Staff Spotlight: River Cortes

River Cortes has been a facilitator at Gateway Arts for 24 years. River earned a master’s degree in art education from MassArt and originally planned to teach grades 6-12. On a visit to San Francisco, River saw an exhibition of works by artists from Creativity Explored (another supported art studio) and found himself inspired by the way the artists clearly trusted their instincts and weren’t constrained by convention. When he learned of a job opening at Gateway Arts, he jumped at the opportunity.

River’s own artistic practice is based primarily in drawing and painting combined with text. Odd thoughts that pop into his head become potential concepts for artworks. Ideas that hold the right combination of absurdity and relatability become drawings, and the best of those become paintings. He describes his practice as relying on impulse over technique. He has learned to trust his own artistic impulses, and in turn, places great trust in the artistic impulses of the artists he works with at Gateway Arts. He works to understand what each artist is trying to express and then assists them in finding a way to make it readable to the viewer.

River was able to bring his deep understanding of Gateway Arts’ history and its artists to New Fonts: Text as Art at Gateway Arts, on view through June 2nd in the Gateway Arts Gallery. The conception of New Fonts was not unlike that of one of River’s paintings. What started as an off-the-cuff idea, in response to a request for proposals, proved to have great potential for exploration. River explained that text has been a sort of unspoken constant at Gateway Arts, featuring in countless works over the decades. He was happy to have the opportunity to shine a light on the widely varying ways in which Gateway Artists have long incorporated text into works of visual art.

New Fonts is not River’s first curatorial project. In 2011, he curated Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Artwork from Local Day Programs for Adults with Disabilities, an exhibition for MassArt’s Arnheim Gallery, which featured works by artists from Gateway Arts, Vinfen’s Webster House, and Outside the Lines. He also served as a visiting artist at Creative Growth in Oakland CA, facilitating a two-day workshop in 2015.

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