Episode 12: Building community through art with Anthony Garcia

This is a transcript of the Spur of the Moment episode “Building community through art with Anthony Garcia.” It is provided as a courtesy and may contain errors.

Anthony Garcia: In graffiti culture, we have a tendency to paint over our old work and put something new and so in that we kinda lose our history I feel like. And I wanted to have something more impactful and something that will last longer so I started trying to paint murals.

Jocelyn Hittle: Welcome to “Spur of the Moment”, the podcast of Colorado State University’s Spur Campus in Denver, Colorado.

Anthony Garcia: We’ve always been that space that kind of gave artists a chance to really grow and experiment and do these ideas that they’ve been working on for a long time. Consistency over the last 10 years I think is part of my success.

Jocelyn Hittle: On this podcast, we talk with experts in food, water, and health, and on some episodes, I have the opportunity to talk to artists about their work and how it connects with these three themes and also to hear a little about their journeys as artists. I’m Jocelyn Hittle and today I’m joined by Anthony Garcia, Sr., artist and Executive Director of the BirdSeed Collective. The mission of the BirdSeed Collective is to transform the lives of artists, youth, individuals, and communities through visionary art, civic projects and programs. Welcome Anthony, happy to have you today.

Anthony Garcia: All right, thank you for allowing me to be a part of your show.

Jocelyn Hittle: So let’s start with the BirdSeed Collective. Can you tell us a little bit more about the organization?

Anthony Garcia: Yeah, BirdSeed Collective is an arts nonprofit. It’s based out of the Globeville neighborhood and we specialize in community engagement through the arts. We have an art gallery called Alto Gallery that’s based out of the RiNo ArtPark, which is off of 35th and Chestnut, brand new park that they had just recently built in the RiNo Arts District. We also have a studio space that houses 10 artists called the Zarape Studios, which is off of 29th and Marion. And we also run a community center in the Globeville neighborhood called BirdSeed Collective, and which we’ve been programming out of there for nine years now, but we’ve had it in our possession for about three.

Jocelyn Hittle: That’s great, that’s a lot of different activities. They are all, just to orient our listeners, all of those are within sort of North Denver, Globeville, Five Points neighborhoods, correct?

Anthony Garcia: Correct. I’m originally born and raised in the Globeville neighborhood. So us beginning the work that we started doing, it was easy for us to connect with the people of that neighborhood. At the time, there was a lot of money being put into that neighborhood for cleaning up graffiti and painting murals in areas that have high volume of graffiti. So one of the main parts of that was connecting with local organizations, kids from the neighborhood, all of those were things that we’ve already been doing so we’re able to tap into that. And from that, we just had a lot of opportunities given to us over the last 10 years, and it’s kind of grown and become what we are today.

Jocelyn Hittle: So Anthony, you mentioned you grew up in the Globeville neighborhood. Can you tell us a little bit about that neighborhood and why the work you’re doing is a good fit?

Anthony Garcia: Yeah, so I was born and raised in Globeville. My daughter and my kids were born in Globeville as well. My sister and my mom still live in that neighborhood. We live just right on the other side of the highway. Globeville is such a divided neighborhood. It’s always been kinda enclosed on all sides. We have I-70 going right through us, dividing us. We also have I-25 on the west side of us. We have the river, the Platte, South Platte River on the east side of us. And just a lot of the BNSF railroad tracks that kinda like encloses our neighborhood in. So because of that, our neighborhood’s always been really high in pollution rate. My family has always been activists in that community trying to help with the environmental studies and the big class action suit with the ASARCO, which had polluted the ground years and years ago. So my mom and my grandma, they’ve always been really heavily into the community and doing activism work and that’s kinda where I came from. Also just being from a small neighborhood, I’ve always been really focused on where I was from and being proud of being part of this community specifically. I think all of our neighbors are all a little bit of family. And just kinda seeing how that community has worked for so long, we decided that we wanted to stay in this community and work as much as possible to keep this neighborhood the tight community that it is. And try to protect it as much as possible from all the threats of development and pollution and just the high tax increases that are being brought on us all all the time and just try to keep them aware of the situation that we’re in and how we could be able to leverage what we have to continue to live in these neighborhoods and work in these neighborhoods. And luckily me being an artist kinda allows me the freedom to do this community work as well as continue to do what it is that I do and use that as a platform to scratch each other’s back. They both work together.

Jocelyn Hittle: So you mentioned a number of different activities that you are involved in, BirdSeed Collective and the Globeville Rec Center being one. Can you maybe talk us through each of those chunks of work in a bit more detail and say a little bit about how that ties into the community piece you just mentioned?

Anthony Garcia: So, yeah, when I talk about community, I use it in a broader sense and I just mean the people and the circles that you surround yourself with and just trying to work on helping each other out and just be neighborly towards each other so we could all grow together. You know, it’s hard if I’m the only one that’s semi-successful and I’m doing all this work trying to help my community when everybody else around me is still struggling. So we wanna make sure that we try to do whatever we can to kind of fill in those gaps and ease the tension of the hardships of day-to-day life and allow time and space for people to be able to grow. BirdSeed Collective started as a traveling gallery. We would go around Denver and throw shows in small DIY spaces, try to paint murals on those spaces as well, and have it become more of an experience. We would work with a lot of local musicians and fashion designers as well to have kind of a full embodiment of an art experience for the people that were to come to our shows. And that really gained momentum and in that we met a lot of artists, more talented than myself, that I really wanted to put on a pedestal and show their work more than myself. And after that, that kind of became our goal was to be able to provide space for other artists to show their work. We did a show for a good number of years, I’d say about seven years called 100 on 100, where we would bring more than 100 artists from around and we would find a space big enough to show their work, and we would let them show their work for free. And I think that was a big part for a lot of local talent that never stepped outside of the studio and that always wanted to be able to show their work and this kinda gave them that opportunity without having all the pressure of showing on a bigger stage.

Anthony Garcia: After a couple years of us showing artwork in all these different spaces, a tattoo shop on Tennyson was one of our main spaces that was allowing us to do stuff on first Fridays and they ended up moving and they gave us their old space. So that’s when we had moved into that space and we started Alto Gallery. Alto Gallery has been open for a little more than five years now. But we were very successful at creating a platform for a lot of local, young artists, modern, contemporary street, local feel, and still with the very DIY kind of approach as far as us being able to allow the artists to have a space where they could create installations, show new experimental, conceptual work without worrying about having to sell all this stuff to make sure that the gallery’s happy. We’ve always kind of worked in our facility’s overhead so that we never really worry about the artists bringing in the money to pay our rent. So we’ve always been that space that kind of gave artists a chance to really grow and experiment and do these ideas that they’d been working on for a long time. So us now moving to the RiNo Park is nice because that’s right in our neighborhood still. I remember growing up in that area and just walking through that neighborhood, just being a industrial warehouse type neighborhood and seeing what it is today developed like that. I’m glad that we are one of the galleries that is gonna be open in that space, us coming from that neighborhood, and just being able to still be a part of that neighborhood after all of this development has came.

Jocelyn Hittle: That was a great story. I love to hear the arc of the growth of BirdSeed and where you started and how Alto grew out of that. Just for our listeners, you mentioned that you’re now part of the RiNo ArtPark and RiNo is short for River North, which is an arts district here in Denver. So I agree with you, that neighborhood has changed really dramatically, but has that arts piece as something that has been a thread for a while, right? So the fact that you’re able to come back in as an art studio in that neighborhood is really important.

Anthony Garcia: Yeah, I think it really started as an arts district slowly after people seeing all the art, a lot of different things move in and you kinda lose that.

Jocelyn Hittle: Yeah.

Anthony Garcia: There hasn’t been as many galleries and it hasn’t been as much of an arts community as it once was, but if they wanna continue to hold that title, it’s good that they still try to focus on that as much as possible. And it’s not an easy task and so we can’t really hold them accountable for saving the whole area, but we could do our part. And I think us being part of this area and at least working side by side with them and being able to call them up and talk to them if we need to, that’s a start.

Jocelyn Hittle: So can you talk a little bit more about what BirdSeed does and how you operate out of the Rec Center and some of the work we’re doing with young people?

Anthony Garcia: Yeah, so like I had mentioned, we were kind of figuring out what opportunities that we could take advantage of being from this neighborhood, working with these organizations, kinda having a history in nonprofits. So we were able to find the Urban Arts Fund grant years ago. And a lot of that had to do with working with youth to create artwork. You know, I have kids, they grew up in that same area with all their friends and going to the Garden Place Academy. My daughter went there. I went there. We were able to grasp onto a lot of the kids right there. So at the time, we weren’t exactly sure what it was that we were. We just wanted to, we wanted to get paid for being artists. So seeing these small opportunities, we tried to take advantage of them as much as possible. But really that’s kind of what built us to what we are today and it helped us realize what we wanted to focus on. And so when we found a grant that would give us some money to work with kids in our neighborhood that was already circled on the map was a no-brainer. And, you know, it worked really well and we were able to find all these smaller opportunities. And at the time, this Rec Center it was run by one of the elders from our neighborhood. He opened his doors to us and let us do whatever we wanted there. So we painted murals over there. We did art classes with kids. We did cooking classes, music classes. We started sports programs over there. And after a while, the turnover of that space, the city ended up giving it to a local organization and we were at the top of the list. So just kinda all these small pieces that we just been working for so long people start to recognize that and see all the hard work we do and they gave us that space and we hope to have it as long as possible. We’re still working in partnership with the city. It’s still a city building. So it helps out with a lot of the infrastructure, landlord type stuff, but it’s our space. And we open our doors to the whole community and that’s including the arts community, that’s including our friends and family in the neighborhood, just people that we wanna work with. And we’ve been lucky enough to have instructors that would come and teach music. Now they’re coming back. We’ve been closed for the past year and a half. Now that we’re open again, I think that our people are realizing that this is something that we need to keep open. We’re seeing people from all over the place that are coming back, looking for opportunities to give us, and just even ways that they can volunteer and help us out as well.

Jocelyn Hittle: So can you describe maybe what a day in the life or a week in the life was like for you pre-pandemic, just to give us a sense of all of these moving parts that you have, BirdSeed and all of that as is part of it, right? So what was a day in the life of BirdSeed when, you know, before the pandemic and hopefully will again be as we come out of it?

Anthony Garcia: Yeah, so we would have afterschool programming. So during the day, a lot of that is going to meetings, finding opportunities, money. Also because I’m an artist, I try to work in the studio or I’ll work onsite at one of my public spaces that I would be painting a mural on. And then as soon as school would end, we would do cooking programming. We would have basketball. We have Aztec dancing over there. We had wrestling, break dancing, art programming. We would have music programming and so that was a couple different things. It was instrumental type music programming as well as digital on the computer. And also we had a small men’s youth poetry slam. It turned into more of like emcee and rapping programming. So we have a vocal booth that they’re using as well. And then sports. Wrestling is really big. My kids are really heavily into sports so I became a coach after awhile and I coach wrestling and football. Our neighbors and our kids wanted to start a football team so we ended up starting a football team and running that for two and a half years. But it’s really whatever the community needs. Anything that’s going on as far as I-70 or CSU Spur, National Western, anything that has to do with the environment, all the infrastructure stuff going on in the RiNo, everywhere, we made sure that our neighbors were aware of these and we held meetings that gave them all the information that they needed. And we did our best to just kind of focus on what our neighbors need on the day to day. We have the food program, obviously on Mondays that we’ve been doing for nine years now.

Jocelyn Hittle: Can you say a little bit more about that? What’s the food program?

Anthony Garcia: What it is is I go around to multiple produce plants and grocery stores, as well as a couple other volunteers, and we all come back and bring their overripe, stuff that is right on the deadline about to expire. And we sort through it, clean it up, and put it in food boxes, and give food boxes away to the neighborhood. Also because of COVID, we were able to thrive as a food program because that was one of the needs that people really were asking for at the time. So luckily we were able to be there at that time and really kinda serve our community the way that we’ve always wanted to. Unfortunately it had to happen this way but it made them realize that we were still there for them and that we’re not going anywhere and that we will provide food to whoever needs it whenever, wherever.

Jocelyn Hittle: I mean, obviously, it’s a really important service and you all are meeting a need in the neighborhood and it’s also a sign of how flexible you are. When you’re listing all of the different things that you all are doing, it’s a lot. And obviously those things are sort of in response to demand. Like kids want a football team so you guys put together a football team. So I just wanna point out that’s an amazing feature of BirdSeed I think, that it started as you and some people wanting to do things that are helpful for your neighbors and family and friends, and it started with art, but it has expanded into all these different categories. So can we talk a little bit about you as an artist? What does it mean to be a public artist and to do the work that you’re doing right now? Can you describe it a little bit?

Anthony Garcia: I’ve always been an artist. I feel like ever since I was young, my grandma was an artist as well, so I remember brief moments of us working together. Just knowing that art materials were available to me and this actually existed, I think kinda really sparked my interest real young. So I’ve been really creative. But in my neighborhood, there wasn’t any art at all. The closest we would get is graffiti, you know. And even then there wasn’t a lot of graffiti in my neighborhood either so it’d be a lot of gang graffiti, if anything, you know. So that’s like Old English and just graffiti in general was like the first exposure that I’ve ever really had to art out on the streets and just me being able to find it as opposed to my grandma having some pastels in her closet and some paper or something. So I started very young as a graffiti artist and that has everything to do with writing on people’s stuff and going all the way to doing these beautiful walls that you see right now. So I did all of that. My mom saw that I was good and talented at that, but she, it’s illegal and she was not appreciative of me doing that. So she would always try to point me in the right direction and show me like, “Oh well there’s this summer art internship you could do.” Or, you know, just little things like that. So I was very lucky to have her because of that.

Anthony Garcia: But if it wasn’t for the graffiti, I wouldn’t be able to meet the people that I know today. Just being able to be on the streets and see the art evolve and move and go to random galleries and just stumble into things, like you can only do that from being on the streets. And so I was very lucky to be exposed to that. After a while we evolve and get better at this and started doing these bigger walls. I’m trying to figure out what it is that’s next. And I think that I still wanted him to paint big walls, but I wanted something that will last longer. In graffiti culture, we have a tendency to paint over our old work and put something new and so in that we kinda lose our history I feel like. And I wanted to have something more impactful and something that will last longer so I started trying to paint murals. And at the time, I would paint whatever the client would ask for. And just after a while, I started working more with textures and patterns and designs, and this is all a culmination of my whole lifetime. I can’t really put it into what it is, but things like these have always inspired me and I just kinda stumbled on the serape thing. You know, that’s always been that you see, and you have that little bit of nostalgia. Coming from Colorado being of Mexican and indigenous descent, it’s always something that we see and it’s always been a part of us so when I painted it, it was just something I wanted to paint, but it really caught fire. And I was able to get a lot of opportunities, just submitting ideas and throwing that style out there. Since then my style has evolved, but it definitely opened up a lot of doors for me and I still refer back to that specific blanket as far as color patterning goes, gradients, just the very sharp lines is something I still work with. But that was kind of an eye-opener for me as far as what direction do I wanna go? And it definitely got, I got a lot of opportunities from that so I’m very thankful for that. And I continue to still work in that style as much as possible but now I’m able to work more in the studios and kinda develop more of what it is I wanna do and just experiment and do new things and hopefully put that stuff on the wall soon. But yeah, that’s me as an artist, I guess.

Jocelyn Hittle: What was your first public art commission?

Anthony Garcia: My very first public art commission was when I was 15 years old and I worked through Art Street and I worked with Bob Luna and Arlette Lucero and we did a big mural for the Castro Building on 12th and Federal. So that was my very first public art piece. So like I said, it’s always kind of been ingrained in me to do stuff like this. But actually getting paid to paint a mural since then was years later, at least 10 plus years later. We were able to paint sides of I-70, I-70 and Lincoln, right in our neighborhood. And even then I was still not sure who I was as an artist so I painted more of a floral design that had a lot to do with the Polish history of our neighborhoods. So I was still very into the patterns and the designs and kinda like the old floral decorative wallpaper type designs. But yeah, the serape didn’t come till way later when I had sold a couple paintings. I sold probably like my first painting for $500. And after that, that was like the most I’ve ever made on a painting, you know, so I was like, “Oh, maybe I should paint a couple more of these.” And then another friend of mine actually gave me an opportunity to paint on the side of his garage. It was a unpaid job. It was right when I had thought about doing the serape idea so. That’s also on the side of I-70 and Washington in my neighborhood. And so that’s when I kinda went for it and I really liked what it looked like and I wanted to continue to do more stuff like this and so that’s when we had proposed the 6th Avenue idea. That’s on 6th Avenue and Federal. We were lucky enough to get that job. We split it with Jaime Molina. So he did a big totem pole right next to our piece. After that, I just wanted to continue to paint that as much as possible. And I was lucky enough to have it on such a big scale as one of my earlier pieces. You know, it didn’t pigeonhole me as, I wasn’t the serape guy but people knew that I was a guy now after that. And so I just wanted to kinda move with that momentum and just kinda continue to work that in as much as possible and it’s part of my identity now. And I’m happy about that for sure.

Jocelyn Hittle: For those folks who are not familiar, that is a, it is a really big installation and a lot of people see it, there are a lot of eyes. And I think that you have a number of different public art installations across the city and some more coming, and we can talk about one you’re gonna do at Spur here in a second, but it feels like there is a quality to them that allows people to say I think that’s an Anthony Garcia piece, right? Or recognize it straight off the bat as one of yours. So I think that’s great that there’s sort of this quality to your work that allows people to know who you are and to be like, oh yeah, that one and that one and that one and it’s all him.

Anthony Garcia: And it takes years and years of working. Part of it is that I haven’t stopped at all.

Jocelyn Hittle: Yeah.

Anthony Garcia: And just being able to find other spaces to continue to work in this realm and be in the public eye. Consistency over the last 10 years, I think is something that’s like is part of my success.

Jocelyn Hittle: Yeah.

Anthony Garcia: In everything and that’s in the community and that’s in the art world and that’s also with my own work. So, you know, you can’t go anywhere without seeing it now just because I have to pay my bills every month, you know?

Jocelyn Hittle: Right. You’re a busy guy. Yeah.

Anthony Garcia: Yeah, so like, if I need to pay my bills by painting a mural, then I’m going to do that. It just so happens that I have 12 murals up this year now, because of that, you know. And it’s awesome because people are able to see those and understand, like, this is his job and it’s not just beautiful work being put up around all, everybody’s neighborhood. It’s really hard work. And other people have tried to do it. I don’t wanna brag, but sometimes I feel like I make it look easy to them. And you see them try to do the same thing and I wanna try to push them in the right direction and show them the way but it’s not as easy as they think once they start really getting into it and seeing you have to be at work every day. It’s a full-time job.

Jocelyn Hittle: So along those lines, one of the things that we’re hoping that the Spur Campus can do is kind of introduce young people to career paths they might not be thinking about whether it’s in sciences or arts or literature, whatever it is, and to sort of tap them into you can make a difference in the issues that you care about by using the strengths and interests you have. It’s sort of about connecting dots. So I wonder, say for example, we had a kid who was like, I wanna be a public artist or I wanna be an artist, I wanna be a street artist, I wanna do murals, whatever it is, sculpture. What would you tell them? Is there advice that you would give to a kid about how they could follow in your footsteps?

Anthony Garcia: I’d just tell them that they’re still a kid, you know. It’s hard to… I have kids right now and my daughter, my oldest is 21 years old and she’s still trying to figure out what she wants to be. Even though we’ve always been there for her and given her opportunities and if there is something that she says that she likes, or she has an interest in, along with my other kids, we’ve always allowed them space to figure that out. It’s not as easy as people think to do anything really on your own. If you wanna be, if you wanna do podcasts for a living, or if you wanna be an artist, you have to really put in 24 hours a day. It has to take over your whole life in order for it to really be reciprocated back to you. And even for me, I’m just barely starting to make money now if I’m lucky. I don’t know how long this will last, but I have to make sure that I go to work every day in order for that to happen. And for 10 years straight, now it’s getting a little bit easier, but I mean, when I was younger, yeah, I wanted to be an artist, but I didn’t know what it was or public artist or anything like that. I just wanted to be an artist. I just wanted to get paid to be an artist. It took me years and years to realize okay, if you wanna do this, you need to get yourself a studio space. You need to work with these other artists. You need to help other people do what they need to do in order for you to grow as well. It’s almost impossible to do anything when you’re too worried about how you’re gonna pay your bills or how you’re gonna eat or anything like that. So I think a lot of people kind of fall into that where they have a dream or they wanna do something, but they can’t do it because they have to go to a job that they may or they may not like, but paying your bills, like check to check and living check to check, you don’t have the time to really grow and work on yourself and that, you need that space in order to do that and especially in becoming a artist. So I say for kids that wanna, whatever they wanna do, let other people know that that’s something that you wanna do because you’re not gonna be able to do it on your own. And you know, the more people that are around you, who knows, some other people might have opportunity for you here and there, but it’ll help relieve that stress of you trying to figure it out all on your own. And just longevity, really you have to continue to work at this for a long time in order for you to see something coming back to you. If you don’t see it coming back to you, then you can’t quit or be mad about that. You just got to continue to work and gotta kinda just learn and figure it out on your own.

Jocelyn Hittle: I think what you just said is great advice for young people and adults for that matter that you gotta let people know, you need to try to build some community support, just mentorship or just someone that you can talk to to bounce ideas off of and then you gotta stick with it. And I think it’s fine that your 21-year-old doesn’t know what she wants to do. I still don’t know when I wanna be when I grow up, so.

Anthony Garcia: Yeah, me neither. I feel like I’m still very early in my career right now. And just being a community leader and sitting at the tables I sit at, I feel like I have another career path even 20 years from now that I’m still unaware of but right now I’m just kinda riding the wave.

Jocelyn Hittle: I’d love to spend just a couple minutes talking about the piece you’re gonna do at the CSU Spur Campus. So you’ll have a mural that goes between a building that we are restoring and repurposing and a new building. And there’s kind of an alleyway in between and you have a piece that will be there. So I’m wondering if you could describe to the best of your ability given that we’re on a podcast and people don’t have the benefit of the visuals, what that piece is gonna be like and what your vision is.

Anthony Garcia: If you all are familiar at all with my work, I deal a lot with gradients and geometric patterns. I like a lot of straight lines and rays that continue to like, I like to create movement in these spaces that don’t necessarily have anything going on. For this particular piece, I’m doing horizontal bars that, from up-close, the colors are very different from each other, but they’re all blue, cool tones. And when you step back, you could kinda see the idea of moving water or just kind of a very cool, vibrating wall that we wanna create. So the idea is to kinda have a more of a water feel to it for it being in the Hydro Building.

Jocelyn Hittle: I am reminded that we do have a rendering of it on our website. So we we’ll put a link in the show notes for listeners so they can go and take a look at what you proposed. I’m really excited about it. Is there anything else that I haven’t hit on that you would like to share about kind of your journey, things that you want people to understand about you as an artist or about you as a executive director, an organizer, that we didn’t hit on?

Anthony Garcia: Our doors are always open. I feel like I’m very easily accessible and I’m willing to sit down and talk to anybody about working in the future. So for people or young people or grown adults that wanna do something, let us know. Our doors are always open. I know that we had proposed to hire some young adults to help us with the Spur building space so we’re also looking for volunteers that might wanna come out for a couple days and help out with that. That’s always a way to just like get to know us and get your foot in the door. And really it’s hard to, for us, specifically me, helping others, it’s hard for me to do that if I don’t have any contact with you or I don’t see you very often. A lot of the people that we do end up working with start by volunteering at our food program and then, “Oh yeah, well, remember we wanted to talk about this?” You know, just like starting those conversations. So just stop by and say hi, or come to the art gallery or one of our openings or our open houses and just let us know what it is that you wanna do. We’d love to meet you, hear about whatever it is and hopefully if it fits, then we can make something happen for sure.

Jocelyn Hittle: So along those lines, how can people find out more about you and BirdSeed Collective and be in touch?

Anthony Garcia: Yeah, my social media is birdseedanthony across the board. The BirdSeed Collective is obviously our nonprofits organization. Alto Gallery is our art gallery and Zarape Studios with a Z is our studio space that we have. That kinda gives you the full what it is we do, the artists we work with, what our schedules look like, all that stuff. So yeah, feel free to reach out, say hi. Yeah.

Jocelyn Hittle: Great. Thank you. Yeah, and we’ll put links to all of those in the show notes too, so that people can find you easily and connect. As you know, CSU Spur, we are coming into the Globeville and Elyria-Swansea neighborhoods. One of the things that has been particularly important to the CSU Spur team is to be good neighbors and to build relationships and to listen and to do our best to be responsive in maybe similar ways and maybe different ways as you have with BirdSeed being responsive to what you’re hearing community wants. So what is your hope for how CSU can be a good neighbor? And as we are coming into the neighborhoods, what would you hope that we are able to do?

Anthony Garcia: Like I had mentioned earlier, just us, Globeville specifically, and also Globeville Elyria-Swansea, the way that we’re cut off from everybody else and just the very obvious boundaries that we have from getting from one neighborhood to the next neighborhood, to the next neighborhood, or outside of our community in general, I think that has us restricted in many ways as far as all of these infrastructure and just new pieces that are being put in our neighborhoods that are supposed to be benefiting our neighborhoods that we have, it’s hard to have access to that stuff. I don’t know the answer. We’re working on transportation stuff. But as long as we are educated of what it is that you all do and know that this is available to us, hopefully for free, I don’t know what the costs are or anything like that.

Jocelyn Hittle: Free.

Anthony Garcia: But as long as these communities know that these resources are there and they’re available to them, then hopefully it could start to trickle over and people will start to visit it. I don’t plan on it happening overnight, and it’s not necessarily your guys’ job to make sure that everybody from the neighborhood is there from now on. But just like having that cohesiveness with your neighbors and just being able to have, like I said, have your doors open for them and them being comfortable to come and see that. A lot of that too, is like I said, the longevity and consistency, they have to get used to you guys even being there first, before they wanna go over there and see what’s going on. I think you guys are doing a great job as far as being a part of the community, reaching out, and doing those first meetings before anything’s even built. So right now you’re headed in the right direction and I think that it can only get better.

Jocelyn Hittle: Thank you. We look forward to it and we are gonna be here for a very long time and the vast majority of the things that we are doing are free and open to anyone. So we look forward to continuing to build those relationships and people feeling really comfortable coming on over to Spur. So last question for you. It’s our “Spur of the Moment” question.

Anthony Garcia: Oh man.

Jocelyn Hittle: Okay. This “Spur of the Moment” question is, do you have a favorite piece of art that you have created? It doesn’t have to be public or not. Do you have one that you like feel the most proud of?

Anthony Garcia: Yeah, I mean, one of my favorite pieces of artwork is the very first piece I ever sold and my dad bought it. It was the first time that I tried to bring more of my graffiti ideas onto a canvas and I was really trying to express myself more as an artist, as opposed to me going out on the streets and writing on stuff. And I think that he really seen that and appreciated that and so he ended up buying that one from me. He still has it. So that’s really cool, yeah.

Jocelyn Hittle: Another big thank you to Anthony Garcia, Sr. for joining us on today’s episode. The “Spur of the Moment” podcast is produced by Peach Islander Productions and our theme music is by Ketsa. Please visit the show notes for links mentioned in today’s episode, including links that allow you to see some of Anthony’s art pieces. We hope you’ll join us in two weeks for the next episode. Until then, be well.


Former United States Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission

Mr. Edward Drusina, P.E. retired from the United States Commissioner of the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) in 2018. Mr. Drusina has served his community and his country with distinction. Mr. Drusina was appointed Commissioner by President Barrack Obama on January 19, 2010 and remained Commissioner until his retirement on May 2018 completing 44 years of engineering service to his City, State and Country.  A licensed Professional Engineer in Texas and graduate of University of Texas at El Paso, his career has lead him to successful work in both the private and public sectors. Prior to the IBWC appointment, Mr. Drusina was the Regional Director for Paragon Resources Inc., President and CoOwner of Omni Construction Management Services, Corperate Associate of Moreno Cardenas Inc, Director of Public Works for the City of El Paso, and Design Branch head for the US Army at Fort Bliss, Texas.

Mr. Drusina also headed some very impactful undertakings related to water in the Southwest. He represented the City of El Paso on the Far West Texas Water Planning Group, was the Construction Manager for the pipeline and injection wells for the largest inland Desalination Plant named the Kay Bailey Desalination Plant and was the City of El Paso stormwater manager.

Throughout his distinguished career, Mr. Drusina has also remained active in the different organizations along the border region. He was one of the founding members of UTEP’s Alumni Academe of Civil Engineers, served on the American Red Cross Board, was the Department of State’s advisor for the North American Development Bank Board,  and served on different state and federal committees aimed at addressing border environmental concerns.     

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Founding Partner, Centro Luken de Estrategias en Agua y Medio Ambiente

Roberto F. Salmon Castelo is a founding partner and consultant at Centro Luken de Estrategias en Agua y Medio Ambiente. He served from April 2009 until May 2020 as the Mexican Commissioner to the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC) and has a solid experience in international negotiations related to water and boundary issues between Mexico and the United States. In this capacity, he led the Mexican team to accomplish the signing of 11 binational agreements (Minutes) with the United States, which are binding for both countries.

From 2002 until 2009, he worked for the Mexican National Water Commission (CONAGUA), first as the Northwest Regional Manager and later as the General Director of the Northwest Basin Region, based in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico from where he oversaw all affairs related to water resources. In addition, Mr. Salmon served as the Planning and Special Projects Director for the Center for Research and Development of Natural Resources (CIDESON) of the State of Sonora. He also started a consulting company oriented to surface, groundwater, and environmental studies and projects.

He also has vast experience in financial projects. He served as the Director of Budget and Planning and later as the Chief Financial Officer at the University of Sonora and other private entities. He is also a founding partner in three financial enterprises in the State of Sonora.

Mr. Salmon has participated as a leading consultant in many projects on various subjects, such as water resources, plant location, financial engineering, statistics, economic feasibility, agriculture, and strategic planning.

In the academic sector, he served as a professor at the Instituto Tecnologico de Sonora, University of Sonora, Instituto Tecnológico de Monterrey (Campus Guadalajara and Obregón), as well as a teaching and research assistant at the University of Arizona in the departments of Agricultural Economics and Hydrology and Water Resources.

He has authored or co-authored several articles on water resources and US-Mexico transboundary water issues and has been a speaker at binational and international conferences.

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Associate Vice Chancellor for CSU Spur & Special Projects, CSU System

Jocelyn Hittle is primarily focused on helping to create the CSU System’s new Spur campus at the National Western Center, and on supporting campus sustainability goals across CSU’s campuses. She sits on the Denver Mayor’s Sustainability Advisory Council, on the Advisory Committee for the Coors Western Art Show, and is a technical advisor for the AASHE STARS program.

Prior to joining CSU, Jocelyn was the Associate Director of PlaceMatters, a national urban planning think tank, and worked for the Orton Family Foundation. She has a degree in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Princeton, and a Masters in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Jocelyn grew up in Colorado and spends her free time in the mountains or exploring Denver.

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Chancellor, CSU System

Dr. Tony Frank is the Chancellor of the CSU System. He previously served for 11 years as the 14th president of CSU in Fort Collins. Dr. Frank earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Wartburg College, followed by a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. and residencies in pathology and toxicology at Purdue. Prior to his appointment as CSU’s president in 2008, he served as the University’s provost and executive vice president, vice president for research, chairman of the Pathology Department, and Associate Dean for Research in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He was appointed to a dual role as Chancellor in 2015 and became full-time System chancellor in July 2019.

Dr. Frank serves on a number of state and national boards, has authored and co-authored numerous scientific publications, and has been honored with state and national awards for his leadership in higher education.

Dr. Frank and his wife, Dr. Patti Helper, have three daughters.

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Consul General of Canada

Sylvain Fabi (BBA, Bishop’s University, 1988) joined the Consulate General of Canada in Denver in October 2020. As Canada’s Consul General in the U.S. Mountain West Region, Mr. Fabi oversees a team of 17 people who work within Colorado, Kansas, Montana, Utah and Wyoming to strengthen trade and economic ties; enhance political, academic and cultural links; and assist Canadians visiting or living in the five-state territory.  He is also Canada’s chief negotiator for the modernization of the Columbia River Treaty with the United States.

Mr. Fabi joined the Trade Commissioner Service of External Affairs and International Trade Canada in 1992.  He worked in various geographic and trade policy divisions in Ottawa.  He was senior departmental adviser to the Minister of International Trade (2009 to 2010), Director for bilateral relations with South America and the Caribbean (2010 to 2013) and Executive Director of the North America Policy and Relations Division (2013 to 2015).

Mr. Fabi’s assignments abroad include trade commissioner at the embassy in Moscow (1995 to 1998), commercial counsellor at the embassy in Havana (2001 to 2005) and commercial counsellor at the embassy in Santiago (2005 to 2009). Mr. Fabi served as High Commissioner for Canada in Jamaica and the Bahamas (2015 to 2017). Before becoming Consul General in Denver, he was Executive Director, U.S. Transboundary Affairs Division (2017 to 2020). 

Mr. Fabi is married to Jany Joyal and has two children, Frédéric and Isabelle.

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Professor of Soil and Environmental Chemistry & Columbia Foundation Chair in Soil and Water Sciences, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Dr. Chefetz’s research interests relate to physico-chemical processes of organic pollutants occurring in water, reclaimed wastewater, soils and sediments. An overarching goal is to elucidate physical, chemical and biological processes that influence the fate of organic molecules in the environment with special emphasize on the agricultural environment.

Special interests are: (1) Fate of pharmaceutical compounds in soil and water; (2) Sorption-desorption behavior of xenobiotics in soils and sediments; (3) Irrigation with reclaimed wastewater: effects on human health; (4) Nano particles in the environment; (5) Nature and reactivity of dissolved organic matter. 

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Director, Colorado Water Center
Professor of Ecosystem Science & Sustainability, CSU Fort Collins

Dr. Tracy serves as Director of the Colorado Water Center and as Professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability at Colorado State University. Dr. Tracy has led research initiatives on understanding and developing sustainable water management practices in a wide range of hydro-climatological systems across the western United States, including the western High Plains, Northern Plains, Southern Plains, Great Basin and Pacific Northwest regions. His more recent efforts have focused on developing programs to: increase our understanding of the integrated behavior of water resource systems under the influence of changing hydrologic, economic, and social conditions; developing science based approaches to support the management of transboundary aquifer resources; addressing the linkage between water management and health outcomes; and understanding community water security from a socio-technical perspective. Dr. Tracy received his B.S. degree in Civil Engineering at Colorado State University in 1980, and his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Civil Engineering at the University of California at Davis in 1986 and 1989 respectively. Dr. Tracy also served as President of the American Water Resources Association, the University Council on Water Resources, and as Secretary/Treasurer of the National Institutes for Water Resources. 

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Co-Founder and General Partner, ICI Fund (Innovation. Community. Intelligence)
Board Member, Kando, Viridix, Genda, Suridata, Tailor-Ed, Illustria

Gili is a Co-founder and General Partner at ICI Fund (Innovation. Community. Intelligence), investing in early-stage Israeli companies with artificial intelligence solutions that secure our future and supporting their scale up in the US market. Gili sits on the boards of Kando (AI & Wastewater), Viridix (AI & Agriculture), Genda (AI & Construction), Suridata (AI & Cyber), Tailor-Ed (AI & Education), Illustria (Cyebr security) and is an investor in PredictaMed (AI & Healthcare). 

Previously, Gili was a Managing Director at SynTech Bioenergy, a renewable energy company located in Colorado.  Gili is an Israeli lawyer who worked at Naschitz Brandes, ADV., one of the leading Israeli Corporate law firms and at Ernst & Young as Tax Consultant, providing tax advice to US and European VCs investing in Israeli companies. Gili served on the Board of Directors of the B’nai B’rith of the Rockies, Colorado.  Gili holds an LLB and BA (in Law and Business) from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and an MBA from the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University. Gili also served in the Israeli military (IDF), driving tanks and guiding combat soldiers to shoot anti-tank guided missiles out of a tank. She is an avid snowboarder and is melted by dark chocolate!

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Mayor of Fort Collins

Fort Collins has been home since I was three weeks old.

After attending Moore Elementary, Blevins Junior High School, and Poudre High School, I earned an undergraduate degree in Sociology at Colorado College. Soon afterwards I earned an MA in Geography from the University of Colorado followed by an MA in Special Education from Purdue University in Indiana. After teaching special education for a few years, I earned a Ph.D. in Literacy and Language from Purdue. 

When I was away—in college, in the Peace Corps (Morocco), in graduate school, living and working in Mozambique, Africa— Fort Collins was always my home. When the opportunity arose to live anywhere, my husband, Channing, and I enthusiastically returned to Fort Collins with our three children. My work experience includes Congressional intern, ESL teacher, Peace Corps volunteer, secondary special education teacher, middle school principal, International Baccalaureate Coordinator, university faculty member and department head.

In addition to working, teaching and attending school, I have been an active volunteer. Serving in the Peace Corps in Morocco was an honor. I served on school boards in Lafayette, Ind. and in Mozambique. After moving back to Fort Collins, I served on the Commission on Disability as well as Childsafe before running for State Representative in 2014. As a State Representative I have focused on water, agriculture, small business and public education. After 3+ terms in the General Assembly I was elected Mayor of Fort Collins in April, 2021.

Personally, my husband of 32 years and I have three adult children. My mom, Libby James is my rock and role model. In my free time, I run, bike, swim, read and talk to people. 

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