Get to know the town: Local artist Gilberto Rodriguez

Gilberto Rodriguez is from Mexico, but has lived in Delaware for more than 20 years. He is one of a group of artists who recently worked on the diversity mural which now rests on the side wall of Arena’s in Milford.Read more about Mr. Rodriguez here.

Name: Gilberto Rodriguez

Age: 52-years-old, “But I feel like 30.”

Home country: Mexico, currently lives in Ellendale

Gilberto Rodriguez is from Mexico, but has lived in Delaware for more than 20 years. He is one of a group of artists who recently worked on the diversity mural which now rests on the side wall of Arena’s in Milford. He is seen here in front of one of his original works. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

Gilberto Rodriguez is from Mexico, but has lived in Delaware for more than 20 years. He is one of a group of artists who recently worked on the diversity mural which now rests on the side wall of Arena’s in Milford. He is seen here in front of one of his original works. The Chronicle/Jennifer Antonik

How did you find your way to Delaware?

“I started working here in 1995 in Lewes. So I’ve been in the states for 20 years now. Now, I’m in charge of the maintenance at Yogi Bear Campground in Lincoln. I love it. I love working outside. I get to work on the grounds, do the landscaping and almost everything.”

What was working like when you arrived?

“I feel like they [Hispanics] are afraid to go out and talk to the people in the community because of the language. When I started working in 1995, I didn’t speak any English. I spoke maybe like one percent English. My boss asked if I understood what he was telling me. And I said, ‘You know what? I don’t.’ I had to go to school. For three years, I rode my bike from outside Georgetown to Delaware Tech. Then I submerged myself in English culture.”

Tell us about your family?

“My 23-year-old daughter was born in Mexico and now works in Georgetown. My son is 21. He started working on the DMV inspection line; now he’s a hero. One day in the inspection line, one guy driving an RV kept moving. The driver tried to stop the RV, but it pushed him against the wall. My son jumped in and stopped the RV. He’s a hero. We also have a 12-year-old daughter and two dogs.”

When did you start painting?

“When I was six-years-old, so I started painting when I was in Kindergarten. I started by doing portraits because my teacher was so beautiful. So, I was working on her face all the time. One day, she saw me doing it in class and she came to me and said, ‘Gilberto…,’ she always used my full name. ‘Gilberto, I love your painting. I really do. But my class, this is my class. But I love your painting. Can I have it?’ It inspired a lifetime of painting.”

Why do you paint?

“I’ve got a passion. I’m over 50 doing something. I like dancing; I like everything. I never went to school for art, but I think sometimes you don’t need it. To be a good parent, you don’t need to go to school, but there’s always something to learn. And practice: practice makes a master.”

Do you sell your paintings or is this hobby just for fun?

“I did sell one at the [Mispillion] Art League recently. With painting, it doesn’t matter if I sell it or not. I’m still painting and I can’t stop. On my walls, there’s paintings everywhere and my wife said there’s no more room. Someone told me ancient painters painted on the ceilings. I understand. I still have paintings that are 18-20 years old.”

You recently worked on the diversity mural?

“Yes. I love it. Every time I drive by, I see it. We spent too much time on that. Six months and over 1,000 hours. When I do something, I want to finish it now. I love it though because we’re [Hispanics] part of the community and we need to spread somehow that we’re here. We’re not here to just work on the farms or in the chicken plants. No. We’re here to spend time and live.”

Jennifer Antonik can be reached at mc@newszap.com

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