Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter
December 8, 2023 // Diocese

Muralist Tells Stories of Faith, Love, Community

Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter

Great works of art aren’t always made on canvas and hung in a museum. Michelangelo’s masterpiece of the Sistine Chapel was painted on a ceiling. What makes a piece of art so memorable is not the location but the story it tells the viewer and the impressions felt by the audience.

Federico Rodriguez, a graduate of St. Adalbert Grade School, Saint Joseph High School, and Holy Cross College in South Bend, uses his art to tell stories about faith, justice, and the community through murals in the area.

Photos provided by Federico Rodriguez
Federico Rodriguez painted his first mural, the Rosale Mural, as an 18-year-old at Holy Cross College in 2013. The mural was created as part of his internship with La Casa de Amistad. The objective for creating the piece was to use the transformative power of art to create a sacred space that was welcoming, inclusive, and vibrant.

“I remember during one of our Friday Masses in second grade that the priest had instructed us to look around the church and marvel at the many statues and stained-glass windows,” Rodriguez told Today’s Catholic. “He remarked that we were so lucky to have so many amazing depictions of our faith so beautifully shown. I recall after hearing that having a feeling like the environment around me changed from black and white to color. My Catholic education has provided me with an emphasis on servitude, which I find to be my calling.”

His mural on the side of Rosales Supermarket in South Bend includes an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Navarre Middle School has a mural with Jaguar Nation that incorporates the school’s athletics and culture of the community. Recently, he completed a mural at La Casa de Amistad on the side of the building that depicts the journey of immigrants.

Federico Rodriguez of South Bend uses his artistic talent to beautify buildings, inspire peace and harmony, and tell a story about the area.

“I have always had a compulsion to create and was fortunate to be born into a family that was always in a state of sharing culture, customs, food, and stories. My parents had a Mexican folkloric dance group in the early ’90s, and my house basement was the rehearsal studio. They would create dresses and floats for parades and always rehearsed their dance routines. “Growing up on the west side of South Bend, I was fortunate enough to have a very artistic group of friends. We were always finding ourselves drawing and bringing drawings of one another’s work to display our abilities. We would call it ‘battling,’ and this created a certain reverence for the one who was the best artist, of which I never was amongst my friends,” shared Rodriguez about his inspiration to get into art. “Growing up, my father purchased a restaurant to which he placed a two-story mural on, and we lived in the apartment above it. My mother, father, and I have our likenesses painted on the landscape mural. I have always maintained this love of creating, showing the dialogue that blossoms as a result and the new ideas and inspiration it brings. I carried this with me throughout high school and initiated a senior mural tradition that continued after me until my former high school was demolished and relocated.”

In college, Rodriguez knew right away he wanted to study art and spent the next four years dedicating his time to studying techniques, honing his style, and absorbing as much knowledge as he could about the world of art.

“The Rosales Mural was my first mural piece as a young 18-year-old at Holy Cross College in 2013,” Rodriguez said. “This mural was created as part of my senior internship with La Casa de Amistad. My objective for creating the piece was to use the transformative power of art to create a sacred space that was welcoming, inclusive, and vibrant. My inspiration for the mural came to me all at once one evening. I was able to make a quick sketch on a small note card and then approached the owner of Rosales with it. Without hesitation, he agreed to allow me to create the piece. I know that the incorporation of the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe, along with the symbolism of unity, life, and connection, is what moved him to accept my project,” recalled Rodriguez. “I have always known the image of La Virgen de Guadalupe to provide a sacredness to any environment. The image itself is God’s gift of art to man. Thus, I knew that incorporating the imagery would transform the space into something greater than it was.”

Since that first mural, Rodriguez has worked hard to bring his love of art to the community and share his experiences with the youth who are the future of our communities.

His faith plays a profound role in his artistic process as he seeks inspiration through prayer and relies on guidance from the Holy Spirit.

“My artistic endeavors are dedicated to giving back to the community, utilizing my gifts, talents, and unwavering determination,” Rodriguez said. “Through my work, I aim not only to express my gratitude and admiration for the community, organization, or business, but also to align with and reflect the goals and missions of their impactful work carried out within our community.”

Rodriguez’s creative process has evolved throughout the years. In the beginning, he used a grid and sketch to begin the process. The acquisition of a projector now allows him to create the pieces digitally.

“The research that goes into my work varies based on the narrative,” he said. “The common theme in my work is community involvement. Thus, my research typically involves dialogue between individuals or groups. Then, from those conversations and discussions, I dive into the historical significance, aiming to tie the current situation with the experiences of the past.”

The painting process itself doesn’t take too long, Rodriguez said; it’s the planning, set-up, and tear-down that take the most time. In the end, he strives to create a piece that has a lasting impact on the community.

“When I create art, my profound aspiration is that those who encounter my work experience a profound sense of inclusion and a deep connection with the essential message it conveys,” he said. “The central themes that drive my art are unity, empathy, and the inherent interconnectedness of all humanity. I believe that art has the unique ability to transcend boundaries, inviting people from diverse backgrounds and walks of life to come together, share in the experience, and find common ground. In my artistic journey, I seek to craft pieces that not only stimulate the senses but also touch the hearts and minds of viewers. I want my art to serve as a mirror that reflects the shared human experience, evoking emotions and fostering a sense of belonging. By exploring themes of unity and empathy, I hope to inspire dialogue, understanding, and a profound recognition that we are all threads in the intricate tapestry of humanity. Through art, I aim to remind us of our interconnectedness and the collective responsibility we share to build a more compassionate and harmonious world.”

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