Richard Arredondo’s art gained international visibility following a commission by the City of San Antonio in 2021 to provide his art as official gifts to sister cities in China and South Korea. The Alamo City has friendship agreements with eleven sister cities. Monterrey, Mexico became the first Mexican City in 1953 to seek a US Sister City and chose San Antonio, Texas. Over the next two decades, ten additional foreign cities followed suit.
Richard Arredondo grew up in Tobin Hill, a residential community near Brackenridge Park and the Pearl Brewing Company. His father, Luciano Arredondo, a native of San Antonio, worked for the Coca-Cola Bottling Company where he learned to drive stick-shift trucks and later drove similar vehicles in France during World War II. After the war, he continued to work at Coca-Cola for the next thirty years. In addition, Mr. Arredondo supplemented his salary through secondary jobs. His evening and weekend jobs included running the concession stands at La Villita Plaza Juarez. His dad’s strong work ethic influenced young Richard.
His mother, Elvira Cortez Arredondo, also a native San Antonian, traced her roots to Tejano Alamo legend, Gregorio Esparza, the sole male survivor of the 1836 assault on the Alamo by Mexican forces. She worked at home full-time caring for the children and made good use of her limited free hours sewing clothes for weddings and quinceañeras, as well as baking cakes and other pastries for Latino families.
When Richard Arredondo enrolled at Fox Tech High School, he followed in the footsteps of his artistically talented older brother Luciano, a 1962 graduate. [Full disclosure: Luciano and I were good friends in high school]. Arredondo shared art classrooms with Fox Tech art legend Jesse Trevino. Fox Tech only offered commercial art classes, but Arredondo credits an exceptional teacher, Mrs. Katherine Alsup, with providing the guidance and mentorship that prepared him for the rigorous art courses he later took in college.
Fox Technical and Vocation High School took pride in preparing students for skilled jobs. Few students graduated with plans of going to college. Arredondo was the exception. He had the full support of his family, but his parents lacked the financial resources to help out. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society program initially provided scholarships for low-income students.
When Arredondo graduated from Fox Tech in 1967, the U.S. Department of Education had approved providing financial aid directed to integrate formerly segregated colleges across America. Prairie View University, a Historically Black College located in Prairie View, Texas near Houston, offered low-income students full scholarships. Prairie View awarded Arredondo a full scholarship, but upon enrolling, he discovered that the college did not have an art department.
After a year of taking all his basic education courses, he applied for a transfer to UT Austin and enrolled there in the Fall of 1968. UT Austin had an excellent art department. His classmates included Carolina Flores and Santa Barraza. Arredondo considers himself fortunate to have taken classes with Latin American art expert, Dr. Jacinto Quirarte. He also credits the supportive guidance of famed sculptor and art professor Charles Umlauf.
Arredondo graduated from UT Austin in 1971 and moved to New York City, a city that attracts young artists wishing to test their artistic talents. He found work as a graphic artist and illustrator with numerous retail stores and the Latino magazine Nosotras. He left Nosotras when he saw an advertisement for a graphic designer with American Express Corporate Graphics on Wall Street, a job he quickly accepted. While in New York, he lived in the East Village not far from the studios of Andy Warhol.
After three years in New York City, Arredondo took the bold step of leaving New York to enroll at the University of the Americas in Puebla, Mexico. He enjoyed the creative environment there and had nearly completed his final thesis when the school closed due to a strike by the Puebla faculty. The strike disrupted his schooling at a time when he began worrying about the bills UT Austin was sending him. At that point, he returned to San Antonio where he found freelance work designing logos for local non-profit agencies, including the Centro Cultural Aztlan. He also worked as Advertising Art Director for the San Antonio Gunter Hotel.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, Latino artists in San Antonio struggled to find steady work. Before the 1970s, San Antonio attracted few manufacturing and industrial companies which limited employment opportunities for skilled workers and talented artists like Arredondo. Over the period 1977-1984, he worked as an independent graphic design professional. His clients included the hotel and tourism industry, performing arts agencies, and cultural arts centers.
Arredondo’s commissioned work requires an extensive creative process. He begins with a visit to the selected site under study where he sketches a structure or landscape on a sheet of tracing paper. He also takes photographs of his subject matter to accurately capture intricate details. He returns to his studio and using a Rapidograph pen, he refines and transfers the image onto Mylar, a special plastic-like film. The near-finished product is then professionally photographed into a digital Mylar print where the oil-based markers and pastels are added to complete the piece.