The Bauer Building mural facade

1987 through 1988 were years of collaboration between John and fellow artist Gabriel Cespedes. They produced several commercial projects such as the Bauer building mural facade.

The Bauer Mural Facade

The 1980's were tough economic times. A national recession during this decade deeply affected cities like Cleveland. The closure of several steel production centers in the region deeply contributed to high unemployment rates and population loss. For artists and art galleries living of the proverbial "fat of the land", times were even more strenuous. Many moved on to other fields of work to make a living and continued doing art mostly as a hobby -although some harbored the hope of getting back on the wagon when things got better. But the fact remained that artists, like businesses, same as now, need to diversify in changing times in order to survive.

John never harbored a desire to build a career in the arts. He felt that having a career would bring responsibilities that would tie him to a specific place or a standard 9-to-5 work pattern. Being ADHD makes it difficult for a person to adapt to a rigid working routine. But an artist works at his or her liesure and this suited John well. So he didn't advertise or pass business cards (he never used a phone until he was twenty). But unlike those who want to be professional artists, and do seek an artistic career, and go out of their way to proactively achieve their goals, it was John's proficiency at doing art that brought people to him with offers of more work.

However, being a frugal person, John never needed much to live on other than providing for his basic needs. And, he enjoyed investing his time in scholarly pursuits. So he postponed beginning a new project until he was broke. But in the 1980's all this changed. John married and soon had a small family to support. So he began to take on more work, even the types of jobs he enjoyed the least, such as decoration and signage work. But just as with mural painting, or doing theatre, he became very adept at this too, given the clients -to their delight, more than they had expected.

He counted as good fortune the fact that his first formal job in Cleveland while taking a break from college in 1979 was working for a sign company -Brilliant Sign Company. For almost a year he worked doing sign layouts and helping construct all manner of 3-dimensional signage, which involved welding, electrical wiring and also working with plastics. Once he learned all he could about the trade, he left Brilliant to continue college before the work became repetitive. But the knowledge and the practice he adquired at Brilliant (now Brilliant Electric Sign Co Ltd) served him well in future projects.

Mural de Lijas A not-so-good Polaroid photo of the finished job. In addition to the main sign, every window, door and glass panes are not real. They were painted in a studio and installed after the building was repaired and painted. The final addition of landscaping (done after the photograph was taken) completed the illusion of reality.

In 1987 John joined forces the fellow artist Gabriel Cespedes to tackle larger projects under the name of "Artista Inc". "Gabe" was an illustrator and airbrush artist with a speical quality that is imperative for any successful business: he was a "people person" and people loved him! Together they approach larger projects of which the Bauer building mural facade is worth mentioning.

"Bauer" was an an automobile service shop specialising in radiators, and its owner, a lovely lady named Annie, needed to do something to fix her property. The front of the building facing the main street (the facade) looked condemned since all the windows had been covered with plywood (the service entrance was actually in the back), the wood siding was rotting and the paint had either peeled off or washed away.

John and Gabe put together a crew to replace the wood that needed replacing and painted the entire structure. So while Gabe supervised the crew John designed a new facade and painted signs and artwork at the shop. The art consisted of scenes of a busy automotive repair shop in four separate panels to be placed were the storefront glass should be. The upper windows were also painted on panels with a cat painted on one of the window sills. Lettering was added on the "front glass" and a new door-entrance was painted for the right side of the facade. In a month, the entire building was transformed.

church sign in puerto rico by john rivera-resto, 1976 Almost without exception, the one question someone will ask a muralist while on the job is: -"Can you paint a sign for my store?" Muralist HATE lettering. It's the hardest thing to do because it does require training, skill and precision. But there are more clients for signs than for murals. So, muralitst combine the two to make a living -as John has since 1976!

Annie and the shop mechanics always got a kick when someone came and knocked on "the front door". Traffic slowed down when they passed by and admired the illusion. By the end of the summer the Cleveland City Council gave Annie a commendation for the transformation of her building. It's amazing what you can do with time and a little paint. It also helps to have John Rivera-Resto directing the job.

Baur Auto Radiator Co. does not exist anymore. In less than six months after the restoration the property was sold and demolished to make room for the expansion program of the Cleveland Metropolitan Hospital. This job was typical of several jobs John did over the years to pay the rent. Artistically, they were not very challenging (at least by his standards). But they were fun to do and he made a modest living.

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