Fellow Artist: Laura Alvarez, Growing roots in The Bronx.

Welcome to Laura’s feisty, magical and whimsical visual world. Definitely one of the most prolific artists I’ve come across, and she still has time be a community activist, educator and run an org. She also has cool freebies in her website.

How do you identify yourself (what you do creatively)? I am an illustrator, graphic designer, educator and community activist (lots of things… I know)

What made you pack and leave Valencia for New York City? I met someone (from The Bronx) fell in love, he asked me to leave everything and come to marry him. I did. But as my motto says “Love never dies, it transforms”. I came for someone and I fell in love with The Bronx. He left, I stayed.

Why the Bronx? He was born here, but lived most of his life in Puerto Rico. I guess he was trying to find his roots and I grew mine.

What are you listening to when you work? Depends on my mood. Usually some Spanish rock or some canción protesta… I was always a fan of Silvio Rodriguez, Maria del Mar Bonet, Serrat, Mercedes Sosa… I really like guitars, blues, but also classical music.

What is the BxArts Factory? It is a nonprofit organization I created with three other friends a couple of years ago. We try to spark the art we all have inside but most people don’t know they have it. We do many cultural events, free workshops, exhibitions and we are starting some other programs. It’s been very challenging and a lot of work, but when you see the results everything is worth.

What is the most rewarding part of working with the youth? I work with youth and adults, and in both cases making them believe in themselves is the best part of it. The way education is structured here it’s only room for standardized tests, robotic answers, no creativity, no imagination, no curiosity, just study what is in the books. And everyone comes with that pre-disposed mind, the right answer, the wrong answer, but in Art there is no right or wrong. Art teaches us to lower our defenses and accept ourselves in a different way. It makes us curious and hopefully it helps to get us thinking differently.

What’s the hardest thing about working with other artists? Most artists don’t take their profession seriously, and I believe no matter what you do you have to be reliable and trustworthy. I am very professional no matter what I do, from creating a logo, to teaching a workshop to paint a piano volunteering my time. Everything will be treated as if it was my only job and I will meet deadlines and so on. That’s difficult to find in the Art world.

Who is your illustration god or goddess? Edward Gorey es mi ilustrador favorito.

What’s your connection with the Orishas? I learned about this religion when I came to NY. I grew up in a catholic environment (Spain…) I have never practice any religion, but I like stories, so I learned about Buddhism, Islam, just because I like to read stories. When I found out about Yoruba I wanted to know more, so I did and I find it fascinating, how slaves incorporated the Catholic religion to their own in order to keep their traditions when the Spaniards baptized them not allowing them to be anything else but Catholics.

What’s branding for an artist, in your opinion? It’s to create an image of yourself and sell it. Create a style, find what you like to do, stick to what you believe and represent it.

If you had to choose just one, between design, illustration, mural or canvas painting, which would you keep and why? When I was studying my Fine Arts Degree I took a class by mistake and I discovered graphic design. That changed my life, and from then I based everything in learning more about that, I started a doctorate and I wanted to investigate about corporate image, branding, logos… life happens and I never finished the thesis, but I stick to graphic design. I worked for over 10 years as a creative and graphic designer. I think that profession encompasses not only art skills but also critical thinking, research, analysis, and everything to solve a problem, that is to find the best image possible to represent a company. I am not a full time graphic designer now, but I still select some projects once in a while. I think most of the times I mix all techniques I can’t “be” just one thing.

Is it possible to love one day at a time? How does that work? My health has never been great and that gives you a different perspective in life. Looking at the future is good, but the future is uncertain and it is not given. Just try to live one day at a time, and it will be easier.

What are you working on now? I always have several projects going at the same time. I have to finish my third Sing for hope Piano, I have to paint a huge panel part of a mural in a new project an great organization is developing under the Bruckner Expressway in The Bronx, also a couple of comic-cons, other two collective exhibitions, and basically sending a few proposals to paint a couple of murals. I don’t know why but I always liked to paint big canvases… there is nothing bigger than a wall :)

Visit Laura: http://www.lauralvarez.com/

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