You are here

Edward Ramirez Fell in Love with Art at a Young Age

Edward Ramirez

As a member of the class of 2015 staff member Edward Ramirez has been a part of the University of California, Santa Cruz for the past twelve years. He currently works as a digital imaging specialist for the digital printing lab on campus. Along with maintaining the tech side of printing, he also teaches students the more complicated aspects of printing for art.

Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, Ramirez is the child of immigrant parents from El Salvador. Growing up he remembers helping his mom clean houses. His father sowed for a living and would often bring work home, where Ramirez recalls hearing the sewing machine running at odd hours of the morning. “They instilled a lot of good characteristics in me,” says Ramirez, a list that includes, “hard work, determination, and being a good person to others.”

Ramirez was the only creative member of his family, and fell in love with art including graffiti and photography at a young age. “I always carried a camera because I knew it was my safety and it was also a vehicle for me to communicate with others,” he says. Despite growing up in an area with gangs, his camera gave him an opportunity to connect with people by making them curious about his art.

UC Santa Cruz presented an option for college that was different from the concrete jungle of L.A. while also being just the right distance from his family so that Ramirez could visit them every so often without them being around all the time. He double majored in art and sociology with a focus in photography and printmaking. After graduating he volunteered at some art studios on campus until a full-time job opened up.

Ramirez was recently nominated as one of the top alumni of the printmaking program. As part of that honor he and 15 other alumni are creating a group portfolio that will be on display in May at Institute of Arts and Science. The work will be auctioned off at the end of the year to help raise money for the program, which is now in its 50th year. 

Along with his robust work on campus, Ramirez involves himself with art around Santa Cruz and the wider areas. He is on the board of the non profit, the Santa Cruz Art League, which has existed for over a century (since 1919). “We are probably one of the few art centers that services the senior community,” he says. They also teach both online and in person classes for people of all ages.

Other work in the community includes his semi-recent win of a Rydell Fellowship, which grants artists in $20,000 for two years to pursue their personal projects. Ramirez used his grant to investigate the uptick of flower vendors in California during the pandemic. “I started creating a small case study around this,” he says. “I would go up to vendors, ask them about their experience about why they're doing what they're doing.” The Concrete Rose, as it was called, displayed portraits of flower vendors through photographs and prints. Ramirez also helped create marketing materials such as business cards, posters, and banners to help these small businesses.

Ramirez still stays busy with his art. He currently has a piece on display at the M. K. Contemporary Gallery in downtown Santa Cruz, he has more work going up in San Jose in March, and he is trying to get more art in galleries in Oakland and San Francisco. All of his art, which largely focuses on issues of labor and migration can be found on his website.

“For now I'm happy where I am,” says Ramirez. “I'm able to work with students and be able to teach to a certain extent, and I'm learning a lot about technology and innovations that are going on and printing now.” But Ramirez also has plans for his future. He would like to go grad school, and possibly teach in the future. And at the heart of everything is his art. “I'm really trying to put my name more out there because people just see me as a tech person but I'm also like an artist.”