Spring 2018 Kelly Street Collaborative Intern Lauren Capellan interviewed Walter Cruz during the last month of his 2017 Kelly Street Collaborative Artist-in-Residence. Walter is also a 2016 Create Change Fellow whose group worked in Hunts Point/Longwood.
How was your residency experience working with the Laundromat Project through the Kelly Street Collaborative and interacting with the community residents?
It’s been fun. It’s the first studio residency I’ve done, so it’s nice to have a space that’s only dedicated to creating and it’s nice that it’s like only 20 minutes away from where I live;that’s a plus because it’s really hard to get space to make art period, let alone in the Bronx, so that’s really cool.
The garden is awesome. Before I got the residency, I had already been coming here for a year on my own and I would just like come kick it with Sheryll and plant stuff, just learn about the garden, how to grow stuff so I was able to meet a lot of the neighbors through that.
So when I came back, it was seeing a lot of familiar faces again which was cool, and then random people that came by. A dude that was here earlier, I just helped him bring the carriage down because he had his daughter in the carriage. And then we ended up talking and he’s like I’m a poet, can I see your art. So when that kind of stuff happens, it’s always cool. Just being able to bring in people from all over, whether it’s my boys on the block who never go to things, I get them to come over here. I’ve done workshops with middle school kids that come by. Just figuring out how to always keep the space as not just mine, but for everyone that I know, that’s been important.
Tell me more about the idea behind your “In Case of Negativity” installation.
Yeah I guess the best way to describe it is I was just thinking about… [the Kelly Street Collaborative’s community room] is a white space, so it’s like how do we activate that in a more interesting way instead of me just hanging these jackets I’ve been making on a wall. Especially because they’re not even meant to be hung up. So I just went through a bunch of different ideas, like how do I give context to the jackets and then thought about they’re positive jackets and then I think I walked past one of those little cases for the fire alarm and I was just like that’s it, that’s the idea so I just went with it.
Has being from the Bronx influenced your art? If so, how?
Yes, but not directly. It’s like this thing where it doesn’t even have to be the Bronx but I need to constantly tell or remind people that this is where I’m from versus just letting that speak through the work. For me, I try to make that secondary. I make really good stuff and then people figure out you’re from the Bronx, which every time I find out someone is like Dominican or from the Bronx afterwards then it elevates it for me.
How does your work comment on current social or political issues?
I mean, that’s like the crux of my practice. How do I take all of those things you just mentioned and visualize it on a basic level. I always feel like if my grandma doesn’t get it, then I’m not doing it right. That means that my audience is too small or it’s like I made it too academic.I need like––my grandma didn’t even finish elementary school so I need her to be able to understand it first and then I can figure it out from there. Or just something within it she has to resonate with it because otherwise, if she doesn’t get it, I’m not really doing it for the people. I always use her as my market for stuff.
Walter Cruz is a creator, collaborator and dreamer who seeks to create moments of critical thinking through his artwork and designs. He’s on a mission to pursue his passions and help others achieve their dreams along the way. A native New Yorker, Walter has been exploring visual arts for as long as he can remember. He holds a B.A. in Architectural Studies with a minor in Studio Arts. Walter aspires to be a social innovator using the intersectionality of design and the arts to create moments of critical thought amongst the viewers of his work and designs.
What do you plan to do next?
That’s the million dollar question. I’ve just been applying to a bunch of stuff. I’m going to do a short program in May at the Juilliard School. They have this program for artists that practice social justice through their work so that’ll be cool. I’m doing some art work in Miami soon and more shows. I have a show in L.A. Yeah, just keep creating.
Lastly, what advice would you give your younger self?
Take smarter risks. I’m someone who’s very passionate and very like, I gotta go for it, but early on in that process there’s times that I should have been less impulsive. I learned from it the hard way, but would say be passionate but calculate your risks when you’re trying to do stuff.