Ivan Roque sweats in the Miami heat, balanced precariously on a ladder. The hiss of his spray paint brings his latest mural to life with each stroke. The globally known Wynwood artist, recently featured in the New York Times, has painted more than 30 walls in the Miami art district, with two currently standing. He’s also traveled overseas for several projects.
“You have to live life, be open to new experiences, find purpose and education helps in finding a purpose,” he says while taking a break from painting his newest Wynwood “wall”, a mural on a shipping container commissioned by FIU Online.
Born of the 305
Roque was commissioned to paint the FIU murals to create brand awareness for FIU Online in the heart of the city where he was born and raised. The FIU Online mural message, Born of the 305, is one that resonates with him as his signature style is quintessentially Miami. It also resonates because he is an FIU alumnus who took online courses. He graduated magna cum laude in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in visual arts and notes that his online classes helped balance his schedule as he built his portfolio and progressed toward graduation.
“FIU rose up out of the Miami community and serves a specific need within this community with our online learning platform,” says Fabian de la Flor, art director for FIU Online. “The Born of the 305 project was our way of representing this symbiotic relationship between FIU Online and our learners, while contributing to the Art Basel season, now also definitively Miami.”
Art Basel event yard
There’s a great sense of pride in being asked to do the project for his alma mater, Roque adds. The FIU Online walls are located at the 1700 block of NE 2nd Ave., in a Wynwood event “yard.” The yard will reopen with seasonal kiosks and features for Art Basel Dec. 5-8.
Basel brings the international art world together, with the world's leading galleries showing the works of more than 4,000 artists. The event draws more than 90,000 international attendees. Roque’s new murals highlight FIU as an educational cornerstone in Miami and part of the contemporary art scene.
Son of Cuban immigrants
“I’ve always lived here. Like me, my art is born of the 305 and it has the colors of this vibrant city. If you look back to the ’80s to today, all of the aesthetics in my work are from Miami,” explains Roque, who is an avid fisherman and sports a blue marlin tattoo on his left upper arm.
As a native Miamian, Roque’s work is influenced by animals and nature. He frequently highlights conservationism in his pieces. His message through his art is to inspire people to find purpose in everything they do and understand their effect on the world. The son of Cuban immigrant parents, Roque describes how education and FIU’s diversity are shaping our global future, which is something he aims for with his work.
“I take pride in inspiring the youth,” says Roque, who grew up in Carol City. He proudly pointed out that his younger brother is a current FIU student, studying engineering. He believes he inspired his little brother. Roque is the first person in his family to obtain a university degree.
The Roque method
About 50 cans of spray paint will be used for the FIU Online murals. Roque says the best way to spray paint is to move quickly and learn from your mistakes as you fix them. Using a gridding system, he works fast.
Roque, who laughs at how much his skill has grown since his teen years, muses that he wasn’t the best student in high school, but to him, art just made sense and he loved the way it made him feel. So, after a few false starts for his bachelor’s degree, he decided to finish his educational “canvas” with FIU while he survived on meager means, living in a shady part of town in an office space, he says.
“Those were my dog days. I hit a really rough patch. I was a starving artist surviving off $30 a week,” adds Roque, who understands social struggles and many times, brings those concepts into his art.
Support from mom
The FIU grad says his mother, a mail carrier, encouraged him to pursue his craft early. She told him to do what he loved, so he’d eventually work in a field that excited him.
“She wanted me to wake up with a purpose, so she gave me a final push to be an artist even when everyone questioned me,” he recalls.
Since then, he’s worked with major brands including Samsung, Becks, Seagram's Gin, Microsoft and the Ultra Music Festival. He also just finished a mural for the Homestead Miami Speedway and has traveled extensively for various exhibitions and murals including shows in New York City, Dubai and Seoul. Roque has had three gallery solo shows and one museum solo show at the Coral Springs Museum of Art.
Perseverance pays off
Everyone can have their dream if they work hard at it and online learning puts education in better reach while you work on that dream, insists Roque. He plans on going back to FIU to pursue his master’s degree. Given his busy schedule, he will probably take online courses, he volunteers.
“Life is going to hit you in so many ways and it teaches you to be strong. Always keep your vision true. Don’t let the light go away,” he offers as he heads back to complete the FIU Online murals.