Molina pursues a passion for the arts


Zachary Araki

Cristina Molina, assistant professor of new media and animation, shows Sierra Arbaugh, a sophomore art major, works by Louise Bourgeois in class. Inspiration from her mom, aunts and grandmothers helped Molina grow in her artistic endeavors.

Cristina Molina, assistant professor of new media and animation, continues to pursue a family passion in the arts a decade after starting her teaching career.

Creative pursuits took prominence in Molina’s family with her aunts and grandmothers working in landscape design and horticulture.

“Overall, to see my family dedicating concentrated energy and interest to the arts was a very validating experience,” said Molina. “It taught me an appreciation for practices that were generative and improvisational. It also taught me that you don’t have to outgrow that imaginative part of you as you mature into adulthood. New media and animation has a special kind of magic because it gives you the ability to bring things to life that would otherwise be static.”

Watching her mother work on artistic projects such as painting and jewelry making and going to cultural events further kindled Molina’s interest in the arts.

“She never had any formal art training but very much valued the arts,” shared Molina. “Together, we went to community theatre productions, experimental operas and avant-garde films. I couldn’t have been older than four when she first started taking me out. There were never any kids around, and I remember feeling privileged for being able to enter these intimate spaces where adults played like children.”

Following the artistic path, Molina began teaching in 2009 at the University of Florida as a requirement of pursuing her MFA. Three years later, she joined the university faculty. Watching her students progress makes the career satisfying to Molina. 

“It’s an incredible thing to witness somebody mature into finding their own artistic voice,” expressed Molina. “In four years, I can see my students evolve in their craft and critical thinking, and it’s very gratifying to know that I contributed to that development.”

Monica Copping, a junior art major, had Molina as her advisor for three years and a teacher for two semesters. Copping described Molina as one of the best teachers in her experience.

“She is the reason why I stayed as an art major because she nurtures you,” said Copping. “She helps you out. If you don’t know what you’re doing, she’s right there to help you. She’s always there if you need anything in or out of school. She’s always there to talk to you, and she gives you great projects to help you improve your skills in all types of artwork.”

In 2018, Molina received the university President’s Award for Excellence in Artistic Creativity. She exhibited her work in the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans, the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans, the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, the Harvestworks Digital Media Arts Center in New York City and the Makii Masaru Fine Art Gallery in Tokyo.

“I’m actually honored to be a student of hers,” said Copping. “She has accomplished so much, and she’s so young. Her artwork’s all over the United States.”

For Molina, being an artist allows her to invent her own rules for her own games.

“Art, like many of the humanities, reminds people why life is worth living,” explained Molina. “It highlights beauty, reveals the political state of our times, and tells a story about the people who lived at the time that the art was being made.”

Though some may perceive the arts as frivolous, Molina encourages any aspiring artist to learn skills and maintain a work ethic.

“A career in the arts is a long pursuit,” said Molina. “Keep following your interests, set realistic goals, and try to incrementally achieve them.”