Central Connecticut is home to many talented, diverse, and passionate artists. Each creator brings their own unique flair to the local art scene; here’s a closer look at four Latinx artists from our region. Apollo Maldonado
Maldonado’s Meriden-based pop-up gallery, the Artists’ Colony, was always meant to be temporary. While the pandemic put many ideas on hold for the Puerto Rican artist, he didn’t let his journey suffer. Maldonado admits that he had to “rework some ideas,” but those unexpected roadblocks turned out to be the start of something great.
He has officially taken to the streets with a school bus-turned-studio with intentions of helping others; his digital art studio and therapeutic digital painting experience has been utilized by local students, those with cancer, and others just looking to try something new.
“It’s therapeutic,” Maldonado mused.
He’s looking forward to working with community organizations to get those who need it most into his studio. He currently holds monthly classes with patients through Hartford Hospital, but is extremely interested in expanding the list of people who can benefit from his unique experience.
Locally known for his work on the downtown revitalization murals, he served as Meriden’s Resident Artist.
“Meriden has a lot of potential!” Maldonado said in regards to the city’s future development.
As we parted, Maldonado mentioned that he believes the key to success is to “invest in the people who have dreams.”
Follow Apollo Maldonado’s Instagram:Amanda Mendoza
@all.sketched.out. Visit Apollo Maldonado’s website: https://www.allsketchedout.com/
Mendoza is a New Britain based artist/advocate. Raised in Wallingford, Mendoza initially went to school to pursue a degree in art education. Since graduating from Central Connecticut State University in 2017, she has worked as a victim advocate at sexual assault crisis centers across the state.
Now at the Connecticut Alliance to End Sexual Violence, she views helping others as a form of self-healing. As a survivor of sexual assault, she struggled with self-love and identity as she grappled with overcoming a heinous situation.
Mendoza commented on the struggles many members of the Latinx community are familiar with, including struggling to be assimilated into American culture, while still being proud of their homeland roots. Like many children of immigrants, she recounted times when her father would tell her he was glad she could “pass as white” so she wouldn’t face the same discrimination he had.
“I feel like that’s played a role in how I express myself through my art when I feel like this in-between person.” she said, adding how she feels too “American” to fit in with Latinx groups, and too Latinx to consider herself white.
Ultimately, Mendoza challenged herself to heal and grow through therapy and advocacy for others, along with a lot of research and introspective exploration.
“I do truly believe art saved me,” she said.
Now, she devotes herself to helping others on their journey to self-love and emotional expression. One of her newer endeavors is hosting painting workshops designed for girls of color with an emphasis on self-love through self-portrait. Here, she empowers the girls to deviate from the norm, and express themselves using colors and techniques that are meaningful to them. Whichever way her career journey leads, Mendoza is confident that supporting others will remain a part of it.
Follow Amanda Mendoza’s Instagram: @amandamendozaart. Visit Amanda Mendoza’s Etsy Shop: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AmandaMendozaArtEddie Rivera
Rivera doesn’t shy away from sharing his unconventional success story; he aims to not only prove himself to naysayers, but also to inspire others in similar situations.
Moving to Meriden from Puerto Rico with his single mother, Rivera struggled with finding his way at first. He detailed a childhood of poverty and hardship, with a fair share of light moments as well; he has fond memories of Gary O’Neil, his middle school art teacher, who inspired him to pursue his passions at a young age.
“Every teacher should be like Mr. O’Neil,” he said.
Despite his talent, Rivera got caught up in the whirlwind of street life, gave up his artistic passions, and found himself incarcerated at a young age. In prison, he decided that things had to change.
“I had an epiphany, and I just focused on my art,” he said.
Rivera was able to earn his GED, attend school for barbering and open up his own shop, New Style Hair Studio. Rivera’s barber shop has gained state and national attention through his newly created training course. The purpose of the training is to educate and prepare others in cosmetology on topics of autism awareness and special needs in potential customers. Whether he is creating designs for his T-shirts, painting on a wall in downtown Meriden, or giving someone a fresh look in his barbershop, Rivera views all his actions as highly connected.
“I’m a through-and-through artist,” he said. “I’m happy that everything I do with my careers is fun. I don’t even feel like I’m working.”
Follow Eddie Rivera’s Instagram: @eddie._rivera. Visit Eddie Rivera’s website: https://eddierivera.art/Nydia Ferrer Dominguez
Dominguez is a Meriden native whose Puerto Rican roots often shine through in her art. She has many passions, including family, advocacy, community and arts within academia. She’s currently assisting the Advocacy Academy Accomplishing Education, a Connecticut-based nonprofit.
Through her art, she has maintained a relatively laid-back lifestyle of creativity that has brought her joy, good company, and her fair share of accomplishments. As a repeat guest Latinx artist at Meriden’s annual Puerto Rican Festival, she’s earned a positive name for herself within the central Connecticut community.
Ferrer Dominguez loves to immerse myself in her roots, utilizing bold and vibrant colors to tell stories or create moments within her works.
“I have had supporters call me the ‘Rooster Lady.’ I would always make sure I had a new Rooster Art for each Puerto Rican Festival I was invited to show my work,” she said.
Regarding the pandemic, she’s been able to find some positive aspects of a truly devastating time. She shared her disappointment at opportunities missed, and lost moments with cherished friends, but was able to utilize the newfound time to take part in the #365dayartchallenge, a social media-based challenge that prompts artists from across the globe to create a new work of art every day for a year.
Besides Ferrer Dominguez’s unique creative style making her work stand out, she also adds a coordinating quote to the back of her pieces to add that final personal touch to each piece.
Moving forward, Ferrer Dominguez is excited to announce that she just received her second dose of her COVID-19 vaccine.
“I hope to venture out, expand my wings and continue to live as a laid-back artist without a worry, creating to my heart’s desire,” she said.
Follow Nydia Ferrer Domínguez’s Instagram: @Nydiart
Francesca Fontánez is a Meriden-based journalist, educator, and creative. A graduate of both the University of New Haven and the University of Bridgeport, she is happy to be back in Meriden writing about the city she loves. When she’s not helping out in the English department at Maloney High School, she’s either exploring the Eastern seaboard for her lifestyle blog (@east_side_vibes_ on Instagram) or working on music for her band, Cessa and The Zach . Email Francesca at email@example.com with tips on what you want to read about next, or just to say hi!