Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon
Visit the Midday Edition homepage

Local Leaders To Honor Young Artist, Subject Of Oscar Winning Film

March 25, 2013 1:50 p.m.


Inocente Izucar, 19-year old artist

Matt D'Arrigo, founder CEO of National City non-profit of ARTS: A reason to survive

Related Story: Local Leaders To Honor Young Artist, Subject Of Oscar Winning Film


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: coming up here in the land young San Diego artist whose life was made into a Oscar-winning short film. Inocente will tell us about her life now. It's 1221 and you are listening to KPBS Midday Edition. This is KP BS Midday Edition I am Maureen Cavanaugh. A child who has been moving from shelter to shelter in San Diego to standing on the stage of the Academy Awards not many people experience such extremes in their lives especially when they are still only in their teens, the struggle of young artist Inocente Izucar is the subject of the documentary short that won an Oscar this year at the business and says the film has given her a voice not to change just her life but to speak for the homeless, immigrants and the artist to remain invisible in our society. It is my pleasure to welcome San Diego artist Inocente Izucar and welcome to the program.

INOCENTE IZUCAR: Hello thanks for having me.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Also here is Matt D'Arrigo, he is founder and CEO of the national city nonprofit ARTS, a reason to survive. And Matt, welcome to the program.

MATT D'ARRIGO: Thank you it's great to be here.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Inocente, what was it like to be on stage at the Academy Awards accepting the award?

INOCENTE IZUCAR: It was like a dream for me it was really fun and I'm really glad I had the experience.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Was it sort of unbelievable?

INOCENTE IZUCAR: It was unbelievable but I was happy but I am glad to experience it with the filmmakers so it was like a dream but a really good dream.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: There are so many people Inocente who know so much about you now because of the documentary and a lot of it was painful for you to tell. Is there anything you wish you hadn't talked about in the documentary?

INOCENTE IZUCAR: I completely put my trust in the filmmakers and I'm really grateful to them because since the beginning they told me to trust them and I did. It took me a while, but I did and I'm completely happy with how the documentary turned out.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Where did you find the trust considering what your life had been like from place to place and person to person where did you find the trust in you to do thatso you could basically bare your soul and the documentary?

INOCENTE IZUCAR: I think the way I live is day by day, like tomorrow is a new day, so I think while the documentary was being felt it was not weird or anything because it's a documentary and it's my life and it was the reality. So I think people needed to see that it was my reality and it's a lot of people reality so I think that is what gave me strength, realizing that hopefully that would help people open our eyes.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Your family was undocumented and you, your mom and her two brothers were homeless for many years. But you did not tell the kids at school.

INOCENTE IZUCAR: No, I think when I was younger he didn't really matter but as I started going into high school I realized a lot of the kids go to each other's house, or talk a lot about their families, or, it was weird I think because as I was growing up as you get older I think some of the kids can be a little more cruel, so that's why I didn't tell anybody because I could see how people were mean even though, people were mean about other things I didn't know how they would take it when I told them that I was homeless.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: What did you think they would think about you?

INOCENTE IZUCAR: I guess I didn't really think about it but I guess I didn't want to find out, either.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: fair enough, when did you find arts, the organization in national city?

INOCENTE IZUCAR: I found arts when I was about 14 years old and they were doing an afterschool program. So they would come pick us up after school and I would go to ART classes there and I fell in love with the program so I started coming on my own more than one so weekend I kind of stayed there. You can't get rid of me now.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Did you draw before you started to take the classes?

INOCENTE IZUCAR: I think I drew a little bit, and I remember in fifth grade this is like one of my biggest memories because in fifth grade they did a yearbook and I remember not being picked for best artist and I remember being really sad, so I think it's funny looking back now.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Matt, could you tell us a little bit about what arts is?

MATT D'ARRIGO: Sure as you mentioned we are national city nonprofit organization but we serve the whole County and we provide therapeutic arts programming, arts education and college and career preparation in the arts and creative industries. So we're really a one-stop shop to use the arts and creativity to create positive change and transformation in youth. They are all facing some sort of adversity whether it's homelessness, abuse, foster care, terminal or chronic illness, emotional behavioral challenges, it runs the spectrum.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Do you remember what Inocente was like when she first came to the program?

MATT D'ARRIGO: I think she was about 13 years old and she walked through the doors and she was coming from monarchs also we knew her situation. We knew part of her situation. We didn't know the whole story.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Monarch school is a school for homeless kids.

MATT D'ARRIGO: Yes, so she walked in and she had her face painted and a rainbow to two and these red Chuck Taylor's and you could tell she was an artist and I just thought, this is exactly who I created the organization for. A young person like this was obviously going through struggles but also was an artist looking to come out and thrive, so

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I wanted to ask you a little bit about your look, because I think people who have seen the documentary day, even if they have not seen the whole thing they recognize there is this young girl there who has colorful paint lining her eyes and designs on her cheek sometimes when did you start painting your face like that?

INOCENTE IZUCAR: I think since I was very young I started painting my face and it was actually a guy who inspired me from a band, and he would do his face makeup but only for the stage. Only for concerts they would do. But I started doing it and I felt a little bit more confident and I thought it was really fun. Like Matt says, I'm an artist, so it was like a good way, you know because in the morning I would wake up, shower and do my makeup. It is just a fun way to express myself and let out all my artisticness the morning

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: so many kids want to be like each other they are so so determined to look like the other kid in school you know they want to be conventional. Did you ever feel, you know, I'm out there. The way I look is out there.

INOCENTE IZUCAR: When I was younger I didn't realize that. Because I think when you are younger, no one is going to tell you things you are a little kid they don't want to hurt your feelings about when I said back to like not telling kids I was homeless people were weird and people would judge and people would question and I think from there I felt a little less confident.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: but you kept doing it.

INOCENTE IZUCAR: Yeah it's who I am so going to keep doing it not matter what.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Matt, lots of people might say a homeless kid, undocumented certainly needs a lot of things, but maybe art classes are not high on the list. Why is this such a lifeline to kids?

MATT D'ARRIGO: True, I mean kids need a range of services whether it is housing, food, healthcare I mean where we come in is tapping into kids and eight talents and passions and helping them find joy and really helping them find hope. And so, because without hope there is nothing. So if there's thousands of kids out. Account team that are artists or musicians or writers and that is what they do. But they are not being given a voice in school, so they are kind of lost. So we use the art as a vehicle to get down in the kids and find the fire, the passion within them and start letting it out and build their confidence. I mean, our program is built on Maslow's hierarchy of needs which is, we find safety and love and belonging and hope, then we build on that by building artistic skills and self-esteem and self-confidence, then we build on that by empowering them to find self-actualization. What their true passion is in life.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: is that the reason for the tag, hearts a reason to survive because maybe nothing else is really giving a lot of kids a reason to survive.

MATT D'ARRIGO: That is exactly right at that point in the life you look at Inocente is a prime example we have kids who arts is a reason to survive it's giving them hope, joy or reason to hang on and get through the difficult time in their life and use that as a pathway to success.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: now, Inocente in the documentary it's obvious that you and your mom had a troubled relationship. She was so desperate at one time that she wanted you to jump off
the Coronado bridge with her. How did her depression you think affect you?

INOCENTE IZUCAR: She was a little upset at times, but a lot of times she did try to hide her feelings which was a really good feelings I think she did a really good job at that because I think if we had if she had shown more of that I think we would all be a mess. I mean she's doing a lot better. She takes care of her kids, she lives with my brothers and they have pets so they are doing a lot better. I don't judge her for what she did. Everyone goes through those phases.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: it sounds so like you are pretty good at picking up on people being an artist. Even though she tried to hide that there was such deep sadness in her you must have picked up on that.

INOCENTE IZUCAR: I tried to ignore it.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: To save yourself?


MATT D'ARRIGO: I think Inocente says in the film she wakes up each day it is a new day and to have a positive outlook and to paint these bright and colorful paintings to put the focus on that and not on the past and reality of the situation. She was using are to escape the reality of the situation.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You are the one who suggested Inocente to the filmmakers Sean and Andrea Fine. I, first of all do you know why they want to make the documentary in the first place?

MATT D'ARRIGO: They had seen a stat that said one in 45 kids in America are homeless and that blew them away they are looking for a needle in a haystack. They're looking for young teenage girl who was homeless and who was an exceptional artist and they found us online. They been doing a national search and baby crib across an article of our sin they called us one morning and we've got a number of young women in the program but as they started explaining who they were looking for, the type of story, the type of personality, Inocente came to mind and also somebody who was really to tell the story. A lot of the kids in program don't want to tell their story and after talking to Inocente they came out with cameras and spend some time with her and you asked questions earlier about building trust and Sean and entry are amazing with building trust. If Vanessa did not want to film they put down my cameras for days on end until she was ready to film so they let her take the lead and when they came out to meet her the agreed she was a perfect person for the film.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: How difficult was it for you to do the film, Inocente?

INOCENTE IZUCAR: It was not difficult at all because it's a documentary because I did not have to do anything just, you know, with my life I think the only funny part is when we would be filming down the street or on the trolley or at school people would ask and it was funny because of course people I did not want to tell people and the filmmakers were really funny sometimes we would pick things up like we're making a music video, so it was just really fun. Nothing hard about it.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You know Matt, you make the point that the filmmakers John and Andrea fine were shocked when they read the statistic about the number of homeless kids there are. Do you find that people are shocked when they find people a permanent place to live right here in San Diego County?

MATT D'ARRIGO: Yes it's a huge problem and that's one of the reasons why Inocente wanted to do the film was to put a face to it. Because it's kind of it. People do not really see it. You see a lot of maybe man on the street, but women and children are kind of hidden. And as Inocente says on the film it's not always in the streets of being in shelters, slipping on somebody's couch, just not having a permanent place to call home. And so it is shocking. Not just in San Diego but around the country and especially with the past four or five years of the economic downturn. It has taken a toll and I think it's government and communities and nonprofits working together to support and build these families back up and give them the services they need and put them on a path to self-sufficiency again.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Inocente, this documentary has given you a voice, so what message are you bringing about other kids who are struggling with poverty and homelessness?

INOCENTE IZUCAR: That's a hard question. I am really, I don't know right now. I'm still trying to figure that out. But, I mean doing the documentary has given me the opportunity to speak for those who can't and just showing people that just the reality like I said before, that we are struggling and it's for a lot of reasons because I was homeless, I was a striving artist and because I was an immigrant. So this year want to do a lot of advocacy with the film and hopefully. We've gotten a lot of contacts from organizations or conferences that one test to participate or campaign and I'm really excited about that because I get to be the voice for like Matt said, those who do not have one and I do not feel like it's a duty. I don't feel like it's a burden. I feel like this is what I want to do.

MATT D'ARRIGO: Yeah and as Inocente said, she's turned to figure out what the message is there's a lot of different messages but I think one right off the bat is that she gives people hope, some

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Because not only has the documentary changed your life but the life was changing, you are changing your own life, we witness that. The documentary through your association with the arts program and developing as an artist. You are 19 now, starting your adult life, what are your plans?

INOCENTE IZUCAR: This year want to do advocacy and by the end of the year I want to hopefully start college or start at least looking into colleges. But yeah, advocacy is my biggest thing this year and spreading the word and spreading the message now that it's gotten national attention. So I think it's a good opportunity to spread the message and also I think it's a good opportunity to do that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Are you painting?

INOCENTE IZUCAR: I'm trying, actually at The Art Ctr., Matt gave me permission to have a little studio back there so I'm going in a few days a week to paint there.

MATT D'ARRIGO: She's got quite an active schedule coming in in addition to the people who want the original art, she's got an artist in residency in Denver for a week in June. She's got a show in DC over the summer. She's got a show in New York City in the summer. So that's where her focus is on her original art is creating the bodywork for that but she also has prints and limited edition prints that Inocente.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: You are a busy lady. Thank you for taking the time to come in today and speak with us. I've been speaking with Inocente Azucar and Matt D'Arrigo, founder of the group ARTS: a reason to survive. Thank you both very much.


MATT D'ARRIGO: Thank you so much.