Distinguished UTEP alumni: Power couple promotes visual arts at the border

Bryan Mena, Entertainment Editor

Two of the six recipients of UTEP’s 2019 Distinguished Alumni award are the founders of Creative Kids, a local nonprofit organization that introduces visual arts to children. 

Every year during Homecoming season, UTEP honors its exceptional alumni with the Gold Nugget and the Distinguished Alumni awards. While the Gold Nugget award is presented by different colleges, the Distinguished Alumni Award is presented by the university as a whole, according to Maribel Villalva, assistant vice president for Alumni Relations. 

“It’s given to alumni who have excelled professionally,” Villalva said. “(Those who) are doing great things in their respective communities; are sources of pride and role models for our current students, and have remained engaged with UTEP over the years.”  

This year, the university selected Andrea C. Gates-Ingle and Stephen Ingle to receive one of its four Distinguished Alumni awards.  

Originally from Los Angeles, California, Ingle moved to El Paso because his grandmother fell ill and both of his parents worked at UTEP. The couple met while they were students at UTEP and eventually got married. Gates-Ingle studied special education while Ingle studied fine arts.  

“I met her at a bar across the street,” Ingle said. “I finished my classes at night, and I was leaving the studio at about 11 o’clock, and I went to this bar where I saw this waitress there.”  

That waitress was Gates-Ingle, who spotted her future husband a pitcher of beer because he had no money that night.  

Gates-Ingle said that being in college is a special time in which people figure out their path in life and that she loved being on campus during her time at UTEP.  

“When we came up with the idea for our nonprofit, a lot of our professors at the time actually helped us,” she said.  

Gates-Ingle said that her favorite UTEP professor is Helen Hammond, who is currently an associate professor at UTEP’s College of Education.  

Ingle said he enjoyed creating art with his friends while in college and that he really enjoyed the city.  

“The kind of support I got from the university, the friends that I made and the community in El Paso really helped us both grow,” he said. “I just felt like I was home.”  

Ingle said that two of his favorite professors are Kim and Terri Bauer, associate professors in UTEP’s College of Liberal Arts who focus on fine arts. He also mentioned Willie Ray Parish, a UTEP art professor who retired in 2013.  

“Those three people really grounded me and made me who I am today,” he said.  

At one point, the couple worked at UTEP’s Office of Alumni Relations, where Ingle learned that Gates-Ingle was a student-teacher at Bill Childress Elementary School, where she worked with special needs students.  

Ingle offered to teach an art class for her students, and she agreed. His first class was a success, sparking enthusiasm among her students. The vice-principal of the school saw how engaged the students were and offered Ingle $400 to teach another class.   

This was the experience that marked the genesis of their nonprofit.  

According to its website, Creative Kids is an “educational community-based art agency located in El Paso, Texas along the U.S./Mexico border region.” Established in 1999, the nonprofit can reach more than 600 youth through its different programs.  

Disadvantaged youth, children battling cancer, children with disabilities or any young person that has an artistic bone in their body can create pieces of art through Creative Kids’ programs.  

From painting, graphic design to photography, the nonprofit allows children to explore the visual arts through a wide range of mediums and a fully equipped studio.  

In 2013, Creative Kids received the President’s Commission on the Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, an esteemed recognition by the White House.  

“One of our patients was chosen to give the opening ceremony speech and she gave it in a beautiful way,” Gates-Ingle said. “She even had the First Lady in tears. It was just an emotional day.”  

For more information on Creative Kids and its programs, visit creativekidsart.org  

Bryan Mena may be reached at [email protected]