Anyone who knows Bob Ortiz knows him as an artist who has long been at the forefront of promoting Kent County arts. If he’s not putting the finishing touch on an exquisite wood creation at his Robert Ortiz Studios on Cross St., he and musician wife Pam, as the Pam Ortiz Band, were performing pre-pandemic for the community.
Ortiz has always regarded his work studio as more than a place to create furniture. Countless artistic ventures, surrounded by table saws and raw planks of wood, have been launched there, from music and dramatic rehearsals to poetry and exhibits of fellow artists.
“I honestly believe that furniture making is the least important thing that happens in my shop,” he says.
Now, the master-craftsman feels a sense of responsibility to showcase two young artists he has taken under his wing for the last three years. From Latin America, the artists bring an aesthetic often under-represented on the Eastern Shore.
“In April 2021, I will celebrate my 71st birthday, and it’s clear to me that I’m in the final stage of my working career. With this in mind, I have felt that I have an obligation to be supportive, in an active way, of local artists who are starting out in their careers,” he recently wrote in a funding proposal.
With that in mind, Ortiz is offering the exterior wall of his shop as a blank canvas to emerging artists Fredy Granillo and Vanna Ramirez for their “El Trompo” mural.
“El Trompo,” or “the top,” is a nod to the ancient and universal children’s wooden toy spun from a string. Popular in Latin America and worldwide, the top in a child’s hand with a village backdrop will be the central motif in the artists’ mural.
The Spy recently talked with Bob Ortiz about the project, and the importance of showcasing the often underrepresented artists from the Latin American community whose roots in Kent County are deep and generational.