When you walk into Amirra Malak’s classroom, everything is organized and neat. Tools such as paint brushes and drawing pens are arranged to use for drawing, painting, and learning about art. You are always greeted with a bright smile, curly hair, and an enthusiastic “Good morning!” Malak makes sure to ask all of her students how their morning was, and how they’re feeling. The classroom has a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere, where anybody can create their art to their heart’s content.
Malak has always integrated tafaddal, an Arabic word for “the spirit of hospitality and welcoming,” into every class she teaches. Soon enough after getting her bachelors in art, Malak realized she loved sharing art with others.“It was the missing connection that I needed…[I don’t want to] keep art to myself, [I want to] provide a space where everybody can learn.” After being an art teacher for eight years at HRVHS, Malak has learned one thing: “Everyone is an artist, it’s inside of everybody.” She believes that every single person’s point of view matters, no matter what their background is.
Paulina Le is one of Malak’s many diverse students, and has created quite a few art pieces in her class, many of which have received awards. She likes to describe Malak as a “big ray of sunshine, or a welcoming mother.” Le mentions “She teaches us to embrace our differences, and she has always pushed me to fight for what I want.”
Deylan Gudiel is also one of Malak’s students, who is graduating this year. “Mrs. Malak has really motivated me to be a true, original artist,” says Gudiel. “Her teaching style is very innovative, and I love it when she tells her life stories. [Malak] is like one of my close friends.”
During the summer, when Malak isn’t spreading joy at HRVHS, she teaches at Columbia Gorge Peace Village. She teaches art to elementary children, and says “Art is a way to quiet your mind, express emotion, and connect to people to create peace in the world.” Since she was raised by an artist, she grew up with the conviction that everybody can create art. “I think the biggest thing to get out of the way is fear. Everyone grows up with the idea that you can read, because it’s something everybody is trained to believe, so they go into it believing they can read.” Malak says, “I feel art is the same way.”
Not only does Malak use tafaddal in her teachings, but she has used it on the internet as well, through her very own YouTube channel. Malak has created an art channel, labeled “Art With Amirra,” where she gives “access to art-making for all humans.” On this channel, she posts her paintings and drawings. But, she also uses her platform to spread awareness for good causes, such as her passion for the Dakota Access Pipeline. Through art, she raised $2,060 to help the Rosebud camp at Standing Rock. Through her channel, she also helps art students learn different techniques, such as color mixing with water colors.
Malak has inspired numerous art students to achieve their dream of art making. The moment you see her excited eyes, you can tell she adores teaching art, and seeing the progress her students make as artists. Malak’s exceptional teaching style is a favorite among her students. “She’s super awesome and crazy, in a good way,” says Deylan, “I’m going to miss her when I graduate.”
By Onika Rutherford, Talon Staff Reporter