A budding Richmond artist and illustrator who created the children’s book, “I Can’t,” has launched a project at a local elementary school where she teaches young people how to produce — and publish — their own books.
Tatiana Ortiz, who grew up in San Pablo and attended local schools, recently applied for and won a $3,500 city arts grant to create “The Scribber Artist Project” at Mira Vista Elementary School.
The literacy arts project teaches students how to write and illustrate their own books, which, when finished, will be published through publishing company Lulu Jr.
“When the books come back from the publishing company, we plan to have a celebration at a local art gallery in Richmond,” Ortiz said.
While her project idea is innovative, Ortiz, 28, says she’s only doing for young people what art had done for her as a kid.
Ortiz said she was a troubled teen but was inspired by a teacher who wouldn’t stop bugging her about pursuing art.
“The teacher kept taking chances on me,” she said. “Kept insisting that I do art. And it took a couple of years for me to finally say fine. I was so far gone.”
Art gave Ortiz something productive to do; and it became her career. She says if she could have that impact on even one Mira Vista student, the project will be worth it.
“Even just one kid — one less kid off the street,” she said. “One less family with heartbreak.”
Ortiz, a mother who has worked as a pre-school teacher, seized on the grant opportunity after attending a block party in her neighborhood of East Richmond Heights. She overheard one of her neighbors talking about how the city was offering $65,000 to local artists for community enrichment art projects.
Turns out that neighbor is a member of the Richmond Arts & Culture Commission.
“I stopped, did a second take and thought, let me go talk to her,” Ortiz said. “I started showing her murals I’ve done.”
The commissioner encouraged Ortiz to apply. Ortiz felt intimidated when she met other artists applying for grants at a city meeting, and considered leaving.
After all, at the time she had no idea what kind of project to launch. She only knew that she was an artist and educator and interested in launching something to help youth.
“Something told me to stay,” she said.
It’s a good thing she did. Because right there in that meeting, when others were offering their project ideas, the idea for “The Scribber Artist Project” popped into her head.
Ortiz later crafted a proposal that included a budget, made a presentation in front of the art commissioners and won the grant a few nerve-wracking months later.
“I’m so passionate about this project because I feel that these kids need to have a voice and the way they can share it is by sharing their stories,” she said. “It’ll also help improve their reading and writing skills and help artistic discipline.”