A wide shot of a ceramics studio, featuring students working with pottery wheels and other tools.

Traveling Artist

Jose Vilchez and Mariana Lozano, Crossing Paths

by Ana Sekler (MA 2016)

Jose Vilchez (BFA 2015) travels purposefully. Whether he’s pursuing an education at SAIC or finding new opportunities to expand his artistic practice, Vilchez loves “swimming in different cultures.” Travel has propelled Vilchez for a long time, originally from Nicaragua, he transferred to SAIC from a community college in Florida, and today lives in Guangzhou, China.

Vilchez’s journey to Guangzhou began at SAIC, in a Research Studio class for transfer students where he met friend and alum, Daisy Li (BFA 2015). After graduation, Vilchez traveled for a year through Europe and Asia, stopping in Guangzhou to visit Li, who had recently returned to her hometown. She invited Vilchez to join her in starting a consulting company, Lido Art Center to help Chinese art students who want to study in the United States prepare stronger portfolios.

Returning to Guangzhou a year later, Vilchez immersed himself in the Lido Art Center. Working together, he and his SAIC cohort developed the Lido Art Center beyond consulting, to include artist talks, exhibitions, an artist residency, and networking opportunities for artists living in China who have studied abroad. “We’ve been in touch with a lot of SAIC alumni in China, which has allowed us to create a network of alumni in Beijing and Shenzhen,” says Vilchez. 

Lido Art Center staff, students, and visiting artists

Vilchez and other SAIC alumni in China are not only keen on helping Chinese art students, but on giving back to the School in whatever way they can. In January 2017, they hosted the SAIC China study trip for a day trip to Guangzhou. They took the group to visit the nearby artist village of Nanting where Lido Art Center hosts an artist residency, and organized studio visits and artist talks for the group.  

In addition to strengthening the bonds of the SAIC community in China, Vilchez is working with the Lido Art Center to further develop the artist-residency program. The residency, located in the artist village of Nanting in Guangzhou is open to artists from around the world who want to create work that is inspired by living in Nanting and interacting with the locals. Most recently, Megan Pryce (BFA 2011, MFA 2015) completed a one-month residency through Lido Art Center, which culminated in the exhibition, In this Place.

Jose Luis Vilchez (BFA 2015), Night and Day, collage diptych of Vilchez's one-year world travels

Through his travels, Vilchez has also found fresh ways to expand his own artistic practice. While he focused on painting at SAIC, he has become more interested in photography as a way to document his travels. Most recently in January, he collaborated with photographer and fellow traveler Mariana Lozano for Crossing Paths, an exhibit at Art23 Contemporary Gallery in Guangzhou, which highlighted the similarities of people across scultures.

Although SAIC alumni are scattered all over China, Vilchez is inspired by the bonds created because of their connection to the School. “When it comes to the visual, we kind of speak the same language,” says Vilchez. While young artists educated in China have excellent technique, they often lack a freedom of exploration, he relates.  SAIC gives artists the freedom to explore and execute their ideas, to find their own voice as artists, and take chances with their work, he adds.

“There are a lot of opportunities open for any artist who is willing to travel and experience another culture or another place,” says Vilchez. His next stop is aboard a school bus, which will take him and three other artists from Miami through South America, merging their love for travel, art making, and community. Learn more at lidoartcenter.com.