For Joshua Rivaldo, creativity runs in the family. Both his uncle and grandfather were artists, and he recalls their paintings hanging in his childhood home in South Florida. Around the age of ten, Rivaldo felt the urge to create something of his own… he just didn’t know where to start. That is, until he noticed the graffiti tags on the walls behind his school.
Rivaldo filled notebooks with graffiti art and used up Expo markers until they ran dry. His father noticed the initiative and bought him his first set of expensive markers. There were 136 different colors – a number he remembers to this day.
The passion and dedication only grew from there. Rivaldo started taking art books from the library. He swamped Bridgman and practiced hands, bodies and faces endlessly. Eventually he amassed enough work to send a portfolio to Ringling College of Art and Design, where he studied for four years. He currently works as an illustrator and concept artist, particularly for films and video games.
Rivaldo eventually left Florida during the pandemic. His father, the owner and chef at Hooked in Clarks Summit, had joined NEPA just a few years earlier, and Rivaldo decided to follow in his footsteps. He now resides at the Abingtons, where he balances his freelance projects with his work at his family’s restaurant. He even designed the labels for Hooked’s new line of frozen soups, available in select Gerrity’s supermarkets.
This spring, Rivaldo takes the next step in his journey and opens his own art studio in Clarks Summit. The studio serves him not only as a workshop, but also as a place where the entire community can connect with art. He plans to offer art classes and workshops for all ages, as well as services like digital portraiture and graphic design.
We met Rivaldo in the new studio. We had the opportunity to see some of his incredible work, hear his story and ask the fundamental question – why NEPA?
How long have you been living in NEPA?
I continue for a year and a half.
What brought you to NEPA?
I graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. After I graduated there, I moved here. I was supposed to work on a WWE opportunity up in Boston, which would have been super cool. It would have been for a clothing artist, which is something I really cared about. But I graduated in 2020, so two of my internship opportunities fell through completely. They didn’t have a budget to hire new people. I moved here in Pennsylvania specifically to be closer to my dad because he had the restaurant.
Did anything about NEPA surprise you?
Yes, the time people take to talk to you. It’s pretty awesome. Everyone is very supportive. All harmonize very well with each other. Being Florida folks they’re idling at 70 miles an hour so there aren’t many chances to reach the core connection or really collaborate or contribute to each other, whether it’s companies, products, or whatever always acts. This gave me more inclination to start a business and this would be a great place to start.
What do you love about your city?
This is how people help each other. Just look at COVID when Hooked was only doing takeout. I think that explains Northeast Pennsylvania more than anything else. During this time, people supported the restaurant when it wasn’t open. We only did takeaway, cars were waiting there. It’s just this idea of, “I know you guys are going to be open at some point. I know you have a good product. We’ve got you.” Then we opened up and looked at this whole reception. It’s something that doesn’t make headlines nationally. It’s something that doesn’t get posted a lot. I think it should be front and center.
What is your favorite NEPA restaurant?
This is going to be public, isn’t it? So, hooked. [laughs] But no, it’s either between Hooked and Rosario’s just because of the proximity. I know a lot of people in there. When I come out of the restaurant and maybe haven’t made anything for myself, they throw me extra knots of garlic. They’re always just looking out, so I appreciate them.
What is your favorite thing to do in NEPA?
When I have more free time, I usually take my girlfriend to Scranton. Scranton is great. You always have something to do. I love D&D’s. That’s a collectibles shop down there next to The Railyard. I love this city just with the train station next to the Radisson and all that vibe.
What was your proudest moment as an artist?
The proudest moment I’ve ever had creating art was seeing the soups [Hooked’s line of frozen soups] In the shop. Certainly. I’m not just thinking for myself, but for my father. I think that’s probably one of my proudest moments – seeing how his product is described visually and that it infuses the same level of passion.
What is your favorite piece?
Those faces behind you. I just did that last week. They are called my “phases of faces”. I’m trying to get to a hundred. This series is called Fruitful, so his name is Berry, his name is Lemon and her name is Peach. I have three more coming – Orange, Kiwi and Grape. I will keep doing these. They’re really quick to make, but the goal is to eventually be the man with a hundred faces and try to animate them and try to create clothes and stuff like that.
What’s next for you?
My goal is longevity – to be the change you want to see in the world, to be the light in people’s lives. I’m not just an artist. I’m much more than that. I love to talk. I love to connect. That way I can kind of get into people’s lives, kind of motivate them and push them to move on. It doesn’t have to be creative—just so you don’t lose that enthusiasm or childhood passion that you had as a kid no matter what you do.
It’s hard, and especially in art. If I could do that for one person that would be great. But the target is not a person. I hope it’s a thousand. Hopefully it’s more than that. But that’s how I start.
Where do you see the future of NEPA?
It’s hard to say because I came here when it was COVID. I think probably the biggest thing I see or hope for in the future is more events – more collaborative things for people to gather at. I think it’s great, like the Summit Second Saturday and First Friday. I’ve seen this many times. There’s always something going on and such.
I think coming from Florida I was a small fish in the ocean and didn’t really know when I came here that this would be my destiny or that this would be a part of my journey. I realized I was one of the few artists really trying to do this in the area. So I was a big fish in a small pond. I immediately realized that this is a great place.
The more I saw the family and community aspect of Northeast Pennsylvania, the more I realized that my art and approach lacked that. That’s something that reinvigorated it.
You can see more of Rivaldo’s work and follow his latest projects on his website, Facebook and Instagram.