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Meet Gabriel Barrera of ScenicG

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gabriel Barrera.

Gabriel, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I have trained and practiced as a visual artist most of my life. I have worked as a professional Scenic Artist for the last 18 years. Originally from Southern California, I grew up being influenced by my father to be an artist. My father mentored me by providing me with the tools and resources to create art.

I completed my BFA in 1998 from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. Because of inequalities and exclusiveness in the art world, I found myself becoming more of a commercial artist and producing for the needs of designers. This transition led me to discover scenic art by working as a scenic painter at the amusement park, Knott’s Berry Farm. This introductory experience led me to apply and get accepted into grad school for theatrical set design. Despite having a bad experience and not finishing grad school, I continued to pursue a role in theater as a scenic artist. My persistence led me to get over-hire work in colleges, small theaters and eventually full-time work at South Coast Repertory. Once at South Coast, I learned many of the skills necessary to thrive as a scenic artist, but at the same time saw disparity in the lack of diversity on and off the stage.

It wasn’t until my employment with Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2008 that my passion for social justice began to integrate into my role as an artist. OSF provided training in equity, diversity and inclusion which further refined and built my analysis around social justice issues related to my job and life. This embodiment of work has enabled me to lead with confidence in the FAIR program, OSF’s internship program. FAIR is a professional development program that provides participants with an advanced fellowship, assistantship, internship, or resident opportunity to learn best practices across all administration, artistic, design, and production disciplines within a professional theater environment. I help youth of color thrive, rather than survive, as artists without compromising their identity. I intentionally reach out to youth of color in the community, and beyond, to develop a diversified workforce within the arts community.

I have recently left my 12 years position as Charge Scenic Artist at OSF to pursue building upon my art and design business ScenicG. With my business, I have attended conferences and other convenings promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives and engage with youth to advance them into careers in art and theater production. Leading with my experiences as an artist of color, I intentionally empower youth and young adults from underserved and underrepresented communities. Through my mentees work, my own art thrives. My own artwork is impacted and influenced upon the relationships I have in my community. Together, we create the change we want to see!

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
There has been many struggles along the way but the biggest struggle has been not being able to work in creative environments that reflect a diverse demographic of artists… At times I have been isolated, tokenized, and marginalized as person of color in the environments I worked in. It has been difficult to be an advocate for myself as well as for others being marginalized within toxic work environments. Discrimination in grad school activated the activist in me in order to use my artistic talents toward justice. I’ve worked in environments where supervisors discouraged co-workers speaking Spanish with me, Majority of my creative jobs I have worked involved working with white managers and supervisors. who lacked social awareness of identity. I have always had women of color as mentors along my journey as a person and artist. Art has always been my fallback to not being an A student and leading a nonproductive life.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
My company is an art and design company. I create multiple revenue stream utilizing all of my artist skills and talent. I offer anything from commissioned artwork, scenic and art workshops, ED&I facilitation to mentorship which I offer for free to members in the community. I lead my business with a social justice lens in order to live by the values that have been invested in me by my mentors and community. I’m proud to be able to be a major influence upon my mentees who have grown to become great artists in their own careers. What sets me apart from others is my unique personalization of style that speaks to the identity of my clients and mentees. Having this social justice lens and values integrated into my work makes it inclusive and equitable for others to be their unique authentic selves.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My proudest moment of my career is having mentees become as great as artists in their careers and selves as I can ever be.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jenny Graham, Gabriel Barrera

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