Ras Justo Luis is one of the selected regional artists for 352walls/ The Gainesville Urban Art Initiative 2015. He is a visual artist, printmaker, designer and owner of Upful Creations studios. Ras has a particular passion for projects that have a positive impact. I had the opportunity to meet with him on my recent visit to his studio/home.
You were selected for 352walls project. How are you feeling about it? What is your attitude to the project?
I think it is a good idea to attempt to bring art and tourism to Gainesville. I wish more local artists could participate, but I understand we have to bring international artists in order be able to showcase the local talent as well. I hope that in the coming years there will be walls for the international talent and businesses will donate a lot of walls for all the local artists in town. Maybe if we get enough buildings next year it can be: Gainesville artists building, Jacksonville artists building, Miami artists building so on and so forth… But I want to really focus on the local art scene as well. Thanks for having me included and for curating this awesome art experience.
We have more than 10 local artists selected! I think it is pretty much a lot for the first time… If we have only local artists nobody from outside Gainesville is going to come here to see our murals, because everybody has their own local artists.
In driving into your property I see you have murals on quite a few places, from your studio to a chicken coupe…
Yes I do love to surround myself with art and with positive and beautiful things. It drives me a little crazy to just see blank spaces. We should have more art; especially positive art in public spaces.
What inspired you to get your art up in public spaces?
Everywhere you look all you see are advertisements and ”buy this”, ”look like that”, companies suggesting all types of things. I really wanted to bring something positive to kids and the community. Something that could bring people together.
When were you first introduced to the concept of street art and murals?
It had to be growing up in South Florida. During my teens I grew up in Miami between Little Havana and what they call The Sawecera, the SW area. I saw a lot of murals and art in that area especially when I moved to what is now called Wynwood. Back then it was called Little Haiti and Overtown. We used to paint the buildings in the now popular area known as Wynwood. It was something positive that did not involve guns and gangs.
Have you studied art on a formal level?
Yes I went to South Miami Commercial Art School and then I went to New World School of the Arts and University of Florida for an art degree. I have a BFA in Print Making and in Painting.
What is the appeal of sticker art to you?
It is a way people can create something and be able to distribute it. They can send them and trade, post them up or trade them as art. There is a lot of stuff they can do with it. The sky is the limit.
Besides Miami, where else have you painted?
I have painted in many places: in Washington State, from New York City to Oregon, to Maui and Scotland. My mother-in-law says I go on ‘spraycations’ because every time I travel painting murals is involved. A lot of cities and countries are really good about having spaces for people to paint in big cities.
You are a designer and you run your own company, Upful Creations. Your life clearly revolves around art!
Yes I have an Organic and Conscious Clothing line Upful Creations Clothing that is all about putting positivity and hopeful designs out into the world. All we see in the media nowadays is negativity and I am trying to change that by doing as many positive works as I can. Like Gandhi said, we need to be the change we want to see in the world.
“Gators” are often presented in your work, are you a fan of them as many others in this town? Or it is something that we always can sell here?..
I am a University of Florida Alumni. This is a swamp, everything is Gator related and I love my University very much. They gave me a scholarship when other universities only gave me partial one. So, I paint gators because I am a Gator and because we are in Gatorland, lol.
Marvel Production, The 34th St. Wall (read more about the project here)
What are some of the challenges you personally face as an artist in Gainesville?
There is not enough art or an urban art scene. Between me, my friends, and people like you we are going to change that. We need to show the young kids that they can create and uplift not destroy and wreak havoc. It seems the city does not have public art or they have a bad view of it. We need to show them what true public art can be and how beautiful it is. It will bring money and tourism to the city.
I hope things will change! What’s ahead?
I hope to bring more public art to Gainesville and in the future, to have big shows and maybe a North Central Art Basel for the artists up here. The artists traveling through could stop for a few days and paint here to bring in some tourist dollars.