The path toward being an artist can take many forms. For some it starts with nothing more than a number 2 pencil and plain sheet of paper. For others it may be a box of crayons, colored markers or a water color paint set.
For 11-year-old Carlos Rodriguez, newly arrived to San Jose from Mexico in 1988, his path to being an artist was through creating graffiti on walls throughout San Jose in Latino neighborhoods that allowed spaces for public murals.
Twenty three years later Rodriguez opens a studio called The Tracks, located south of downtown San Jose in the Spartan-Keyes Neighborhood, he and co-owner/founder Helene Ehrlich hope to create a space where other aspiring artists can learn and grow, a place where, as Rodriguez elaborates, “Artists can express their passion and create things people will enjoy, create things that people can like or hate at the same time.”
“Graffiti helped me to make friends, I was no longer a stranger, I learned at an early age how powerful art was,” Rodiguez said. As a young artist and new immigrant, his work on graffiti murals served as a means to connect to other kids his ageand he soon found that other kids admired his work.
In graffiti culture the railroad and boxcars are considered the ultimate canvas. That is where a graffiti artist can display his/her talent and showcase art that will eventually be seen throughout the state if not the entire country as the train travels across the landscape day and night. It becomes in essence a moving exhibit, thus his choice to name his studio The Tracks.
But prior to opening The Tracks Rodriguez first cultivated his skills and developed his style, when at 18 years-old, he started spending time at MACLA Arte, a gallery serving the Latino community. He would then go on to work at a youth center in Mountain View where he began to teach art to other Latino youth, and he introduced art programs at the Alum Rock Counseling Center and worked for the City of San Jose’s gang prevention program.
It was only a matter of time for his hunger to start his own business led him to opening a vinyl business and later a silk screening business which he still currently runs.
Like most new business startups, it has not been easy but he learned that having a business is very liberating. “We still struggle as young artists but still we sell our art whether it’s murals, paintings, T-shirts, our own clothing line or photography services” he says.
Today his company New Edge Creative Studios consists of T-shirt printing, design work, murals and photography by co-founder Ehrlich. She is a third generation photographer, has 15 years of experience as a photographer and credits a Kodak Instamatic camera she once had as a child, for her love of photography.
When not working at their studio Ehrlich works as a teacher at ACE Charter school in San Jose where she takes pride in bringing art and culture to the classroom. She takes T-shirts designed by Rodriguez or other Latino artists bearing cultural images of Mexico like Dia de los Muertos or Zapata to share with the children in her classroom, one of many ways to teach art and history as well as instill pride in Latino culture.
“Education is power!”
Ehrlich adds, “I especially enjoy empowering young girls as artists and showing them that they can make a living as an artist. I want people to feel empowered, to live their dreams, to not be scared and I hope that Carlos and I can inspire others by what we are doing with a little blood, sweat and tears as working artists.”
When asked what he wants to be remembered for Rodriguez added, “I want people to view me as a staple in the art community, that the San Jose art community grew because of what we are trying to do at The Tracks studio, that I want to inspire the City to have faith in our youth, not to demonize the graffiti artist, and that people walk away with a sense of what San Jose art is and represents.”
The Tracks had a Grand Opening & Customer Appreciation on Thursday, Jan. 26th, from noon to 7pm which included a raffle, refreshments and prizes.
The Tracks Studio is Located at The Citadel: 855 5th Street #407, San Jose, CA 95122
Feel free to contact Carlos Rodriguez and Helene Ehrlichvia email firstname.lastname@example.org with inquiries and to visit the studio.
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/NECreativeServices?sk=info
Written By Jose Posadas | Photos By Jose Posadas