A love of art came very early Samantha Plescia, a Bay Area native who recently moved to Riverside. Her mother de ella would take her to art fairs and museums, and upon returning home she would draw in her bedroom de ella. In the summer between first and second grades, her great-grandmother de ella paid for Plescia to attend a theater camp.
“That was one of the most influential summers of my life,” she said.
The program culminated in a production of “Peter Pan,” with the kids having made all the props, sets and costumes. It was empowering to create everything for the show, Plescia said.
“Most of all, though, the children’s theater program got me out of my super shy shell,” she said. “I returned to my second-grade year almost a completely different kid, confident and playful, when before I was reclusive and fearful.”
Plescia continued to love visual art, as well. One year, she received an art carrying case with colored pencils, pens, acrylic paints and pastels.
“That summer my mother took me to Oregon to visit my grandparents,” she said. “I was so excited to show my grandpa my art carrying case.”
Plescia’s grandfather was an artist who studied industrial design at Pasadena’s ArtCenter College of Design.
“I was about 8 years old sitting at a picnic bench with my grandpa painting the scenery of the Oregon woods,” she said. “I was so enamored by his ability to capture the landscape. He was always ready and willing to show me how to be an artist. He was beaming with pride that his first grandchild was developing a natural love of the arts just like him.
Plescia’s grandfather died in April. During a visit prior to his passing from her, her grandmother from her pulled out a box of artwork from Plescia’s childhood that her grandfather had saved.
“He had written small notes on each of my pieces of art commenting on my skills and emerging talent,” she said. “I looked through the artwork with him while in awe of this beautiful physical representation of how much he loved me and how much he encouraged me to hone my art skills. My grandpa was a huge reason why I was so interested in art.”
It was in middle school that Plescia first got to work with clay. She struggled with comparing her skills to others. One assignment was to make a clay box.
“I looked around the room and saw the electrical outlet and decided to make a box that looked like an everyday item,” she said. “I was so proud of how it turned out. I wish I still had it but that was the first piece of art that I ever sold.”
After Plescia graduated from San Jose State with a degree in public relations, she started her own social media management company. She longed to work with her hands de ella again and decided to focus on making glass.
“I joined the Bay Area Glass Institute in San Jose,” she said. “Eventually I discovered dichroic glass and that’s when I honed my pendant-making skills and developed my artist name Samshine, because my glass often has a shiny effect from the dichroic.”
Plescia recently moved to Riverside. Since she doesn’t have access to a glass kiln, she has begun experimenting with acrylic paints and creating shadow boxes.
“The shadow boxes that I’ve been making are designed to look like a window into a different dimension,” she said. “On canvas I have been taping off sections of the canvas and then creating deep textures and varying colors to make it look almost as if you’re looking down from a plane. I am inspired by topography, but with a twist that makes it look unworldly.”
Plescia said she believes she has landed in the perfect place for an artist.
“The first Arts Walk blew me away,” she said. “I felt way more connected to the artists in Riverside than I ever had in the Bay Area. All of the artists that I’ve met in Riverside have been so kind and helpful.”
Patrick Brien is executive director of the Riverside Arts Council.