LORAIN - For Dante Rodriguez, art isn't something he does, it is who he is.
"Art is a passion; it is how I communicate, how I understand life, how I understand myself," Rodriguez said.
For the fourth year in a row, Rodriguez will be performing and exhibiting his chalk art at the 20th annual Cleveland Museum of Art's Chalk Festival. He said he was asked by the community art department to participate again and that it is something that he really enjoys.
"It's like being a kid, drawing cartoons and animals, it's so much fun," he said.
Often he is commissioned to draw portraits, but Rodriguez particularly enjoys drawing animals. This year, he plans to draw his two newly acquired cats.
"I usually do animals - the first year was my dog, Shiva, then I did my brother-in-law's three-legged cat and the third year I did my friend's portrait," he said.
Rodriguez, who is a vegetarian, said he loves animals.
"Animals are such beautiful creatures, they love unconditionally; they are appreciative and loyal," he said.
Rodriguez has a degree in studio arts from Cleveland State University, and has been working as a mountmaker for the Cleveland Museum of Art for the last three years.
"It's a unique position; I am responsible for making armatures for objects to be displayed. I use metal fabrication, wood and acrylic to display the art - I work to come up with a design that flows with the object," he said.
While Rodriguez also draws and paints, he is particularly fond of chalk and pastels. He said that his "heart and soul" is in chalk.
"It is closer to my heart, it is easier to work with - it makes sense," he said. "I can move it around with my finger, drawing direct lines to create forms, layers and shading."
Rodriguez, who was born in Mexico but adopted by a Puerto Rican family, feels like he is a part of both cultures.
"It's a blessing to have two backgrounds," he said.
Rodriguez moved back to Lorain about two months ago and is working to set up a studio in his garage.
"Hopefully I will do more shows; I am trying to focus on a new body of work," he said.
Future plans also include a community focus.
"I am really interested in starting a Latin culture center, there are a lot of talented people - but they don't know their culture, or the history of art."
He said that he is dedicated to encouraging and motivating local artists - to give them a place to grow. He also is working to develop an art gallery in Cleveland.
Contact Rob Swindell at 329-7155 or email@example.com.