ArtistCorps Alumni Stories: Clifford Tam

Clifford Tam served in ArtistCorps from 2016 to 2018 while completing his Master’s in Clarinet Performance. He is now working full-time as a Transportation Security Administration officer in Salt Lake City, Utah.  While his career has taken a different direction, music is still very important to him and he lives by the idea that, “Art is for everyone.”

Clifford acknowledges that he sort of fell into ArtistCorps. He just so happened to be searching for a job and originally joined simply because he needed an income. Over time, as he became invested, he started wondering, “What can I do to help these students to learn music?” Clifford wanted to ensure that the kids enjoyed art and were learning through the lens of art as well.

Clifford explains that in the art world you’re often put in a bubble where art is thought to be for a specific demographic or type of person, but his goal was to get art to as many people as possible. He mentions that serving in ArtistCorps demystified art and reshaped his entire way of looking at things.

In Clifford’s experience with ArtistCorps, he served at several different sites. One under-resourced middle school in particular was very challenging. The administration at the school wasn’t very engaged and often gave up on the kids because they were misbehaving. Clifford recalls working with one specific student who didn’t seem to care but one day stated, “I don’t even want to do this but like, I don’t mind that you’re here teaching me.” Clifford took this as confirmation that each of us simply needs someone who cares. “I feel that, if you like what you do and are truly enjoying it, that passion will show and draw people in.”

Since his time in ArtistCorps, Clifford has cultivated several new concepts for arts-based expereinces.  Understanding the impact of arts experiences that are a bit off the wall, that put people on edge, or make them uncomfortable has pushed Clifford into concept-art that includes initial planning on several projects.  A specific one he mentions is like geocaching, but with a fake story and a cohesive theme that takes place in several locations and would require teamwork to complete.  By creating inclusive art, Clifford seeks to prove that,  “Art is not for one specific type of person, it’s for any discipline; art, science, math, whatever, it’s for everyone,” just as he discovered as a member of ArtistCorps.

December 16, 2020