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For Matthew Kim, Family is the Main Inspiration for His Art

Matthew Kim

Originally, Matthew Kim intended on attending UC Santa Cruz to continue his volleyball career while also enjoying the sunny surf that Santa Cruz has to offer.  But injuries changed his best laid plans and his priorities took a steep turn along the way. Now, as he gets ready to graduate this year with a B.A. in Art plus Film and Digital Media: Integrated Critical Practice Concentration, he’s looking forward to traveling to Japan over the summer where he’ll participate in UCSC’s printmaking study abroad program.

“I will be spending the first half of this summer enjoying some time off and catching up with friends and family, before heading out to Japan,” he says. “After Japan, I plan on moving to South Korea for six months, gaining fluency and opening up those markets for filmmaking and art. I am inspired heavily by the work that has come out of South Korea in recent years. In all honesty, this whole ‘post-graduation’ time period is pretty daunting, so I’m just going to roll with the punches and see where I end up!”

A native of Irvine, California, Matthew’s parents immigrated from South Korea and he was raised in a Korean-speaking home with his three older siblings who he says he looks up to immensely.

“My family was similar to many other first-generation immigrant stories – having immigrated to the states in the ‘80s,” he says. “My father worked as a contractor and my mother raised the four kids. My family is still really close, and my family is my main source of inspiration for my art.”

Matthew has relished being at UC Santa Cruz for the overall campus environment. “Being able to produce work and interact with the natural environment on a campus like UCSC is second to none, and it has contributed to my process tremendously,” he says. “The campus, being isolated from the rest of the town, has been a space that I’ve been able to focus away from distractions. I’ve found that the arts community in particular has been supportive and collaborative, and I’ve met many people that I’d consider lifelong friends during my time at UCSC.” 

Matthew Kim, Camilla Alvarado, Rachel Nelson at the New IAS Gallery; photo by Erin Malsbury

Collaborating with others who feel the same passion for their work and creative process, whether it involves photography, print or filmmaking is very important to him. He also gets a kick out of cooking and making dinner for friends by revisiting old family recipes. In his free time he shoots hoops and hikes, and he's been interning at the Institute of the Arts and Sciences new gallery space on the westside of Santa Cruz.

His advice for new students is to get involved and to seek out funding sources. “UCSC can feel isolating at times and it was important to me to find my footing within some sense of community – be it the print studio, the film journal, or my friends. Don’t be afraid to ask professors for support, and show up to lectures and office hours even when it feels like a waste of time or you’re feeling lazy. Having a disciplined schedule helps in the long run, and has helped me get into my rhythm as a student.”

He also advises students to relentlessly go after grants. “The money is on the table, it is yours to go get it,” he says. “Dig through the UCSC website and local grant/scholarship resources to fund your next project, whether it be a couple hundred dollars here for some art materials or thousands of dollars to fund your next film.”

March 2023