BUT COFFEE FIRST
Rodriguez’s day usually starts early as she prepares to take her youngest child to school. She makes coffee and drops her son off, then drives downtown and gets to her studio around 8:30 am. Rodriguez approaches the studio like any working day. She starts at her computer and answers emails. She’s tweaking the templates she’s working on for a mural project at the Gem City Market co-op grocery store in West Dayton. This won’t be her first work for Gem City Market, which opened its doors in 2019. The facade of the building has a geometric design created by Rodriguez. The new mural is a collaboration between Rodriguez, fellow Dayton artists James Pate and Glenna Jennings, and Shayna McConville, who directs Kettering’s Rosewood Arts Center and brings public art to the Dayton area. Later that day, . Rodriguez will meet with her muralists at either Gem City Market or Pate’s gallery.
HUNTING THE LIGHT
Rodriguez has lived in this particular studio on West First Street for a year. She moved her studios from down the hall in search of good light. The studio is well organized with tall wooden bookshelves full of materials and fabric samples. Along a window-lined wall are three uncluttered stations for workshops Rodriguez runs under the StudioYay moniker. The last workshop, which dealt with the design of a decorative mirror with a self-printed border, took place at the end of June. Despite her productive output, like any committed artist, she has self-doubts. “If I make something that isn’t art, will people be put off? If it’s craft? I love DIY. When I hear ‘artist’ with a capital ‘A’, it can be intimidating.”
I WANT IT TO MEAN SOMETHING
During the morning, the desk work required to run a small business has to wait as Rodriguez feels the urge to throw himself into a project. “Sometimes I have to implement an idea that I have,” she says. She reupholsters an old chair in her own fabric design. “I love reworking something that already exists, like the chair, rather than releasing more stuff.” She’s trying to exit markets where she sells her own products, like pillows and tote bags. “I didn’t intend to do a product line. I don’t want to go ahead with it,” she says, “I want it to be something that someone wants. I want it to mean something to someone.”
To this end, Rodriguez is currently heavily involved in community projects. In addition to her contributions to the Gem City Market, she also works with the nonprofit We Care Arts, an organization that provides an artistic outlet for people with a variety of disabilities and physical challenges. Rodriguez has been teaching the production class at We Care Arts for a year. Local businesses will request projects, and Rodriguez will guide the artists, who are paid for their efforts, in producing the work. “This flower project consumed my life.” She speaks of an art installation she recently completed in a collaboration between Downtown’s Dayton Arcade, the arts fund Culture Works, and We Care Arts. Rodriguez was commissioned to facilitate the production of a 24-foot wall of paper flowers with the help of her students. It debuted at the Arcade at Summer Market Day in June.
PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST
Rodriguez works not only in community work, but also with individual artists. At 11, they are greeted by Dayton-based artist Erin Smith, who has arrived to continue painting Rodriguez’s portrait. The two will work together incorporating Rodriguez’s textiles onto the canvas and today is the day Smith makes her fabric choices. Rodriguez will sit for the portrait until it’s time for lunch.
PORTRAIT OF THE MOTHER
Rodriguez lives about five minutes from her studio and often drives back and forth to stop at home for lunch. She loves to cook and enjoys shopping for ingredients at independent international grocery stores including Hillel Market on Wayne Avenue and La Michoacana on Troy Street in Dayton. Around 3, Rodriguez completes her work and leaves the studio to pick up one or more of her children. She is often joined in the studio by her children, including her son, an artist and recent graduate of Stivers School for the Arts. He will study industrial arts in college and enjoys building his own canvas frames in his mother’s studio. Rodriguez’s daughter, who is studying in upstate New York, is home during the summer and loves coming to the studio to sew.
TIME FOR DINNER
Rodriguez and Co. go home for dinner. She cooks a lot and enjoys making variations on Dominican Republic fried rice, one of her husband’s favorite dishes. She will use the ingredients she bought at the local markets to recreate dishes like falafel or Thai food at home. Sometimes inspiration strikes again and Rodriguez returns to the studio for another hour or two after dinner and doesn’t go home until 11pm.
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