Chicago Creatives: Brian Herrera

Chicago+Creatives%3A+Brian+Herrera

Izar Olivares, Managing Editor

Brian Herrera is a Venezuelan-born artist/illustrator and activist who often advocates for Latinx communities and on behalf of LQBTQ+ communities as well. Before moving to Chicago at the age of 11, Brian lived in Venezuela with his mother and grandparents. With his mother being his biggest influence, he chose to follow his dreams, as she followed hers, and pursue art, more specifically graphic design. 

Brian: I grew up with her half of my life in Veracruz and she is also undocumented and queer and her art medium was photography.

To many, art is a way to express emotions and connect with individuals who prefer a more creative medium than the typical words on a paper or screen. Art can often convey emotions that words cannot, explaining the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. 

Brian: Art is a medium of self-care and therapy. I like to mix what I do as a way of uplifting communities of color and undocumented communities. I also feel like art for me is not just a medium of creating and presenting, but it’s a way of expressing what I currently feel or about current topics. It’s also the best tool to communicate. 

However, there is a growing issue in the art community. Although artists make beautiful murals and illustrations for cities and businesses, it is often for free, which is not fair for the artists as they end up using most of their own material for the work that they do and having to pay for new material out of their own pockets. In addition to this, many institutions and businesses often take advantage of artists, especially if the artist is a person of color, and don’t pay them. As Brian states, “People of color aren’t able to have resources, and there’s an imbalance, which comes from lack of funding for artists. There’s no access to grants because you need to be a citizen for most resources”. This leaves most artists distraught because even though they enjoy creating artwork that moves the public, being compensated for their hard work is even more rewarding. In addition to creating controversial pieces, Brian also enjoys giving back to his community, whether it is donating his proceeds or simply advocating for many that do not have as much of a powerful voice as Brian does.

“Workers First”
Print
2020(Brian Herrera)

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing regulations being enforced and businesses being closed, many artists have found it difficult to find work, one of those artists being Brian. According to him, “it’s been tough because I’ve had commissions fall through that I was depending on but I find it positive because this is the first time I’ve had to fully focus on my art and come up with new art that has opened new opportunities”. 

Being an artist takes a lot of focus and creativity. This means crossing many lines that others don’t dare cross in fear of stirring the public. For instance, immigration and LGBTQ+ related topics are very ‘sensitive’ in society. Many artists, like Brian, create their art in correlation with these topics, thus, often receive praise and/or backlash from the public. Even if there are negative views on his art, it’s worth it because it means the work provoked many that would have stayed quiet otherwise. 

Brian: I always pursue queer and provocative artwork, inspirational artwork that liberates people with current topics. I believe our role in society is to push people to say beyond what they are surrounded by. If an art piece provokes someone to speak up about something, then it’s good. 

Despite his ability to be able to advocate for others now, Brian was not always able to. Being an immigrant and queer, Brian has had to face many obstacles, the most difficult one being having to cross the border and beginning a new life in the U.S. Additionally, staying true to your roots is also integral to an artists’ work. Being able to create work that defines who you are while also speaking to the individuals that experience the same is far more inspirational than creating work that only adheres to the public but has no personal connection. As Brian states, “Immigration is the core of my work because a lot of work that I do has a lot of what I feel about it and I use it to advocate for undocumented/queer people who come first”. To him, this work not only connects him to these communities, but it strengthens those individuals because there is someone that can express their feelings through a medium that society often prefers to look at. 

Brian: I hope that in a way they could relate to it and open a window to what it could be. Hope to inspire people who are in my current situation to overcome obstacles because it’s possible. 


Please check out Brian’s work on Instagram @brianherrera.art!

Enjoyed this interview? Purchase some of his art at https://www.brianherrera.art/.

Special thank you to Brian Herrera for allowing this student publication to interview him and for blessing this world with his beautiful art!