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Meet Derek Prado of Prado Studios in South Los Angeles

Today we’d like to introduce you to Derek Prado.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Derek. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Born in a Mexican-Salvadoran mixed family and a Los Angeles native I was interested in the arts at a young age. I began my studies at California State University, Dominguez Hills for my undergraduates in Fine Art. Through my academic career there whenever I was at home I would learn how to garden and sew from my grandmother, but I never really used those skills outside of my home at the time. By the time I was graduating I was accepted into OTIS College of Art and Design for their Masters in Fine Art, Emphasis in Social Practice (MFA+SP) program. However, my grandmother at the same time became ill and she was placed in hospice care.

The final days we had together gave me the opportunity to learn more about my family history and the importance of what I am doing as an artist and as a first-generation college graduate. I looked back at my skills as an artist and realized that I was not as interested in the traditional practices of the arts; painting, ceramic work and clay sculpting was not enough to express my interests. I decided to merge my gardening and sewing skills into my art practice with my history as a Mexican-Salvadoran American to express myself. Since then I have been making work about environmentalism with the lens of a Mexican-Salvadoran American through performance art, installations and sculptures that are new genre-based.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Parts of society don’t believe that being an artist can be an emotional journey and I was one of those kinds of people. I thought it was a stereotype but I can say that it really has been a struggle when it came to coping with a lot of family, personal and external situations while I study to become an artist. Besides my grandmother passing away I had to cope with balancing out my mental energy into my personal life and artist role. It took many sacrifices: My comfort zone, energy and mental health were challenged to get me to this point in my academic career.

I would have to work many hours of the day and make art for many more at the night while coming home in late hours to the early morning. Is it hard? Yes it is. Do I want to stop? Who wouldn’t, honestly? However, my ambition and love to create work keep me going. I know for sure that my grandmother has gone through rougher hardships migrating to America and for that, I keep on doing what I feel that I must do for the sake of thanking my grandparents for the many sacrifices they have done to get our family the opportunities we have now. Especially in America’s political climate toward racial justice, immigrant rights and environmentalism, I engage in those issues in my work.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
As an artist, I really focus on my performance work and sculptural equally. Most of my performance work is endurance based within the mix of environmentalism and Mexi-Salvi histories. My sculptural work is a mix of representational and abstract forms on the same subjects. Both of these practices use natural and artificial materials such as plants, burlap and man-made objects that are all in conversation amongst themselves.

What were you like growing up?
Honestly, I have always been timid and quiet and still am. My time as an artist though made it a lot easier to express my interests and thoughts of my life. My work in performance art really did help fighting the anxieties I face growing up. I tend to think my personality is being odd and comedic and it sometimes shows in my performance and sculptures. I feel that trying to make something full of logic and straight-forwardness would make it harder for myself to understand things that are unknown to me, so to go odd and comedic with my work that is engaging in serious topics can make it inviting enough for a conversation.

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Images courtesy by Derek Prado

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