We had the good fortune of connecting with Kara Zuzu and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kara, what inspires you?
Animals and nature have been my biggest source of inspiration when making art from as far back as I can remember. Whether I am sitting on a busy park bench in the middle of a city or engaging in a secluded hike in a sprawling national park, I will always sit back and observe nature when it presents itself to me. Sitting with nature is a very meditative and grounding practice. Looking at animals engaging in their daily lives can instantly transport me, overthinking about my life, my stressors, or my worries quickly began to fade. I like to imagine what these animals are doing or thinking, even wondering if we have shared a similar experience but from our own unique perspectives. Taking time out of my life to give focus and reflection on the animals and nature that surround me is humbling. It reminds me that the world is immense, it is complex, and it keeps going no matter what. It reflects back on me who I am, what I value, and the motivation to keep going.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a ceramic sculpture artist and have been exclusively honing my ceramic sculpting practice for the past 6 years. Prior to sculpting I was a member of an art installation group and exhibited as a painter. I had also spent the past 12+ years working as an arts educator in public education. During the pandemic, I not only lost my job and the identity that is connected with that, but I also lost my housing and any sense of security I once had. It was a very difficult year mentally and emotionally for me (as well as for many people around the world). The pandemic impacted me in a way that forced me to start over. Ironically, prior to the pandemic, I had always wished for time, more of it to make art or pursue my passions. I would have never anticipated my wish would be fulfilled the way it had. With all my newfound time, I threw myself into artmaking and pursued any and all art opportunities. Being a full-time artist has been my dream since I was a small child, and I couldn’t help but think this might just be my opportunity to pursue it. Landing a residency was something I had dreamed about but had never been able to commit to because of being an educator. As it should be, my students always came first and my artwork was secondary. At 37 years, I am primarily focusing on myself, my passions, and pursuing my dreams. It is not always easy and there can certainly be some very difficult days. Yet, I wouldn’t give this time in my life up for anything, I feel this great sense of rebirth, a chance to do things that I lacked the confidence or experience to do when I was younger. I am excited and thankful for the doors that have opened to me and am enthusiastic to continue embarking on my artistic journey.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Tanque Verde Swap Meet, La Estella Bakery, and Paleteria y Neveria LA MICHOACANA hands down were my favorite spots in the city to go! I love thrifting, people-watching, and eating! In Pittsburgh, we don’t have a very large Hispanic population, therefore it is always important for me to learn and immerse myself in the culture of the area when I am traveling or visiting. If I could bring back one food with me to Pittsburgh it would be Chamangos, I LOVE them!!

For a more natural experience, I would take people to the Arizona Sonora Desert for sure! It has everything you want from animals to nature to artwork. The raptor free-flight show will leave you in awe! Allow yourself a whole day to experience this magical place. Mount Lemmon is another place I would encourage people to visit. The hour drive to the top of the mountain makes you feel like you are traveling from Arizona to Utah to Colorado in the blink of an eye, it’s pretty magical! There is a hike at the top of the mountain with breathtaking views as well! (Don’t forget to pack warm!)

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have to give a huge shout-out to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum!! I spent the month of March at the museum where I was working as their Artist in Residence. The museum staff and faculty are amazing and made me feel right at home. The grounds of the museum itself are breathtaking, and the inspiration I found there as an artist is something I will never forget.

Website: karazuzu.com

Instagram: @karazuzuart

Facebook: Kara Zuzu

Image Credits
Profile Picture only: Chris Sprowls

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutArizona is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.