An Interview with Ray Ray Mitrano written by Lisa Rickman
Interactive storyteller, community activist and artist Ray Ray Mitrano loves to participate in community-centered events, performances, workshops and group exhibitions. Whether it’s drawing, animation, education, performing, videography or multi-media, he loves making interaction and participation the focal point of his work. Ray Ray truly embraces collaborative improvisation and has brought that exciting energy to The Yards. He was kind enough to be interviewed for you wonderful blog readers.
“Rochester is in a moment where it can go a lot of different directions, especially within its arts communities,” says Ray Ray. “I think now is the time to collectively shape it into a sustainable and accountable future.”
He says he finds the most satisfaction out of working with people in his neighborhood, especially on issues that affect them the most.
“Working in context with the people in my neighborhood and the groups, businesses, and issues surrounding our local environment is what makes my arts practice meaningful,” he says. “If my work is without social connection then it can only go so far in what I need it to be. I need it to be part of my relationships with people. It needs to lead to something else I didn't expect.”
During his masters program with the Visual Studies Workshop Ray Ray explored civics through art over the course of the 2016 US Election campaigns. During a series of performance demonstrations on the sidewalk in front of the Monroe County Board of Elections he challenged them to address NYS’s closed primary system.
“How do we grow diverse candidates to harvest in the fall when the spring planting lacks everyone's seeds?” he asks. “What hinders the cultivation of elected representation? Why can't I vote in my tax-payer funded elections?”
If he could organize an event with anyone, Ray Ray says he would love to organize an event with the Monroe County Board of Elections to “creatively 'placemake' election culture throughout the city.”
He encourages group activity more than anything, especially if you find something you’re struggling with, from civic action to simple play. Ray Ray tells us to start by finding a group of people you want to do things with. "’We do by doing’" he says, quoting one of his college professors.
“Once you have people you can trust and experiment with in a safe space, you'll find all sorts of creative approaches to working playfully,” he says.” Come to the Yards Lounge weekly Saturdays and we can try out some things at the paper crayon table!” Or, weather provided this summer, perhaps sidewalk chalk while we talk?
Ray Ray says his favorite Yards portraits session so far was with a toddler he was drawing who was simultaneously drawing him, while someone else was drawing both of them! “It's great when everyone is doing something with each other and by themselves at the same time” he says.
Currently, Ray Ray is based in Rochester, NY and for hire as a documentary illustrator of events, all-ages art workshops, creative activism, promotional design media, and stop-motion animating.
He is also one of the founding visionaries behind the Artist Sustainability Survey (@ass.roc on Instagram, podcasts available at www.mixcloud.com/assroc). Together with Gary Crocker and Reb Ayse they ask local artists of all crafts important questions about work, pay, and the sustainability of working artists in Rochester.
Come find him Saturdays at The Yards during Saturday’s public market hours, 10am-2pm, get your picture drawn and have some great conversation.
Please check out Ray Ray’s website to learn more about the artist and his work at www.rayraymitrano.com.