Generosity Helps to Launch Art Careers

Written by Alison Ragguette, CSUSB Professor, Art & Design

We are so fortunate to have incredible people who believe in our creative vision. The Judy Rodriguez Watson Public Art Project has been a huge supporter of our mural work and continues to make my job as the Professor of the CSUSB ceramics program so rewarding. James R. Watson & Judy Rodriguez Watson have supported numerous projects since 2008. They have been incredible friends to the Art department at CSUSB and true believers in the power of art to uplift society and build community. With their generosity, we have produced close to 2000 square feet of stoneware tile and have employed at least thirty students over the span of five murals. Their support has allowed me to develop these totally student-driven artworks. Our current project, Eternal Learning, was designed by two students, Adam Diaz and Melissa Medina. It is now in the fabrication process that is employing eight CSUSB students and alumni. This has proven to be a profound opportunity for students to learn about art fabrication and installation, community-based art, entrepreneurship, and so much more. These students will graduate with truly significant work experience that will make them very competitive as professional artists. In addition to these projects, Jim and Judy also support community-based projects, including the Wishing Stone Project in 2013, and currently, the Kind Art Collective Journal. With their assistance, CSUSB grad students and alumni are creating a bilingual art journal for kids to build resilience through creativity. Students are authoring, illustrating, and designing this publication that will be distributed to kids in need.

There are so many students’ success stories, due in part to these opportunities made possible by the Judy Rodriguez Watson Public Art Project. So many of these students get hired in the field of ceramics and art education, working as production artists, ceramics studio technicians, gallery curators, teachers, and professors. Our good friend and CSUSB alum, Anna Delgado believes her mural experience was instrumental in getting a full scholarship for graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is now a tenured professor at San Diego Community College. Another great story is about alumni, Nyx and Shayne Mitchell. They are two talented muralists who got their start through the Watson’s recommendation. In 2019, these artists connected with a local restaurant that commissioned them to create a mural for their interior. Since then, they have produced more than twenty murals around the state of California, and they are now doing major public art projects for city municipalities. It is totally clear to me that these opportunities make a huge difference for emerging artists and demonstrate to young artists and their families that there are viable careers in art.

Finally, I have to share how this experience has impacted me. As an artist, creative ideas are the easy part, while the challenge is funding, as well as the confidence and know-how to pursue such monumental permanent public artworks. The Judy Rodriguez Public Art Project has made this all possible. I am honored that the Watsons have such faith in my ability, and I am grateful for all their support and mentorship. It is also the most thrilling teaching of my career, to work with students on major public artworks, and then watch them go out and pursue successful careers.