Katie Howden, How Believing Can Make a Difference!

By Dr. Marchéta Williams, Visual and Performing Arts Director

Whenever I meet young talented artists and musicians, I am always curious to know how they came to be. What was their motivation to become an artist or musician? From the time she was little, Katie Howden always enjoyed art. While she was involved in sports and her academics, when it came to art, Katie says, “Art was the one thing I was truly competitive in.” Thanks to a great history teacher, she originally thought she would pursue history, or try something else entirely. As it turns out, her teachers in the Arts would ultimately make the difference as she charted her path. With the creation of an AP Art course at Madera South, Katie’s father suggested that she try to take the course. Katie had never taken any high school art classes, but after showing a portfolio she was accepted into the course and ultimately completed both AP Studio Art and AP 2D Design earning 5s on her AP exams. During that time, Katie also had the opportunity to take theatre with Ginger Latimer, Performing Arts Department Head at Madera South. In the spirit of Katie Howden, she took four years of Drama. As a drama student, Katie used her art skills to build sets, help with props and set design, and participate in drama competitions. “I was kind of a Queen of the Backstage. Backstage is often “guy territory” with building sets and lots of power tools, but they didn’t know how to paint them. I was able to come in and do a lot of things like special effects and custom make-up.” As fate would have it, Katie had friends who were in both drama and choir. “I’d always enjoyed singing, but to be entirely honest, I thought I might get a better part (in the drama productions) if I had choir experience.” Roger Harabedian, Madera South Choir Director, allowed her to audition for choir and she was selected for his top group, Chamber Choir. That was the same year the choir traveled to New York City. Perfect timing! Katie attributes her decision to ultimately study art to her supportive arts teachers, initially thinking it was not doable or possible to do something with art and make a living.  “It was Sheila Kincade, (Department Head), who convinced me that I could do art, and it helped that my parents were really supportive.” When asked what was the turning point to choosing art as a major, she said, “I remember the moment I had to decide which direction I was going to pursue. AP US History was offered at the same time as AP Art. Mrs. Kincade said to me, ‘I really think that you could do this and you have what it takes.’ I knew in the back of my mind, it made perfect sense to pursue art.” Katie received the Smittcamp Scholarship, that included four years full tuition and housing. The scholarship   was designed to keep talented college students in the Valley. “Once I finished my degree, I realized just how important that opportunity was.” Katie received an Art Degree from Fresno State in 2012. She feels lucky to be able to teach animation, her personal passion, alongside the people who made her “Believe” that she could do art. “I had always respected teachers. I watched my father, (former MUSD physics and chemistry teacher of 30 years) change so many peoples’ lives through teaching. I have the chance now to be that person in students’ lives as my teachers were for me.” Katie is now in her third year of teaching. “I see just how valuable it is to have teachers who love to teach in the classroom, and the value of good administration to support them.”  When asked about life lessons learned from her parents, she shared that she cannot thank her parents and family enough for their support. “I would absolutely not be here without them.” Katie comes from a very artistic family. Her father designed the house her parents live in today, which they have built as a family project for the last 25 years. Her brother, a mechanical engineer, uses his art skills on a regular basis in his work to better communicate ideas with his peers. And her mother continues to teach her creative problem solving skills to this day, skills Katie continues to pass on to her students.
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