When David Berrios was ridiculed by his cousin at a young age for not even being able to draw Woody Woodpecker, Berrios assumed a career as an artist would be unlikely.
“I couldn’t draw,” said Berrios, who lives in West New York and works as a project manager for network services in New York City’s financial district. “So I had to pursue something else.”
However, Berrios is the creator of an on-line social networking site for artists, which is hosting a book drive in Union City through April to raise money for student scholarships.
It was the combination of socialization and technology that led him to create the site in May 2008.
“I didn’t see anything like that,” said Berrios. “Nothing is artwork tailored; I figured let me try and see what I can do.”
Berrios took his idea to a freelance website builder to create artislyfe.com, a free social networking space for artists to display their work and interact with others. The site also enables non-artists to participate by registering as a fan.
“I think if I lead, other people will follow; somebody has to start the conversation, take the initiative.” – David Berrios
“I was from Hudson County and never went out of Hudson County,” said Berrios. “I never opened my eyes and took it all in. Once you leave Hudson County it’s a different world; that’s why I’m trying to open people’s eyes and expand people’s horizons.”
Paying it forward
The 1997 graduate of Memorial High School said there wasn’t much guidance presented to him when he graduated. Thus, as the community grew on Artislyfe, he felt drawn to create opportunities for others.
“I had an idea to give a sponsorship to an art student,” said Berrios. “I felt like I wish I had those opportunities for myself when I was growing up.”
Berrios collaborated with friend and artist Cesar Rubin, who goes by the nickname “5in5o” (pronounced “cinco”), to create the first annual 5in5o and Artislyfe Art Studio Sponsorship.
Working with a program officer at the New York Academy of Art (NYAA), the pair created a plan to provide an artist with studio space for the summer and with a mentor from the NYAA.
Berrios said they were determined to bring the opportunity to their home state.
“The NYAA doesn’t have many artists from New Jersey,” said Berrios. “They don’t even market over here.”
Kenny Collazo, a Kean University art student and police officer, was chosen for the sponsorship, which will take place from June 1 through July 31. Collazo is already one of two official sketch artists for the state of New Jersey.
The sponsorship provided by Artislyfe and 5in5o will pay for space and materials for Collazo to create a new work in the theme, “Destroy, Rebuild and Hope,” chosen in light of world events over the past year.
During the last week of the program, they will host an art gala at the NYAA featuring work rendered by Collazo, 5in5o, and Artislyfe members.
Berrios said colleges throughout New Jersey will be invited to attend the gala, with the hope that they will provide sponsorships for several students next year.
“I think if I lead other people will follow,” said Berrios, who credited his mom with inspiring his need to help others.
Berrios is also on the Board of Trustees of the Hispanic Business Council Scholarship Foundation (HBCSF), which provides scholarships to high school seniors and current college students throughout New Jersey.
To help raise money for the foundation, Berrios kicked off a book drive in earlier this month at Flaming Burritos in Union City.
The books collected will be traded in for money with Drive4Books in Morristown and the total will be matched by Artislyfe and given to the HBCSF.
The Artislyfe Loads of Books Drive will continue until the end of April at Flaming Burritos, 4625 Park Ave. in Union City. For more information visit www.artislyfe.com.
Lana Rose Diaz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.