“Art is Medicine”

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Rudolph Serrano is a longtime community member of ArtStreet and a patient at AHCH’s medical and dental clinic. He is an activist, artist, community advocate, and one of the most positive people you might ever meet. He uses his art to help him connect with his community, to find peace and healing, to push for justice, and to amplify his voice. He was generous enough to share his story.

Rudolph staring into camera as he tells his story

"Art is Medicine"

When I first became homeless, I lived in my van. I used to call it my PTSD cruiser, because I would just move and move anytime I thought somebody was bothering me. With PTSD, I can sometimes be a little paranoid and negative, and I go in and out. Sometimes I think “oh no, all people are evil” or “nobody is going to appreciate what you do, nobody understands” and that’s the inner dialogue that I have when it comes to most people. But ArtStreet is always a safe place to go back, focus on the positive, and move forward. To have a place to go and just do something, without having to interact with anyone, but still being in community. It is just healing.

"Reconnecting has been a long road."

I use art to try and connect with people because it is really hard for me to connect directly. For many years, I was super extroverted, but then I ended up with false charges and I went to jail for a long time, where I was harassed, and beaten, and thrown into solitary confinement. There, they can do whatever they want with you, they can disappear you, and nobody would ever know. I have a lot of trauma and PTSD from that. I completely lost hope in social networks, put my guard up, isolation. I used to believe in anything. So now, reconnecting has been a long road. ArtStreet is one of the places that is always a good, safe place to go back to. I want to focus on forgiveness and move on. And if not forgiveness, then definitely move on—because if you can’t move on that is when you get stuck.

It's been almost five years with ArtStreet, but the first year I would show up and I wouldn’t be able to focus, the attention span was completely gone. Five minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes and I would work on my focus—and then when you can focus and think, art happens as a result. For me, my Art is my Medicine. If you can identify with the therapy and the colors during their session, then the colors can be therapeutic.

Rudolph with his art piece, Gray Matters

When I’m sad I do blues, when I’m happy yellows—like Van Gogh. When I’m gray, I use gray. I’m working on a piece right now, called Gray Matters, and it’s the gray years inside jail, with me looking out. And it’s therapeutic because I’m telling people my story. The media and the politicians tell a different story, and you can’t fight a system all by yourself. Nobody wants to hear you. All I can hope is that through my Art and My words my grandkids and my kids can listen and know my story, my truth. That is what art does for me, it is activism, it is change, it is my voice.

"I want this to be different, I know it can be different."

With ArtStreet right next to the medical clinic and the resource center, I’m transferring all my services to you guys [at AHCH]. I love Dr. Shi, she told me that she can fix my teeth, for free! Nobody has been able to help me like that before. I also know that you guys have a lot of therapy sessions now, so I want to use that more now too and get some help with organizing my plans and thoughts. My biggest challenge right now is trying to cross the bridge where I can be on my own. My dream is to open my own art studio. But sometimes I get scared. It’s hard to plan and get excited for a future, for it to get taken away from you. I have to admit, maybe that’s why I don’t finish things once I start. But, I want this to be different. I know it can be different.

Rudolph smiling, optimistic, dreamer

Rudolph interview 3 1

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Show people experiencing homelessness, that you see them. That you hear them. And that you care about them. Break the cycle. 

Humans of Albuquerque

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