Note: This article is part of the StanGrad series, highlighting CSU Stanislaus students who will graduate at commencement ceremonies May 29 and 30. Click here for more .
Great art often comes as the result of tragedy or struggle. But for Joel Munoz, art is more than just a way of coping with these things or expressing something about them — it's also become his way of making a difference in the lives of others.
Munoz, who will graduate this month with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from CSU Stanislaus, was born and raised in Stockton. As his hometown suffered through financial difficulties and widespread violent crime, and as he went through tragedies in his own life, Munoz channeled his observations into art.
"Coupled with the education I have received and my upbringing, I have become more aware of the lessons to be learned from the experiences of others in my life and my community," he said. "Learning from other people's mistakes has been instrumental in my life."
After transferring to CSU Stanislaus from San Joaquin Delta College, Munoz began studying art while also working in an after-school program at Franklin High School in Stockton. There, his understanding of the impact of art began to change.
He relayed many of his art lessons to the students at Franklin. Then he started an airbrush club for high school students throughout the city. Eventually, he gathered a group of students to paint a downtown mural  — "a message of hope to my hurting city," he said.
In short, he was invigorated.
"My art and my conversations at the university became mostly about Stockton," Munoz said. "I was a full-time commuter student, and I couldn't wait to get back home to be in my community after my classes."
Munoz has plans for another mural, at the Stockton Emergency Food Bank, and he hopes the project will open up more opportunities for young artists in the community. He said the influence he has on young people in his hometown has taken precedence over any personal goals he once had as an artist, and he has begun early coursework to become a high school art teacher.
"I am a community member first," he said. "I can give up my dreams of making art all day in my studio if it means providing ways for students to be creative and express themselves."
Bachelor of Fine Arts
What memories stand out most from your time at CSU Stanislaus?
"What really stood out the most was the amount of support I received from the faculty and my classmates. I am fortunate to have had courses with professors who cared about my learning experience, rather than just sharing information with me, and classmates who took a genuine interest in me and my life."
Which faculty or staff member had the greatest impact on you, and why?
“I honestly can't pick just one. Our art department at CSU Stanislaus has gifted educators and staff who go above and beyond what's required of them. Department Chair Roxanne Robbin, Professors Daniel Edwards and Staci Scheiwiller, instructors David Olivant, James Deitz, Chad Hunter and Ellen Roehne, and art department technicians Jon Kithcart and Andrew Cain all played major roles in my two years at CSU Stanislaus.”
What advice would you give to current and future students?
“Oftentimes a person's greatest exhibition of strength is mislabeled as weakness. With that said, remember that your education is a gift that can and should be shared. Stay humble, and be open to serving others.”