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Boricua Muralist

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  • Boricua Muralist

    Carlos T. Cruz, Kissimmee Mural Artist Got His Start With Graffiti

    Beth Browning, Sentinel Correspondent

    January 7, 2003
    Copyright 2003 Orlando Sentinel.
    All rights reserved.

    -- Carlos T. Cruz said his roots in the visual arts are based on graffiti art. Originally from New York, he took the inspiration of exposure to graffiti art with him when he moved to Puerto Rico.

    Cruz started his formal instruction in visual arts in 10th grade. He attended a school for the arts, finishing when he was 18. He was doing mixed media, combining spray can graffiti art and oil paint applied with brushes. Cruz continued his studies at an art institute. His work tended to be more technical, similar to drafting, and he did some computer-aided drafting.

    He went to work for the Guaynabo municipal government in Puerto Rico, and when officials saw his talent they created a job for him.

    "It was a dream job," Cruz said. "I painted my choice of designs on walls around the community and roads. It was less expensive for them to pay me than it was to fix unsightly areas. The pay was low, but it was a good experience."

    The job lasted from 1989 to 1992, but in a year he had painted all the walls in the tourist areas of Guaynabo.

    Cruz moved back to New York, working with nonprofit organizations, mainly churches. The work was more high tech than visual art. He did computer-aided drafting, video editing, computer rendering and similar designing. Eventually, he became director and producer of Cristovision, a nonprofit Christian video production company. He also built and painted scenery for plays. He won first place in a show at St. Mary's College in Newburg, N.Y., for an ink rendition of Christ on the cross.

    Most of the positions Cruz has had or developed didn't exist before his tenure. He founded Cristovision as a creative element, although the funds came from a church.

    "I'm grateful for my ability to create and for my life experiences," he said. "I've been fortunate to be able to create something from nothing, through meeting the right people."

    Cruz eventually worked for Orkin and transferred to Kissimmee in the summer of 2000.

    One of his customers, Judi Willetts, owns Rainforest Studio. Cruz showed her his portfolio, which includes block prints and stained-glass windows. Although he hasn't done any faux finishes locally, Cruz does Venetian plaster, glazing and sand finishes. He is contacting interior designers and home construction companies, hoping to build a client base.

    His passion is murals, and because he is a history buff, they usually have historical themes and include people. He has done work as large as 20 feet by 46 feet.

    In Puerto Rico, he did a mural celebrating the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the island. He paints murals directly on structures but wants to start doing more "off the wall" work inside homes and buildings. Off the wall means painting the mural or design on canvas or cloth and mounting it on the wall instead of painting directly on the wall.

    One reason: The last time he was in Puerto Rico, he saw that most of the painting he had done for the government was gone, either removed by new owners or painted over.

    Cruz spends five to eight hours a week on his art. He also dreams of sharing his knowledge through teaching drawing, painting, block printing or screen painting and is updating his resume, hoping to teach art classes at his sons' school, Life Academy.

    "I'd like to share and show others how art can add to their personal enrichment and growth," he said.