Houseguest: José Ruiz
From Pitchfork Studio
By Chelsea Huang
February 12, 2014 | weblink
He makes things happen.
José Ruiz’s upbringing almost led him to a career in public policy… almost. But Pitchfork’s first houseguest isn’t on the Hill; he’s working out of a sleek loft in NOMA as one of the area’s leading creatives.
Between bites of spanakopita, we chatted with José Ruiz about finding a place in the art world. Ruiz has combined his entrepreneurial drive with his creative spirit in his company, Furthermore. At the most basic level, Furthermore gives local artists an affordable, quality printing option. But Furthermore’s broader efforts are to make, show, learn, and teach art. Ruiz has been making art since he was young, fostering a risk-taking attitude still apparent in the man who walked through the Pitchfork Studio doors earlier this month.
If you want to do it, just take it seriously.
As a young college student, Ruiz didn’t know his hobby could be his career. He considered following his parents’ footsteps in international relations or business, but found those majors unsatisfying. When he finally approached his parents about becoming an artist, they gave him a few choice words: “If you want to do it, just take it seriously.”
Ruiz took those words to heart and began pursuing an art career without any formal connections to the D.C. art scene. While still a junior at the University of Maryland, Ruiz curated his first exhibition at the Velvet Lounge.
“My friends and I wanted to make and show art, so we made it happen. Even though some of us didn’t have art degrees yet, the caliber of work we presented spoke for itself. We took lots of risks and it got people’s attention.”
Eventually, after seeing success in Washington, Ruiz decided to continue his education at the San Francisco Institute of Art for his MFA. He studied New Genres, a highly conceptual multimedia program. It was the perfect fit for the innovative nature of his personal work.
Following graduation, Ruiz moved to New York City and landed a job with the struggling Bronx River Art Center, where he wore every hat from receptionist to grant-writer to curator. He had just $16,000 to work with for his first season, and by the time he left, the BRAC was the second highest-earning, visual arts non-profit in the Bronx.
Though he enjoyed major administrative success at BRAC, he felt that his personal art was being compromised. After what he calls “a tough year,” Ruiz finally found the coveted sweet spot between business and art.
“I asked myself, how can I make ends meet and still be creative, you know? That’s where Furthermore came from.”
If I have an idea, I decide how I’m going to make it happen. And just because it doesn’t work out the way you thought doesn’t mean it can’t work.
Though he has the formal training and education, he continues to work through a do-it-yourself model.
“Artists tend to shun the business side, but it’s important. Most people I know who are doing well for themselves set aside time, whether monthly or weekly, to apply for shows and grants.”
Airplane_twoRuiz is constantly pushing forward in both business and art, never hesitant to take risks.
“You need a thick skin to handle rejection. And remember that some people work hard for ten years before something big happens for them.”
Ruiz hopes that his work with Furthermore will encourage other local artists.
“I’ve seen a lot of my colleagues stop making art because they get frustrated. I don’t want that to happen to me, so I set a lot of goals. If I have an idea, I decide how I’m going to make it happen. And just because it doesn’t work out the way you thought doesn’t mean it can’t work.”
This attitude has led Ruiz to expand his vision into international collaborations in Mexico City, the Netherlands and France.
With so much going on, he’s a difficult man to pin down. Luckily for us, he supports art and has a taste for Greek food.