By: Karen Loya '19, Latina/o Student Success Office Intern
Art is an expression of identity and through it, Kevin Cruz has succeeded in demonstrating who he is: a proud Chicano seeking to leave his mark on the world.
Kevin’s passion for the arts and pride in his Latinx heritage combine to shape his academic and extracurricular trajectory. He is in his fourth year at Cornell, obtaining a 5-year concurrent degree in Fine Arts and American Studies through the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning and the College of Arts and Sciences respectively, with a double minor in English and Latina/o Studies. He is involved with the Cornell Dream Team (a pro-immigrant, student rights organization), works as a print monitor in the Art Department, and participates as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow since being selected during his sophomore year.
Coming from a visual arts high school in Los Angeles, Kevin wanted his love for the arts to leave its mark during college. One of his proudest moments was during the 2015 Latino Heritage Month Art Showcase in downtown Ithaca where one of the largest pieces he has made, Cisneros, Shakur, Junot, Gaspar, Galeano, Smith, was featured as the main work of art. He was inspired by six great Latinx writers and activists, and now his painting is on display at the Tompkins County Workers Center. “I’ve always wanted my work to end up with the community,” he explained, “and now it’s literally in the community.” Kevin also got a chance to work with one of his favorite Chicano artists, Malaquías Montoya, to produce a piece of art during his sophomore year at a community workshop held at the University of California Davis.
Kevin at the Taller Arte del Nuevo Amanecer
(Woodland, CA) with Malaquías Montoya working on
“Hoy Es Lo Mismo de Ayer”
Art is one of Kevin’s motivations, but his undocumented status also serves as a driving force in his life. “It really shapes and drives a lot of what I do. It definitely influences my kind of work, dealing with social issues, political issues, and social commentary.” Kevin has faced deep challenges at Cornell from being undocumented and so far away from L.A.; homesickness, no comfort food, and a lack of appreciation for his Chicano-inspired artwork his first year led him to lean on supportive advisors and friends to help him through his hardships. “Letting people help you is one for the best things you can do for yourself.”
Kevin’s summers have been far from dull. After his sophomore year he interned at the Getty’s Research Institute for the Arts with a program designed to increase diversity in the museum world. He spent last summer at the University of Chicago with a Summer Research Intensive Program, continuing his Mellon Mays research on Chicano posters produced during the 1960s and ‘70s. After Cornell, he plans on returning to the west coast to attend graduate school and pursue a PhD in either Chicano Studies or American Studies.
Through his hard work and challenges, nothing has stopped Kevin from enjoying himself while here at Cornell. He is a part of the Santos Club Soccer Team (who attended the National tournament in 2015 and will attend the 2016 Regional tournament) and has found a home within the staff and students in the Latina/o Studies Program. One of Kevin’s most cherished memories here at Cornell was spending his second Slope Day with his friends. Ludacris was performing, and while he enjoyed the performance, he emphasized that it was the people around him that made the day memorable.
One piece of advice that Kevin would give to incoming Cornellians is to find a support network for academic, personal, and professional guidance. He emphasized the importance of not trying to figure everything out on your own, but rather to accept help whenever you can find it. “Look for people that are willing to invest in you and care for you, and don’t be afraid to let them help you.”