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Meet Monica Trinidad in Rogers Park

Today we’d like to introduce you to Monica Trinidad.

Monica, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My father was an artist and I vividly remember peering over his drafting table as a child, watching him draw life-size portraits with just simple coloring pencils. In high school, you could always find me in the art & music hall, but I never thought of art as something I could pursue realistically. My father didn’t finish art school and coming from a working-class family I thought I had to pursue a financially-stable job. It wasn’t until a few years ago, in the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, that I re-visited my artistic practice as a tangible and responsible way to participate in amplifying struggles for justice, especially racial justice, in Chicago and across the country. I started out making a few posters here and there for grassroots organizations with some acrylics, watercolors, and micro-pens, and then the requests started pouring into my inbox!

Has it been a smooth road?
I’ve always struggled with feeling like a legitimate artist. Actually, I still do!

Without any art school or professional training, I’m technically considered a self-taught artist, although with all the mentorship from cultural workers and movement artists in my life who have guided me – and continue to guide me – I am realistically more of a “community-taught” artist. Artists like Micah Bazant (Oakland, CA) have taught me that the process of art-making is just as important, if not more, than the art product. That makes for very slow art-making because of so many back-and-forths with collaborators and art subjects, but it’s truly worth it in the end.

I also struggled with how to file my taxes as an artist! Figuring out what receipts to save, what is considered an “expense,” how to price my art, how to sell my art, all of that was unknown territory to me, and the knowledge is hard to access without paying for pricey classes. Luckily through hubs like Chicago Artists Coalition and the Propeller Fund, I slowly but surely learned the ropes.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Monica Trinidad story. Tell us more about the business.
All of those art requests I started receiving in my inbox made me recognize the need for more artists to get organized to fill this local call! I became one of several founders of For the People Artists Collective, a radical squad of Black artists and artists of color in Chicago. Launched in January of 2015, we believe that as artists who also organize, it is our duty to create work that uplifts and projects struggle, resistance, liberation, and survival within and for our marginalized communities and movements in our city and our world. To this date, we’ve created artwork for over 40 organizations, campaigns, and efforts in Chicago, and we’re about to launch our 3rd radical coloring book which archives Chicago resistance in ways that people of all ages can interact with. We operate through generous community donations, fundraisers, small, local grants, and a percentage from each artist’s commission on projects that come through the collective. You can read more about us at forthepeoplecollective.org.

As for my solo work, I vend postcards and prints online at Big Cartel (monicatrinidad.bigcartel.com) and at different social justice-oriented events or neighborhood festivals. Since a lot of my work is created in collaboration with a specific organization, I generally give a percentage of sales back to the organization to sustain their work. Not only is artwork beneficial in documenting and archiving our resistance movements, but its also a nice way to raise funds that are quickly needed!

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I think people are starting to understand that art is not just an accessory to organizing for justice, its an essential component. It shouldn’t be an afterthought. It shouldn’t just be a banner the night before, it should be at the forefront of thinking through your campaign strategy from day 1. Movement art is growing and proliferating online through social media platforms on a daily basis, so I think we’ve moved away from trying to emphasize its importance, to emphasize the significance of slow process for a truly purposeful art piece. When you’re making your artwork, especially if your subjects are people, are you asking them for permission to draw them? Are you asking their organization what is the most important message to convey? Are you highlighting the people doing the work or the people already in the limelight? Are you giving them a percentage of any sales you make from the artwork that features their visuals? All of those components matter when we’re creating artwork that we will potentially profit from.

Contact Info:

  • Website: monicatrinidad.com
  • Phone: 312-771-6269
  • Email: monicatrinidadart@gmail.com
  • Instagram: monicatrinidadart
  • Facebook: N/A
  • Twitter: monicatea2


Image Credit:

Hoda Katebi

Getting in touch: VoyageChicago is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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