Sculptor, Filmmaker, Beloved Teacher Paul Tzanetopoulos


Mayfield Archives

Paul Tzanetopoulos, Mr. T, in the first year he worked at Mayfield.

Juli Carranza and Ashlee Smith

Around Los Angeles, you can see his multifaceted art in LACMA, in train stations, on university campuses, and on buildings and urban walkways. His artistic career of public installations and exhibitions spans decades. Paul Tzanetopoulos, Mr. T, as he is affectionately known, leaves an impact everywhere he goes. 

Within the Mayfield community, Mr. T’s lasting impact throughout his total 17 years at the school can be witnessed in the dedication and creativity of his students and their artwork. A unique aspect of Mr. T’s classes is how he adapts his lessons to the interests of his students, and pulls from his experiences in order to best support their artistic endeavors. 

““I really like sharing things and the possibility of bringing things to someone who may just not have encountered it,” Mr. T said about his favorite part of teaching. “When you happen upon someone’s path, often it feels most rewarding is that little epiphany moment when a lesson or topic works really well. I just think it’s so precious and cool to be privileged enough to bring some thoughts or ideas to anybody but especially students.”

These epiphany moments are as rewarding for Mr. T as a teacher, as they are for students on their high school journeys. 

“I will always cherish the times in the dark room when the class would play music and we would have fun developing our film,” said Anna Ochniak ‘21, a student in Mr. T’s photo classes. “His classes were always my favorite part of the day!”   

Mr. T’s caring personality and his genuine determination to aid the students makes him a truly memorable teacher. His passion for the arts is contagious as it motivates the students to work hard and learn from each other. He never fails to highlight the positive aspects of a student’s work while also providing insightful feedback that significantly improves the art.

“I was very interested in film and editing but I was pretty nervous because I didn’t know anything about it,” recalls Emma Weidman ‘19, who remembers her time in Film and Media Conservatory as welcoming and transformative. “He [Mr. T] greeted me with a warm welcome and gave me a project right away.” 

One of Weidman’s favorite memories was an inspiring field trip to tour the DreamWorks Animation Studio. “I was especially excited about this because I had just decided to major in animation for college,” Weidman said. “Mr.T was always looking for new and exciting ways to get us involved in film, which is what made his class so enjoyable and memorable.”

A collaborative environment has been prevalent in all of Mr. T’s classes. 

“The projects that are just really super engaging have probably been film projects, that involve someone’s vision and then the whole class being activated, and making an idea come across,” Mr. T said. “As an artist I’ve been involved in theatre and performance, and I really love collaboration, but in the arts it’s a total solitary thing. You’re in your studio and you’re supposed to be a genius, but one thing I really like about performing arts and filmmaking is that collaboration,” he said.

While Mr. T has taught and positively influenced many of his students, the students  have also had a significant impact on him as well. 

His favorite part about teaching?

“It isn’t very difficult to say that it’s the students, it’s unique” said the film and photography teacher who never failed to prioritize his students and support their artistic journeys. “I think the most important thing to me is how individual everybody is and how special everybody is,” Mr. T said. “It’s so clear.” 

Though retiring from the Mayfield studios, Mr. T plans to continue making art.

Mr. T’s ability to inspire and uplift each and every one of his students will make him an irreplaceable part of the Mayfield Community. As Mr. T concludes his final year at Mayfield, the wonderful impact he has left on both past and present students will never be forgotten.