From Hiding Behind a Mask to Creating Masks

Danielle+Crowder%2C+24%2C+is+ready+to+go+home+after+her+ceramics+class+on+Wednesday%2C+Aug.+2%2C+2017.+She+shows+off+a+mask+she+made+outside+the+art+department+building+at+Long+Beach+City+College.
Danielle Crowder, 24, is ready to go home after her ceramics class on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. She shows off a mask she made outside the art department building at Long Beach City College.

Danielle Crowder, 24, is ready to go home after her ceramics class on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. She shows off a mask she made outside the art department building at Long Beach City College.

Emily Nagamoto

Emily Nagamoto

Danielle Crowder, 24, is ready to go home after her ceramics class on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. She shows off a mask she made outside the art department building at Long Beach City College.

By Lindsay Chong, Braeden Bailey, Ashwin Chona, and Paul Yoo

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As Danielle Crowder, 24, sets down her mask and undoes her purple ponytail on a Wednesday afternoon, a resilient and aspiring woman appears. Having been disguised as a drug addict for seven years, Crowder shows her true self— a young woman who loves art and law.

Before drugs crippled her career, Crowder spent time reading her father’s law books and eagerly asking him questions. Now she attends Long Beach City College where she has freed herself from her addiction so she can pursue her youthful interests in law.

“I was a hard-core drug addict from when I was 15 to the time I was 22,”  Crowder said. “And I had to act like somebody I wasn’t.

When Crowder was in 10th grade, she dropped out of high school because of her drug addiction. After seven months at a rehabilitation center, she was able to overcome her addiction.

She explained her life story through a ceramic mask she made in a class she took. The mask itself is small and iridescent in appearance. She took it upon herself to make the mask, it was not required of the class.

“So I was always wearing this mask of being this fake person that I actually wasn’t,” she said. “So that’s what the idea means for me.”

The mask not only represents Crowder’s struggles, but also serves as a metaphor for how people today tend to act. She talked about how people will put up masks when around others and pretend to be people they are not. She also admitted to wearing her mask while working at a corporation and battling her addiction.

“I had a corporate job so I wasn’t happy.” Crowder said. “I decided to go after what I really wanted to do. Last semester was my first semester. Actually, it was my first semester back to school in 10 years.”

  • Picture of ceramic mask in front view.
    A ceramic mask made by Danielle Crowder, 24, at Long Beach City College.
  • A detailed picture of a ceramic mask made by Danielle Crowder, 24, is shown in front of the art department at Long Beach City College.
  • Picture of ceramic mask inside of a basket.
    Crowder's basket of ceramic art and tools shown in front of the art department at Long Beach City College.

Crowder’s ceramics professor, Gerardo Monterrubio, described her as being a curious student who is “taking little interesting steps towards something that’s bigger.” Despite her being new to the craft, he described her as being “almost like a sponge,” absorbing her environment and improving her art.

“I could already tell that she was going to be good at whatever she puts her mind too. She has that personality,” Monterrubio said.

At LBCC, Crowder hopes to remove her mask so she can finish college and attend law school. She appreciates the college for its immersive community and allowing her to be involved in anything she desires.

As club senator for the radio club, “we are putting together an equity for homeless students to help the homeless student population at Long Beach City College,” Crowder said.

Inspired by her father’s career as a criminal defense attorney, Crowder returned to school to pursue a major in law. Her love for art and drawing also drove her to minor in ceramics.

“Art just makes me happy,” Crowder said.

Crowder has set out to accomplish her dream of becoming a lawyer by taking off her mask and becoming herself.

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From Hiding Behind a Mask to Creating Masks