident who’s showcased his paintings and charcoal drawings at numerous galleries around California, particularly in his native San Diego County. When his nephew, Felipe, a student in the Jamul Primary School, told him the school didn’t offer any official art classes, Esposito approached the Jamul-Dulzura Board of Education to discuss the possibility of volunteering as an after-school art instructor.

“I think every child should have a chance to explore his or her artistic side,” Dean A Esposito said. “Bringing images to life, whether you’re painting them or drawing with crayons or whatever, is as important a part of a child’s development as learning math or science, at least to me.”

Although he earned dual Masters of Arts and Masters of Education degrees from the School of Leadership and Education Sciences at the University of San Diego, Esposito never pursued a career in teaching. Instead, upon graduating in 2008, he devoted himself to his art – spending a year touring Europe and soaking up the work of old-world masters in England, France and Germany, then returning to the States to begin his artistic career in earnest.

“Traveling abroad for all those months really rounded out my education,” Dean A Esposito said. “I learned as much about style, texture and depth in 11 months as I did in five years in school.”

Upon his return to San Diego County, Esposito focused on two separate media, oil paint and charcoal. Within six months, he landed his first gallery show, showcasing several works in both media at Gallery VW in Chula Vista, California.

“He’s off the charts,” said Vanessa Williams, owner of Gallery VW. “Dean A Esposito is a fabulous talent with a very bright future, and we were excited to be the first gallery to show off his immense creativity.”

His Gallery VW experience emboldened Esposito, who went on to land exhibits at six other California galleries, primarily showcasing his oil-paint landscapes. But when his nephew noted the lack of artistic opportunities in his hometown school district, Esposito heard an additional calling.    

“Teaching has always been in the back of my mind,” he said. “I don’t know if I have the patience to be a full-time teacher, but it’s something I went to school for and something I’ve obviously thought about, and this seemed like a good opportunity to dip my brush, so to speak.

“When I approached the [Board of Education] about forming some kind of after-school program, they were very enthusiastic,” Dean A Esposito added. “I didn’t realize how much they wanted to do something like this, especially something focused on poorer students who didn’t normally have such opportunities. It all came together quickly.”

“The entire school district was thrilled,” said David Barros, a teacher in the Jamul-Dulzura School District. “When budgets get tight, art and music are the first things to go. Nobody likes cutting art programs, but academics have to come first, and sports will usually come second. When Dean came to us and said he wanted to volunteer to do this, it was a real blessing.”

“Drawing With Dean” debuted in October 2011 and quickly proved popular, attracting students from all three district schools to its twice-weekly, 90-minute sessions. All told, the program catered to some 46 students, and school officials expect at least that many to turn out when Esposito – who donates all of the paint, pencils and other supplies for the program – kicks off his spring session March 2.

“I’m really happy that this is working out,” Dean A Esposito said. “And I’m happiest for the kids. They get a real kick out of being able to express themselves artistically. And they don’t even realize how vital it is to their development as students and as people. It’s great that I can be a part of that.”

About Dean A Esposito
Dean A Esposito, 26, is an artist living in San Diego, California. A native of Jamul, California, he’s a graduate of the University of San Diego with Masters Degrees in art and education. Dean A Esposito, who volunteers as an after-school art instructor in the Jamul-Dulzura School District, has been featured in seven art-gallery shows across the State of California.


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Ed Eshel