Earlier this summer local artist Walter Marroquin was tapped to paint the electrical box on Hyde Park Avenue right outside of River Grille. HOHP is thrilled to resume this season with a story on how he uses art to build community.
What’s your connection to Hyde Park?
I’ve been here close to 19 years now; I’ve bounced around, but what I’ve tried to do is stay close to my job so I didn’t have to travel far. I worked at the Hyde Park YMCA way back when. I was living literally across the street from it so [it’s been] about 19 years ago. The connection to Hyde Park would be that, but it’s a deeper connection now because I’ve become more vested; it’s not just a place to live - it’s community, it’s family to me. I feel like I’m deeply rooted in Hyde Park now.
Tell me about your journey as an artist.
I’ve always been artistic since I was 6 or 7 years old; usually comic book characters or anything to do with cartoons because of the color. I was always intrigued with color. I was born in Boston and moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida as a child. My grandparents raised me and I was a very inward person. I was very shy so I took to drawing a lot. I stayed in Florida until I was 13 or 14 and then moved to Boston. Being that young I didn’t have many friends; I didn’t have an outlet so one of the things I picked up was graffiti because it was in nature drawing and because a lot of my friends here [in Boston], when I made friends, were into graffiti. It was addictive, to say the least. I don’t know if you talk to a lot of graffiti writers, but they’ll always say graffiti is addictive. Once you do one piece you’re going to want to do another one and another one; it’s like getting tattoos. I did that for my teen years and that’s around the time things started getting hairy here so my parents sent me back to Florida to live with my grandparents. I did 2 years here and 2 years there for high school. I ended up here in Boston and the graffiti thing stuck.
When I ended up working at the YMCA I lost touch with art, but one of my friends Steve Nilsen [fellow HOHP feature] happened to be a graffiti writer. Steve gave me a black book - kind of like a graffiti autograph book - I did something in his book, and it brought back my creativity and passion for art. I started doing graffiti again but on canvases. I ended up doing more pop art, more characters than words or letters. I really started getting into studying art; I started reading more and studying Roy Lichtenstein, Monet, surrealism - everything that had to do with art I picked up and ran with it. I did graffiti on canvases with airbrushes, but it’s a pain to use; I went from airbrushes to paint brushes. My medium now is mostly acrylic. I still do pop art; it’s as close to graffiti as I’ll get to doing graffiti outside.
For me, it was never about selling anything; it was about pushing the boundaries about what I could do with an airbrush vs. a paintbrush. I wanted to grow as an artist so I started getting into impressionism - Claude Monet was a huge influence. I never went to class for anything art related; everything I’ve done - all of my techniques - I’ve learned on my own.
What does this period of Covid look like for you when it comes to engaging the community with art?
As we speak I’m sitting inside of The Switch - an art co-op. We rent the space and sell our work. We’re all new to this [3 years old], and we’re learning by reaching out to other co-ops. Personally, I’m trying to build my programs here with kids. I was doing paint parties with kids, face painting - we do stuff with the kids as we know it’s an outlet for them [when the doors were open]. My passion to work with kids comes from being raised by my grandparents and not my parents. I see my mom a lot now but not my dad as he’s in Florida. I try to keep in mind that there are kids that don’t have an outlet, so I try to bring that to them - at least I was pre-Covid. I feel the need to stand in front of kids and say, “You’re different and that’s OK;” it’s hard to do on Zoom.
What does collaboration look like for you?
We have some outlets where we can see the kids - we can’t see as many as we’d like - but we have options. I’m working with a restaurant on doing a paint party for kids. I tap into Hyde Park Neighbors [Facebook Group]; there’s been a ton of interest, and we’ll go from there. I take it personally that it’s my way of giving back.
What have you observed about Hyde Park over your 19 years here?
I see a lot more interaction between ethnicities and more minority-owned businesses. We are truly diverse; we care about each other and we help each other out.
I want art to be used to bring people together. When I do my electrical boxes I get people of all backgrounds who come up to me and say, “Hey that looks beautiful!” It’s a peacock - everyone can admire a peacock. Art is all-encompassing; it gets you in front of people that you wouldn't be in front of otherwise.
What does your artist community look like in Greater Boston?
As of right now I’m mostly vested in Hyde Park, but I do want to branch out because of my own personal growth. I want to not only help kids in my community but in all communities. I’ve had so much on my plate the past 2-3 years with The Switch as a full time job it’s a lot. People come to me now; when we do well people come to us! We’ve worked with so many communities, and it’s been really fun as of late.
Where’s the best place for Hyde Park neighbors to connect with you and support your art?
You can visit https://www.theswitchcoop.com/ and their Facebook page as well (the next virtual sale is coming up on September 23, 2020).
Nominate yourself or someone in the community for a Humans of Hyde Park story; nominees can remain anonymous in the story or use their first name only if they prefer: https://goo.gl/forms/qgTj1Rh8t2bSbh973
Quiana first came to Boston as a college student, graduating from Wellesley College in 2002 and returned in 2016 to live in Hyde Park with her husband and two children.