AN ARTIST, NOT A FELON : HOW TUPAC, ART, AND THE CRIMINALIZATION OF YOUTH MADE OSCAR MAGALLENES THE ARTIST HE IS TODAY

Oscar MagallanesFor Los Angeles based artist Oscar Magallanes, childhood wasn’t rose colored or child like. While some kids spent their days capturing the flag and learning to paint in their high school art classes, Oscar, and the majority of his peers in Azusa, CA, spent most of their time getting into trouble and trying to avoid a prison sentence. His school didn’t have the funding for art programs and most kids had to work to help pay the bills instead of play sports – art wasn’t something learned, practiced, or even talked about in his circle of peers.

But when Oscar was almost arrested and kicked out of school at the age of 15, an administrator sent Oscar to an underprivileged youth art class at Ryman Arts, and it was this event that radically changed the trajectory of his life.

Ryman Arts opened Oscar’s eyes to never before imagined possibilities for his life and for creative self expression. His print, REALEYES, symbolizes this moment when as a Chicano youth, he “REALIZED” the truth – the truth about the criminalization of youth, the truth about the lies he’d been told, and the truth about the power of art to inspire individuals and transform our society. Suddenly, he realized, his voice mattered.

He credits hip hop as a major inspiration and motivator for his art, for getting him off the streets and into the studio. Tupac in particular had a lasting effect on Oscar, “ Tupac was a complex artist who used his music as a vehicle for social change and social justice for the benefit of his community. His short life was so prolific.
Regardless of the time that passes his message is still as potent and relevant as ever.”

20 years later, Oscar’s career spans prestigious galleries and institutions across California, and Oscar continues to create art that stirs up the conversation around race and sheds light on the criminalization of youth as well as working class issues within the Chicano community.

Oscar is now a member of the young professionals board of inner city arts, where he gives back to students in the hopes that art will have the same sort of positive impact on their lives as it’s had on his own.

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