Meet Colombian-American activist and street artist Ruben Rojas. He first picked up a painting brush in 2013 with one purpose in mind: transforming blank walls into inspiring pieces of art. Since then, his mission has been to spread the message of love, to use the urban landscape as a canvas to spark optimism and collaboration.
Each mural is a reminder for the passer-by that they deserve to dream, love and live in freedom…, or to simply breathe. In his 2018 Tedx Talk, Ruben Rojas explains how he used to look at ugly walls and billboards and wonder about the stories the landscape forces us to tell ourselves. He noticed it was possible to change the narrative one wall at a time. “People interact,” he says. “They open up.” The messages he creates with his team helps people feel relevant. It changes lives, including his own. “By having a conversation with a wall, I can have a conversation with hundreds of people.”
That’s how Beautify Earth came to be. Working with other street artists and even volunteers from the community has made Rojas realize that each wall is an opportunity to inspire change. Today his murals can be seen (and interacted with) all across the u.S. In addition, he works with companies to help businesses give back to the community.
To raise spirits during the Covid-19 pandemic, Rojas has produced artworks in Santa Monica that are meant to remind viewers of what’s really important: love and togetherness. Optimistic messages like “Love is Standing Six Feet Apart” and “Spread Love” has cheered up LA drivers and dog walkers along with 25 thousand Instagram followers. It’s also possible to buy t-shirts that declare “You can’t quarantine love”.
In addition to uplifting the mood, the street artist is trying to raise awareness for climate change. With a mural painted in Oakland and titled “Love Me Before I’m Gone”, he’s trying to spread a message of urgency. “We must change the climate in our hearts,” he urges. All he asks is for people to love themselves, one another, and the planet.
Q&A: RUBEN ROJAS
Ruben Rojas – where are you originally from? Ethnicity? Where do you reside now?
I was born in Los Angeles, CA both of my parents are from Colombia. I currently live in Santa Monica.
What did your family and friends think when you told them about being an artist? Any haters?
Honestly, It kind of just came out of nowhere and evolved over time. I was a full time financial advisor and (long story short) I was doodling and designing a hoodie for a leadership workshop, my buddy saw it and said, “We need to put that on a wall?” I was like, on a what, like a mural? And well the rest is history. It did take 3 years after that first mural for me to leave my career as an advisor and embrace that artist that I was meant to be.
Your favorite work you have done?
There are so many favorite projects they each have their special place and meaning in my heart it is really hard to say which is my favorite. I am just grateful to be able to do this full time and share my work with the world. It is truly an honor.
What would you like to promote? New Work? Upcoming projects, etc…
Right now I am focused on building out my clothing brand. I am always grateful for support and promotion and this has been the most recent expansion of my current brand.
How has the Covid-19 impacted your work?
At first like many it was a giant slap in the face, projects disappeared, contracts cancelled and deposits did not arrive. I couldn’t let that bring me down and I continued to push forward. Diving into brand expansion, painting inspiring murals to support people in getting through this pandemic. I have recently created my first two full size sculptures checking that off the bucket list and am excited to unveil them in the coming months. All in all I see the silver lining and look for the positive in every test we face in life.
What music genres did you grow up listening to?
My go to genre will always be Hip-Hop . I love almost every decade of it with the 90’s being by far the pinnacle of hip-hop.
Did you speak to your parents in English or Spanish?
I spoke to my father in spanish and my mother in both English and Spanish.
What’s your go-to Latin song?
I have an entire playlist but one that truly gets me going is by Marc Anthony “Vivir Mi Vida!”
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find my inspiration in people, my surroundings and deep within myself.
What advice do you have for young up and coming artists?
It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to your craft with a relentless focus on building out your style and brand. No one is an overnight success and you may have to do things to prove to yourself that you can make it. If you give it enough time before you know it you will be succeeding.
Why do you think it’s important for us to feature your interview in English instead of Spanish?
Wow, now this is a loaded question lol. As important as it is to be bilingual it is important to own your command of the English language. I believe that we Latinos need to practice speaking more English when in non-familial situations as it will help you speak better and feel comfortable with English.
Are you the only creative talent at home?
The short answer yes. My mother use to be a creative I remember vaguely as a child but that’s about it. But I do believe that we are all creative in our own particular ways.
Is there a charity you advocate for? Why?
Besides my own charity Beautify Earth I like to support and get involved at the local level. Local is where we can make the most impact.
If someone would like to hire you in the near future, who should they reach out to?
What genre of music do you listen to when working?
Hip-Hop, Dance/EDM and Latin
Who are your major influences?
I am inspired by people and their actions. I don’t have any major influences! I am a big fan of The Rock and his work ethic and drive that is what influences me.
How do you think artists can help capture this unprecedented moment in time with their work?
Artists create culture and drive culture. This pandemic is a defining moment in history that will not be forgotten and hopefully, we won’t experience anything like this again and as artists, we need to create and share our gifts to spread love and inspiration and dissipate the fear and negativity.