Sentrock Is The Boy Who Wanted To Fly (2017)
Written by Vocalo Radio on February 23, 2023
In celebration of Vocalo’s 15th anniversary, we’re looking back on some of our favorite archived segments of “This Is What Chicago Sounds Like.” Joseph Perez is originally from west Phoenix — but in Chicago, he’s known for his paintings of characters with bird masks dreaming of flight. Artistically, he goes by Sentrock, a street artist and muralist stationed in the city.
For street artist Joseph Perez, better known as Sentrock, art has become an escape as well as a tool he uses to build up Chicago’s creative community. His art is showcased on buildings, libraries, on the walls of museums and even on the Vocalo studio. Before his artwork was showcased in a dedicated Elmhurst Art Museum exhibition, and displayed in murals across Chicago, Detroit, Miami, New York, Los Angeles and his home city Phoenix, Sentrock learned to express himself visually through spray painted street art after a teaching artist visited his school. Now, he works to give back to artistic communities in the same way — teaching art to kids at schools and community centers in hopes to inspire future generations.
“What drew me into art was basically the way I do programs now, where I go to schools and I go to community centers and teach,” he said. “I really don’t have no idea what I would be doing if it wasn’t for art and stuff like that, so I just figure, in my way, it’s something that I can give back.”
Although Sentrock is not originally from the Chicago area — he moved to the city from Phoenix in 2011 — his paintings and murals have become synonymous with the richness of Chicago’s arts community.
“Once I came here and visited, I just fell in love and just jumped right in, in the culture,” Sentrock described. “When I first came, I visited Pilsen and I appreciated all the murals and just like the hustle and drive of everyday people. I just felt like it’s somewhere that I just wanted to be around, and be a part of that energy.”
Now, as a professional artist and owner of Sentrock Studio, he has made his work about giving back and adding to the diverse artistic community that is in Chicago. In this segment of “This Is What Chicago Sounds Like,” produced by Fyodor Sakhnovski in October 2017, Sentrock also highlights other community leaders making a change in the city, the inspiration behind his art and how being determined pays off.
“Whatever lane you’re in… whatever type of art you’re into, there’s a lane for you in this city.”– Sentrock
Introduce yourself, and describe your work in a few words.
My name is Joseph Perez, AKA Sentrock, and I’m a street artist. And this is what Chicago sounds like.
What initially drew you to art?
What drew me into art was basically the way I do programs now, where I go to schools and I go to community centers and teach. Someone came to my school, and… took time out of their day to show me about art and show me how to express myself. And that’s really what hooked me into being able to… visually communicate and visually express myself. So that’s something that I always want to do, and give back. And I just got into street art, just got into graffiti, really. I liked art, and where I grew up, the only… resources I had was spray paint and going out… Maybe I did have more resources, but that’s all I really knew. It was like grabbing a spray can and going out and hitting on my name and chilling with friends, stuff like that. I really don’t have no idea what I would be doing if it wasn’t for art and stuff like that, so I just figure, in my way, it’s something that I can give back. I’m a professional artist, and I live off of what I do with galleries and commission, but to be able to go to… community centers and work with students… to me, that keeps me centered.
When did you move to Chicago, and what drew you to the city?
I moved to Chicago about six years ago, and I came here because I enrolled at art school, at Columbia. But I had some friends that lived here, and they kind of lured me this way. And once I came here and visited, I just fell in love and just jumped right in, in the culture. When I first came to visit, I visited Pilsen and I appreciated all the murals and just like the hustle, the drive of the everyday people. I just felt like it’s somewhere that I just wanted to be around, and be a part of that energy.
What do you love about Chicago?
There’s so much to love about this city. You know, everybody always talks about the culture, the diversity, all the different walks of life, different people that come here. And, what really drew me, though, and just being in love with the city, is the heart of the people that [are] thinking outside the box, or like not just going with the average day-to-day… letting letting society kind of mold you, I feel like there’s a lot of culture-molders here in the city, like a lot of people are pushing and raising that bar… From like rappers to like Chance the Rapper, to artists like Hebru, and… even people that have moved out of the city, but still kind of leave that legacy and leave that example for everybody to kind of witness and see and want to fall in that path, but also take it to the next level of art and creativity.
What are the challenges and the triumphs you associate with Chicago?
I think the challenges, just for like, where I live, kind of like the southwest side of Chicago, just… kind of seeing that lack of vision, or maybe lack of hope. I don’t know what it is. But like for me… even someone like me have to worry about… when I’m walking down certain areas. It kind of sucks, because it’s like, you just want to enjoy the city, you want to enjoy everything that comes with it. I want to be able to go out and paint murals and not worry about any of that negativity, from like hood stuff to even like social, like judgment. You know, other than that… that’s a very small factor into what the city offers, and what everybody’s contributing and building what this community is. It’s the type of city that you got to find yourself, you got to know what you stand for and know what you’re about, be able to stand on your own two feet, knowing exactly what you’re representing. And that’s something, no pun intended, but kind of helped me find my wings…
That somebody like me, who grew up in west Phoenix, can move here and be embraced by the community… and be able to make a living off my art just by… working hard, and people appreciate what I do. It’s, you know, one of the biggest markets in the United States… Whatever lane you’re in… whatever type of art you’re into, there’s a lane for you in this city.
And this is what Chicago sounds like.
Since 2016, we have been profiling people who give their all to Chicago and enrich us socially and culturally by virtue of their artistry, social justice work and community-building. Take a listen. Read their words. Become inspired.
Produced and edited by Fyodor Sakhnovski
Introduction written by Joshua X. Miller
Transcription and editing for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca
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