2023 Artist in Residence Installation “A Microcosm of Hope” – May 16-27

Jesse Villarruel, a Visual and Public Art (VPA) senior at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB), has been selected to be the 2023 Artist in Residence (AIR) at ReGen Monterey. The AIR Program is a partnership between ReGen Monterey, CSUMB and Last Chance Mercantile. Since 2016, student artists from CSUMB are selected for a fellowship at ReGen Monterey. The artists work in a recycled truck trailer, repurposed into an art studio, at Last Chance Mercantile, where they salvage for discarded materials and upcycle them into art. Villarruel also discovered materials from ReGen Monterey’s recycling plant, the Materials Recovery Facility.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to make sustainable art from recycled and salvaged materials,” said Villarruel. “After learning about the roles ReGen Monterey and Last Chance Mercantile play in improving our community and environment, I wanted to be able to educate and inspire my audience to reduce and reuse their own excess materials in order to protect our environment.”

Visitors to Last Chance Mercantile have been able to observe Villarruel’s creative process and interact with the artist during store hours. The fellowship will culminate with an art installation titled “A Microcosm of Hope” from May 16-27, 2023, and a special reception on Thursday, May 18 at 2 p.m. at Last Chance Mercantile. The installation and reception are open to the public.

Jesse Villarruel is a multidisciplinary artist from San Diego, California, specializing in painting, drawing, sculpting and poetry, all of which he hopes to incorporate into his art installation. According to Villarruel, his art is “inspired by the people, environment and stories that surround us,” especially “stories of people who overcome great obstacles.” Recent artwork includes paintings and roadside murals of farmworkers in the Salinas Valley, along with a mural depicting scenes from Monterey County on a CSUMB building. Villarruel is currently at work in his Last Chance Mercantile studio painting scenes and workers from ReGen Monterey’s Materials Recovery Facility and the natural landscapes that surround the site. He will graduate with a B.A. in Visual and Public Art from CSU Monterey Bay in May.

“We are proud to continue this longstanding tradition and support of our local artist community,” said Felipe Melchor, general manager of ReGen Monterey. “Jesse has a special eye for illustrating the beauty of our region and the hard work of essential workers in Monterey County. He is an excellent choice for inspiring people to protect the environment and celebrate our community.”

The Artist in Residence program’s goal is to inspire creative reuse and educate our community about the importance of repurposing and recycling materials. Learn more about the program and previous artists in residence at regenmonterey.org/artist-in-residence/. Follow @regenmonterey on Instagram for updates about Villarruel’s work and @jessev_art to see more of his portfolio.

Last Chance Mercantile is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.