End of Year Campaign Artist Spotlight: Ramón Esquivel

Persistence has always been a quality among artists. In spite of adversity, opposition, and limited resources, artists have remained persistent in their work, creativity, and innovation. Bravery, patience, stamina, pluck – the act of persistence looks different for every individual but remains essential throughout the journey of any artist.

Persistence: What does persistence mean to an artist? What do they need to be able to persist? What level of support meets those needs? Those are the questions we’re asking Artist Trust artists throughout our fall campaign.

We spoke with Ramón Esquivel, playwright, educator, and a 2018 GAP recipient about his path with Artist Trust, and what persistence looks like for him.

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“I noticed that “Artist Trust” kept popping up as a supporting organization at gallery openings, public readings, and local arts performances. When I moved to Central Washington a few years ago, I realized that Artist Trust was one of the few organizations that supported artists across the state.

An important turning point in an artist’s career is recognizing that others see you and identify you as an artist. Being awarded an Artist Trust GAP Award in 2018 helped me accept that I am in a new place in my career and that my responsibility as an artist in my communities is to not only push myself to grow but to also highlight opportunities for others who are just starting out. I started to realize that true emerging artists were beginning to ask me for advice and feedback on their own work and careers. Becoming more involved with Artist Trust has helped me see that artists all over the state are making compelling art, and though I live in a town of 20,000 people in the middle of Washington, I am still connected to that expanded network of creators. I feel less isolated.

Persistence means to find ways to continue making art, especially when the world gives me more and more reasons to stop. In recent times, I have felt discouraged by a lack of productions of my plays, no commissions, a sense that I do not have adequate time to create new work, and doubts that my work is making any kind of difference. But being an artist means steeling myself for others telling me, “No.” To be able to persist, I need that occasional, “Yes.” Funds have helped carve out time that I can dedicate to writing, a financial cushion that means I can take a one or two weeks away from the day job and really immerse myself in the world of a new play. The greater impact, however, is connecting with other artists who are persisting in their own ways. Making art is such a solitary endeavor, and connections between artists means we can see each other and smile at each other and support each other across our individual islands. Sometimes, an organization even builds a bridge for us to cross and visit each other’s islands.

A gift like yours allowed me to work with Latinx and Indigenous students on a new play for young audiences that was inspired by Classic Mayan civilization. It allowed me to be in the room when a seven-year-old boy, the younger brother of one of the actors, shared his ideas for what could happen after the play ended. I am a single storyteller who is unattached to any specific theatre, and Artist Trust values the contributions of individual artists like me to make an impact on our greater arts community. Your gift is helping me to persist in creating theatre for young people.”

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Where can you see Ramón’s work next?

“My play The Hero Twins: Blood Race is being produced at the University of Texas at Austin and touring Austin-area schools this fall. My play Luna, about the daughter of migrant farmworkers who becomes best friends with the moon, is currently being produced at Filament Theatre in Chicago.”

Ramón Esquivel is a writer/educator born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. His plays have been produced in theaters and schools across North America. Recent work includes Above Between Below, a collaboration between Seattle Children’s Theatre and Kaiser Permanente, and The Hero Twins: Blood Race at the University of Texas at Austin. Ramón teaches theatre at Central Washington University.