His fingers were covered in smudged hues of blue paint with a tangible intensity emanating from his molasses colored eyes. Ramiro Alejandro Hernandez, a.k.a. RAH, puts the finishing touches on an Aztec inspired painting inside the 11:11 temporary art gallery in Canoga Park, Calif. The streets buzz with live music and food trucks as the last of the summertime “ArtRageous Art Walk” events is in full swing.
One of six members in an artist collective called The 818 Valley Ratz, RAH is intent on representing the San Fernando Valley—as well as his Mexican heritage—in his work. RAH is also part of El Buen Pastor Mural Project, which is a collection of 12 artists who at the end of this year will paint a mural on a shelter for women and children survivors of domestic violence in Guanajuato, Mexico. Not only are art and culture instrumental to personal development, but new artists in the San Fernando Valley are also using their skills as a positive tool to inspire and build community.
“The valley is a place where we have such a mix of cultures and realities that I would expect to see a lot more art up on the walls of small businesses that represent our community,” says RAH.
Several years ago he noticed that there was something missing in the San Fernando Valley, and it was neighborhood art. With this realization, a new sense of purpose was born in the heart of RAH.
His first exposure to art came through the world of hip hop, break dancing and graffiti as a teenager. RAH’s ancestry bubbled up to the surface in the process of discovering his artistic style.
“I started exploring my roots and Aztec culture when I was 23 and it transformed my abstract graffiti and artwork into a more mystic type of dream state with an Aztec influence,” says RAH, now 26, who travels throughout Southern California showing his artwork at various events.
Art lovers from the Valley travel to Downtown L.A. for its monthly art walk, or to Venice for “Abbot Kinney 1st Fridays.” But “ArtRageous Art Walk” is part of a growing movement to bring similar events to the area.
“I hope that the next generation is inspired by what we are doing here in their backyard so that they can start seeing more culture,” says RAH. “And that’s what my art is trying to bring to the foreground, have something to stand for and to be proud of.”
Art collectives such as 11:11 A Creative Collective, Art Junkys, and the Get Down Collective are a vehicle to drive the ever-growing art culture to the Valley.
“They’re young, super passionate and they bring all kinds of new artists out who are ready to take up the cause,” says Spike Dolomite-Ward, who is the founder of the Arts in Education Aid Council, a nonprofit that focuses on restoring a complete arts education program to the public schools of the San Fernando Valley.
Jaime Martinez, 29, had his art displayed on a table in front of the 11:11 gallery in Canoga Park at the art walk. He is a member of the Art Junkys collective in the San Fernando Valley and grew up in Pacoima, Calif. The Art Junkys are also a part of the El Buen Pastor Mural Project in Mexico.
“Art brings people together and you get to know who your neighbors are,” says Martinez.
RAH believes that his actions will influence other artists to shine the same kind of light in the community by creating murals where they live.
“We went from a simple idea of coming together as artists and creating a collective to going to Mexico to paint two murals at a women’s shelter,” says RAH, who begins to smile as he talks about the El Buen Pastor Mural Project. “To me, that’s surreal. And it’s something positive.
“Art has a different meaning now. It’s a movement, to inspire, and to create change, especially with groups that are going to continue to do projects that will have a change not only in their lives, but in the lives of other people too.
“I feel that the arts and events that embrace cultures from different sides of the world and just let them shine, that in itself will have an impact and create the change that we need in the world.”
It’s that clear vision that guides RAH’s hands as he finishes the blue Aztec-inspired piece at “ArtRageous Art Walk.” Hanging around his neck is a heavy stone necklace with the head of an Aztec warrior that reminds RAH that he is a warrior for the arts, a warrior for the movement and a warrior for the people.