Local artist Jose Hernandez has been commissioned to paint an original mural in the East Village on the east wall of the former Carriage House building on 6th Street. Chief Operating Officer of Cromwell Architects, Engineers, Inc., Dan Fowler came across some of Hernandez’s work and thought that the artist’s style embodied the grit and spirit of the neighborhood.
Hernandez has been making art as long as he can remember. He started doing murals after moving to Savannah, GA, where he formed an art collective with some other local artists. They held pop-up art events in many cities all over the US and Mexico. The gatherings featured live music, dancing, the work of local artists, and live painting demonstrations. These events provided an opportunity for a diverse group of artists to network and collaborate with each other across borders.
Hernandez’s local projects include work for the Arkansas Times, the Argenta District, Dunbar Gardens, the North Little Rock Boys and Girls Club, Stephens Elementary School, 7th Street, and Sushi Café to name a few. His work has also been featured at the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies and Gallery 360. He also custom paints skateboards, hats, and clothing. He spends his free time conducting workshops and mentoring young, aspiring artists.
As a muralist, Hernandez’s favored tool is spraypaint because he is able to cover a larger space in a shorter amount of time. Speed is not the only challenge that a muralist faces. Painting on canvas usually takes place in a controlled environment, whereas a mural is in the open and exposed to the elements like wind and rain, foot traffic and many other factors that can be out of the artist’s control. Painting a mural is also a very physically demanding task that requires using the entire body. Hernandez often paints in 10-12 hour sessions throughout the night to finish a piece.
Hernandez does not make art just for the sake of art. His pieces are driven by social commentary and messages that he would like to convey to the community. The concept behind the piece in the East Village is meant to pay homage to the local industry that the neighborhood was founded on as well as the people behind it. Once Hernandez completes a piece, he no longer retains ownership of it; the piece is for the community to share.
Whether observers love or hate the finished piece is irrelevant to Hernandez. No matter what the reaction is, murals are meant to foster ongoing communication and engagement to the very diverse group of people who experience it. Murals also serve as a way of claiming a unique space in this world. We are constantly bombarded with images of every form that are pasted on every clean surface possible. Why not fill some of those spaces with beautiful and creative images that will spark conversations, create social awareness, and even inspire positive progress? These ideals are what the essence of the East Village is all about.