Rodolfo Marron has been selected to complete the Arts Omi International Artists Residency this summer in rural New York. Megan Mantia | Charlotte Street Foundation

Artery: Free range artist follows passion for culture to prestigious fellowship

Rodolfo Marron, 27, is officially making it as an artist. Back in August, he decided he needed to focus on producing work for the Charlotte Street 2016 Visual Arts Award Exhibition at Kemper at the Crossroads. He quit his day job — and it’s a good thing he did.

Marron’s next artistic pursuit will be at the Art Omi International Artists Residency Program this summer in rural New York, an annual opportunity for one artist sponsored by the Charlotte Street Foundation. Previous attendees sponsored by Charlotte Street include Paul Anthony Smith, Anne Lindberg, Peregrine Honig and David Ford.

The four-week residency immerses artists from all continents, backgrounds and practices in a summer camp of sorts for the uber-creative. It’s an experience that Marron’s never had. He grew up in the Westside neighborhood of Kansas City, describing it as his “little barrio.” He didn’t attend college.

“I never went to school, never had those years of camaraderie being around other artists that were trying to make something happen, or living around other creatives and people of different backgrounds and whatnot,” he says. “For a while, I felt like I missed out on something by not going to art school, and then over time I finally found confidence in my achievements here in Kansas City. So now I kind of feel like I’m able to experience that here with this. And now I can get it at a better point in my life when I’m more secure with what my narrative and what my vision is, and the artist and the person I want to become.”

Marron temporarily dropped out of high school as a freshman. “I wasn’t vibing at school,” he says.

Then he thought about what he liked to do: draw (specifically Pokémon, Ninja Turtles and Dragonball Z). He auditioned and was accepted at the Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts. His friends also attended school there, and ideas began to form.

“Being around that collective group of friends that I had, incubating these ideas to pursue my career and being introduced to different types of film than what I was aware of growing up, and even different types of music, made me expand my own lexicon.”

Marron had his first group exhibition in 2008 while he was still in high school at a gallery in his own neighborhood, an event put on by the Charlotte Street Foundation.

“I remember being 12 years old and walking those streets, and now I was being invited to do a show with those established and prolific artists,” he says. “That’s kind of what really propelled me, is that I felt at home, and I felt I had this opportunity to say what I wanted.”

He’s been saying it ever since through various exhibitions and, now, with the Art Omi residency.

“I’m a humbled, little brown boy from the Westside who’s really excited and happy to finally be able to tell the stories and be the voice for other artists of color. ... I’m interested in now going to my roots and speaking to people about things that are influential to me,” he says. “...It’s a language, it’s a thing that needs to be shared all over the place. Mine is a very personal story that I tried to be clear and upfront, so I want to share that with other people.”