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Artists Learn Unconventional Ways to Promote Their Work

Have you ever thought about showcasing your art on the side of building or on an underpass? Four artists are leading the way and working with artists from all over the city, helping others self-promote their work in unconventional ways.

Gabriel Villa, Nicole Marroquin, Eric Garcia and Salvador Jiménez spoke last month at the University of Illinois at Chicago event dubbed “La Tierra Prometidad,” which is Spanish for “The Promised Land.”

These four artists are all from Pilsen, a neighborhood on the Lower West Side of Chicago that is home to mostly Hispanics and many thriving artists who want to showcase their work outside of the typical art gallery. The four artists promote their own work and help teach self-promoting to artists all over Chicago.

Villa, who teaches art in the Pilsen neighborhood said, “Artists of color talk about not being represented, [it] feels like they are taking the stance of being victim.”

Villa agreed that artists of color are under-represented in mainstream places. But that didn’t stop him. In 2009, he painted a mural about the Chicago Police Department’s blue-light cameras on the side of a business. Villa wanted to show his idea of what the blue-light cameras actually do, and wanted to show the people of Chicago. Although Villa had permission from the private business to paint the mural, it was destroyed three weeks later under the orders of 11th Ward Ald. James Balcer.

But Villa’s story didn’t stop other artists. Garcia shows his art all over the city and said, “I’m trying to tell a story and influence people’s ideas with my art.”

Garcia uses art to educate and demonstrate the issues in culture. But he doesn’t just use galleries to show his artwork; he is also recognized in art throughout the city streets, where he focuses on making sure people remember his art and remember the message he is trying to convey.

Marroquin agreed. “[In the] public is the best way to show work,” said Marroquin. “You have to work in both traditional and non-traditional places.”

Marroquin works with teens across the United States and helps them create art for studio spaces as well as on the streets across the country. Marroquin helps guide teens to design art on the sides of buildings, in alleys and even as simple as on the sidewalk of a local street. She believes that you have to be able to show your work in both environments to be successful.

“As an artist, my goal is to show the artwork,” Jiménez said. “[I] promote artwork by having [the viewer] see the piece and have it strong enough to stay with them in their mind.”

Jiménez doesn’t necessarily use the streets as a way to get his artwork seen, but uses unconventional spaces like coffee shops, local stores, bars and gyms.

Rigoberto Robles, a 22-year-old full-time student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was amazed at the information in the meeting. “It shows how art affects people,” said Robles.

The meeting even inspired Martha Ramirez, also 22-year-old full-time student at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “I received an e-mail about this meeting and it was informing,” Ramirez said, adding that she was interested in finding a way to self-promote her own artwork and will go to these artists for support.

Garcia ended the meeting by make sure everyone understood one thing: “[It] is a challenge to get art into the world and galleries,” but to never stop trying.

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