DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION | One of the evocative online backgrounds available at the Latina/o/x Heritage Month hub comes with some background of its own. “Marcha,” designed by artist and educator Jose Ramirez, depicts a crowd of people moving in solidarity down a city street. The artwork brings to mind community and echoes of a demonstration, with a color palate that captures a Latina/o/x energy.
All those characteristics have marked Ramirez’s 27-year career as an artist and a third grade teacher at Esperanza Elementary in the Pico-Union neighborhood of Los Angeles.
“I try to incorporate what I learn as a teacher into my artwork and what I learn as an artist into my teaching,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez’s artwork has been featured in LMU’s Vistas, the forerunner to LMU Magazine, and in the magazine where he has also been a frequent contributor, including the most recent issue’s “In Memoriam” feature. He earned a B.F.A. and an M.F.A. in art from UC Berkeley, and his state teaching credential from California State University, L.A. In 2001, he received the California Community Foundation Visual Artist Fellowship.
Ramirez has recently completed commissions for La Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown Los Angeles, Los Angeles Public Library, Plaza Community Services and Trejo’s Tacos (Pasadena). He has worked with AltaMed, National Immigration Law Center, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, California Wellness Foundation, InnerCity Struggle, Community Coalition and Self Help Graphics & Art. Ramirez’s work was exhibited at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C., Avenue 50 Gallery in Highland Park and Homegirl Café in Los Angeles. His paintings were featured on the CBS TV show “The Good Fight.” His children’s book about the life of Carlos Santana, “When Angels Sing: The Story of Rock Legend Carlos Santana,” published by Simon and Schuster, won multiple awards.
As reported in a 1999 Los Angeles Times profile, “Ramirez grew up in El Sereno, his childhood saturated by the colors of the neighborhood murals and the Chicano art movement. His parents, a carpet layer and seamstress, both emigrated from Mexico. He spent his summers with his grandmother in Jalisco and took trips to Mexico City, where he was awed by the large Aztec pyramids.” His artistic passions were sparked from there.
As a student at Berkeley, he was told his work was “too Mexican,” but that criticism spurred his ambition. He has painted murals, illustrated children’s books, created book covers, and passed his passion for art as communication to his students. “People don’t realize art is such a powerful tool,” Ramirez has said. “If you want to get kids to really learn, you get them to do art.”
Ramirez’s work can be seen across Los Angeles. “This summer I completed a mural at Monseñor Oscar Romero Charter School and I’m looking forward to starting a mural at Center X, UCLA,” Ramirez said.