WESTFIELD, NJ – On a recent Friday afternoon, John Wiley was strolling through Evalyn Dunn Gallery with his wife when he came upon local artist Ricardo Roig sitting at a back table.
Shaking hands with Roig, Wiley introduced himself and told Roig that he has two of the artist’s hand-cut screen prints from his Westfield series hanging in his dental office on St. Paul Street.
“It’s nice history, and it’s beautifully done,” Wiley said. “People come into the office and see pictures of Westfield and love it.”
For Roig, these words are confirmation of his efforts to honor his hometown and highlight unique parts of Westfield, such as Mindowaskin Park, Arcanum Hall and the Rialto Theatre. He began selling the Westfield series exclusively at Evalyn Dunn Gallery about a year ago and has seen their value rise.
“Someday, who knows where my career might take me.” he said. “But for all that Westfield’s given me, I wanted to give back and put it on the art map.”
Thirty year-old Roig, who currently lives in Hoboken, also contributes to the community by teaching art at Lincoln School and McKinley Elementary School, where he enjoys sharing his passion for art with children.
While he creates oil paintings, Roig calls hand-cut screen prints his niche, and he knows of no one else using this medium. The process involves making paper stencils by cutting shapes out of paper with an X-ACTO knife and then using a squeegee to push the mixed acrylic inks through the openings when it is attached to a screen. Each color is a different a different stencil that is layered on the screen, forming an image.
“This process takes a lot of time, and it’s super painstaking, but I love it,” he said, noting that he finds cutting the shapes out very peaceful.
Roig also created his Mile Square series in honor of Hoboken, which is sold at Tresorie there. He says he used similar colors and shapes in Westfield series in hopes they would be collected as a set.
“They vibrate off one another and echo one another,” he said of the prints in the series.
A 2001 graduate of Westfield High School, Roig recalled how thrilled he was when his work was first displayed at the school’s art show in his senior year.
Roig discovered printmaking while a student at Maryland Institute College of Art. He later transferred to Kean University after his parents’ breakup made staying at MICA impossible financially.
After earning a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Kean, Roig returned to the university to work on a post baccalaureate teacher’s certification. While student teaching and creating art, he waited tables to support himself.
Roig counts himself lucky to have found a job in Westfield doing what he loves and giving young students a chance to experience fine arts. He recently started grid drawings with his fourth graders at McKinley.
“I don’t think I’d want to teach anywhere else,” he said.
“He’s a phenomenal teacher,” said Jaclyn Civins, owner of Evalyn Dunn, adding that Roig knows how to inspire his students. “He has so much excitement about their work.”
Roig also helps the community by donating his works where he can. He gave one of his “Community of Learners” prints to be auctioned off at McKinley’s last parents' social, and he will use proceeds from the sale of this print that features the school to purchase art supplies for cross-curriculum activities there. So far, the sale has raised about $2,100.
He also donated one of his Rialto prints to be auctioned at Westfield’s Family Readiness Group’s Support Our Troops Casino Night held in November.