Yet another very generous helping! Presenting Dave "Grave" Herrera!
The Caldo Collective smiles for another artist who will be presenting yet another incredible idea at Frijol Feasts this Sunday! Dave Grave Herrera was born in Mexico City, Mexico in 1970. Grave works predominately in the medium of large scale painting and public art projects, which include murals, street art, typography design, and traditional hand painted sign works, aerosol art and various other disciplines. His work has been exhibited at galleries in El Paso, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Texas, Los Angeles, California, Ciudad Juarez, and Durango, Mexico. He has founded and sponsored numerous projects and collaboration programs that help artist and the community. Dave Herrera lives and works in El Paso, Texas. Enjoy and get ready... you'll have a chance to fill your belly and your soul with him this Sunday!
Caldo Collective: What is your back ground as an artist? What drives you?
Grave Herrera: My back ground as an artist is deeply routed in classic sign painting, typography engineering and design. I'm a heavy practitioner of Street style art on a professional, refined level that incorporates large mural painting, graffiti art, vintage sign styles and Americana flows. My Dad introduced me to murals by visiting the works of Diego Rivera on our Sunday ritual outings to Chapultepec Park in Mexico City at an early age. This left a long lasting, overwhelming impression on me. It was my first true encounter with public art and culture. Growing up in urban environments and in countryside settings was a blessing. I learned to appreciate everything from Mom and Pop's store front hand painted sign works to the Barrio hand styles and placasos, to the multi-colored community based murals that unified and beautified the neighborhoods. To be able to help others with art indirectly or directly and have a positive impact on someone's life is the core and main reason that drives and fuels my passion for art, especially through murals and public art. It also is a therapy for me and to be able to share this and inspire others as they have inspired me is humbling and a gesture of my gratitude.
CC: Each artist that is representing their ideas at this feast comes to the table with ideas that have very measurable impact on the community at ground level. What do you find most inspiring about this city? This community?
GH: El Paso is a very unique city, like no other. The geographical make up; its people, culture and history alone carry a very rich and diverse make up and aesthetic value that puts this special place on the map. It's an easy going city-at its own pace and place. This allows a lot of opportunity as an artist. I truly love creating something here! The level of excitement is on full blast when we get kick-started on a project. Moving forward and adding on to the scales and scopes of our community is always fun. It helps beautify, build and put a little more sweetness onto the icing of pride that layers our historical city. Getting community involved in the public art projects that we do activates the non-active. It pulls folks out of the stagnated mental state of 'nothing happens here'. The joy to see someone sweep their side walk when they never did before just because a new mural or piece of art was inaugurated in their neighborhood is a pleasant manifestation of art working in the community. It moves people in a positive direction. That is the beauty of being an artist in El Paso. The art that we do is for the people, it is for the community, for our city. We are the caterers of visual buffet banquets serving the people with colorful brush strokes, tall tales and a few hand me down jokes. This is El Paso. We are a people of culture collages, color, cumbias , country and Chuco creations. The community-based art projects we have in mind will directly benefit two great organizations that have a true impact and fill a real need in our community. We are enthusiastic in helping promote these organizations through a work shop mural and sign making class that will empower the participating youth with in these two great organizations.
CC: Is there potential for artists to grow and be challenged here? How and in what way?
GH: The measurement of growth comes with in you and so does finding resolve to challenges. It starts with your own person and no one will water your plants. You have to plant your own seeds, maintain them if you plan to bare fruit. Those extra rain showers now and then are blessings. Make it happen if you truly love it and have set goals to accomplish them. The challenges are a blessing because without them it would be too easy and taken in vein. There is plenty of potential to grow in El Paso. There is no other way. We are supposed to grow; without challenge there is no growth. I think the important part to all this as an artist or anyone in general is to learn what happens on this journey and appreciate all the good and bad that comes with it. Set reasonable expectations for yourself, give yourself breaks and patience. Let things go if at first you don't succeed but stay focused and consistent. Keep your frequencies and moderations in check. Be that root that will eventually evolve into a leaf at the top of the tree and have fun doing it. El Paso is a generous city of kind folks; folks that believe in a better future, folks that will give you their best and support you with all if they believe in you and what you do. We have a gentle and meek breed of people in our city that take the time to listen at any given meet and greet occasion, our city is made from a people-person population. These are the key ingredients in our growth and in our resolve as artists.
CC: What support have you received for your work in El Paso? What support would you like to have access to as an artist?
GH: There has been an overwhelming, never-ending sea of support stemming from the grass roots level, fellow artists and community builders. I'm not a fan of bureaucracy and red tape in getting things done. Sometimes there is more freedom and green lights behind funding or taking on a project on your own or with help of likeminded artists. There seems to be a molded rotation of inner circles within the nucleus of art funding at our Gov. Level that simply discourages or systematically casts you out if your dog's blood type isn't submitted with the proper paper work. Funding that seems to be available for all interested to accomplish significant art projects comes with more filters than a carton of cigarettes; super screened, smoke-cloud circles at an rsvp puff party. There is no reason to outsource art work instead of tapping into local flavor when we have a vast amount of home grown talent available in our city. In general, the support system is good; folks like seeing new works go up in the neighborhood. In our Border complex we are grateful to have collectives like, Maintain, Border youth, Resizte, Jellyfish, Amor por Juarez, Caldo, ANS Border Gallery, Union, Calavera Studios and countless other home grown art groups that embraced and molded our art scene.
CC: How would you compare the climate in El Paso to that of other cities? What makes El Paso's art community unique? How can it be strengthened?
GH: El Paso's climate is heated by the passion behind the people. You get a real sense of modest, humbleness here. The work is packed with a heavy dose of aesthetics only known to our area. It's an El Paso /Juarez thing. You can feel it. No words are necessary. During an 8 year tour as a 48 state driver and artist you learn to appreciate your home town for all the distinctive qualities that make it special. Walking down many main streets; seeing what lays between the hoods through woods and meeting artists in between gives you a clear perspective of how you relate to the area you're from. You take a little bit with you and sprinkle it around. El Paso has a long, rich culture of talent. It needs to be celebrated more. There is no reason why this city cannot compete as an art hub. There are cities out yonder with half of what we got making it work. There cannot be art biasness in funding or support. It has to be kept diverse and equally dispersed across the board. There needs to me more color put out doors. I have always been perplexed as to why the color codes for everything built or long standing consist of prison drab greys, boring buff browns, broken barrio beige or off road white? No wonder we are not on the map- we are camouflaged with the existing desert around us. The contrast would do wonders; pull folks passing by off the freeways for a lunch break of hot tacos. This is an oasis that needs to be tapped into.
CC: What is the role of art in the community? In society?
GH: Art is the spice of life that reminds us that we are still human. It is a means of communicating without barriers. It is a gift from the higher power that allows us to empower. It is a spiritual power tool that helps build, heal, and appeal, the super glue of an unraveling community if you will. It is a blessing to use art in helping others, teaching, mentoring, collaborating, improving and passing on knowledge. If you can touch the inner soul, inspire, uplift or find peace through art then this is a gift worth sharing. You got a onetime ticket through life. There are no u turns. Why not leave a positive brush stroke, music note or whatever it is that can help out others before you croak?
CC: How could artistic practices address the cultural identity and needs of this community?
GH: Art is the gift that speaks louder than bombs. It reaches more minds and continues to impress feelings through the soul. It carries tradition and heritage, transcending through time and space. It is the preserver of communities. The artist is the timeless story telling teacher of traditions and traits. It is important in that we as people recognize that before us our ancestors kept watch through hieroglyphs on walls through art. It is the purest form of communication we can identify with. In a non-philosophical sense then I guess you could always replace vandalism with a mural or work of art. This beautifies the community tenfold.
CC: How does/could your artistic practice engage the community? Why is that engagement important?
GH: Through mural workshops, gallery exhibits, performances ETC, this opens up many positive possibilities that engage the community. It will build a sense of unity, pride, ownership and correspondence with in that community. It reflects a sense of growth and livelihood. It is important because it shows you care. It demonstrates that you can provide a better quality of life for others by giving of yourself and your talents. You create venues that where not there or badly needed. Giving birth to alternatives that rejuvenate the community with in; this will chain react and trickle down to inspiring others to do the same. It is a good felt energy that comes from the smallest actions of kindness. There was approximately 8 square blocks of warehouse space located in the deep southeastern end of Segundo barrio 15 years ago. They housed four local businesses that were willing to make magic with us for the community. A program that helped create a solution for a severe problem not only in the neighborhood; but the entire city. At the time, the city was plagued with vandalism. It was rough and we were at the front lines. It seemed that the only thing that the officials where interested in was eradication and prosecution. There was no clear understanding on how to get to the root of the problem, a complete miss on the human element of outreach at best. By working with the business owners, community leaders and a group of talented artist that were willing to mentor the answer was within reach. The massive warehouse walls where ones covered with vandalism, crime and neglect. Today, they are a well curated and coordinated public art space. Through a yearly benefit, this art event raises dry goods for the folks of that community. It also provides a safe haven for artist to display their works on large scale and further beautifies the neighborhood. This event is now known on an international level, attracting world renowned muralist and art lovers alike to our city. It has opened doors and created jobs. The Border Block Benefit on Delta, 3rd, 4th and cotton St. Is growing into a significant staple of our city's art and culture landscape. It is hard to ignore 8 blocks full of fantastic public art in your face. Something you would only see in cities like Miami's art Basel, New York's, 5 Pointz or Hollywood, California's Melrose art alleys.
CC: What role does the community have in the production? Activation /creation/inception/initiation/activation (choose which words you feel best applies} of art?
GH: Many commissions revolve around the community's needs for art; it's essential to include the community in projects, research, feedback etc. without community the art is limited. Unless you are reclusive and see art as a personal therapeutic process; it makes no sense not to keep your finger on the pulse of the community. To be able to work with the community and build for them, with them is one of the biggest rewards an artist can experience. The community is the back bone of what art is about, they are the families, the workers, the inspiration and the folks whom keep the wheels turning in our lives. Why would you not want to include them in your art?
CC: As an artist, how do you feel a community can best support its artists?
A good cup of coffee , smile, high five, warm hug or some caldo caliente are on my top ten list. Q-vo? God Bless.
CC: You have plans to work with youth from the Pride Center to create a massive mural for the outside of the building. Can you tell us what this kind of shared process with youth can do for a community? This is a significant project that is being introduced not only for the Pride center but also the Winchester home for and by Young Adults transitioning through foster homes. A multi beneficial art workshop that is geared to do the following for the community It will provide a period of quality instruction in Mural painting and techniques, a sign painting and frame and canvas building skill set class and a bit of interior window mosaics and space design. These classes will be tought from a life skill and mentoring perspective emphasizing team work, values, safety and organizational skills. It will provide the center with a badly needed presence and will help amplify a sence of a safe haven. The murals, mosaics and sign will also bring recognition to the neighborhood in positive light as it faces the community park, adding to the beatification of our City. CC: You are working with a very specific group of youth. What are the challenges of this kind of collaboration and how do you think they can be overcome? In all things we do there will be unforseen challenges. There is always a positive solution and an opportunity to use that challenge as a learning experience. This project will focus on team work, life skills, mentoring, trust and building together; it will also be fun, productive and stimulating and meditative. It's an opportunity to unwind and take a break from the stress and anxiety that the group faces everydayTrying to get over hurdles. This is a primary reason how it benefits the youth and young adults Ill be working together with. Its for them by them and pride building in great public art that will adorne that community.
CC: How will the images and material for the mural be generated? What will the collaborative process look like? The images and supplies for the mural will be generated in several ways. Usually the imagery for a mural includes several factors that hint on whom the mural is for or its purpose, the viewer. This mural is significant to the clients in ways of a distressing, fun and stimulating alternative pass time that is necessary. The image is generated by a collective brain storming session. For this particular project a mandela style mural is a good fit because it can be broken down into segments that will allow input from alot of contributors. It also is a cultural design that contributes to the heritage of the neighborhood. Supplies can be generated by inkind donations, requesting sponsorships etc.. Most of the hurdles have gotten the green light and the feasibility is at 100% I am prepared to cover the materials required for all projects in the curriculum, however As a family man The support greatly appreciated and usually understated is artist stipens and compensation for time. This project means alot to me and being there for youth that could use this workshop. I relate to them and I know it is beneficial, regardless of funding this is going to happen. We will make it so. The process and colaborative effort. Building , working and learning together reinforce trust, team work, gratitude and accomplishment. A collaborative effort is a natural bridge in creating art because each participant brings great insight to the table and adds his or her destinctive style or persona to the overall piece. If your planning to cook you better bring a grip of ingredients. This is how in general the process works. Everyone is involved in the whole process of the project from beginning to end. You have a core project leader and delegation with assignments so that everything works in unison and effectively. In the first steps usually a brain storming and conceptual session take place from everyones ideas bits and pieces form a master plan and design which is slowly molded and fine tuned through delegation and fitting task accordingly. A standardized step by step guide of creation is in place only as a template ment to be fun and flexible to deviation. Communicating an idea getting feed back and acting on it is a working process. This project is for and by the participants, through guidance yet stepping back and allowing the whole process to be a hands on experiance for the group working with you. It's amazing what creations arise from a collaboration when this happens. CC: What does the ideal art community look like to you? What's the dream? The ideal art community is what you make of it, its what you build and contribute to it. It all starts with you. The dream is experienced 24 hours at a time. Everyday that we wake from a dream is a good reason to make it a reality. If What I do as an artist, person and human being helps some one out then it's a blessing. That is the dream.