“Everyone’s very supportive. Everyone’s very in tune with each other.”
For Joshua Rivaldo, creativity runs in the family. Both his uncle and his grandfather were artists, and he remembers their paintings hanging in his childhood home in South Florida. Around age ten, Rivaldo felt the pull to create something of his own… he just didn’t know where to start. That is, until he noticed the graffiti tags on the walls behind his school.
Rivaldo filled notebooks with graffiti art and used up Expo markers until they ran dry. His father noticed the initiative and bought him his first set of expensive markers. There were 136 different colors—a number that he still remembers to this day.
The passion and dedication only grew from there. Rivaldo started taking art books from the library. He poured over Bridgman, endlessly practicing hands, bodies and faces. He eventually compiled enough work to send a portfolio to Ringling College of Art and Design, where he studied for four years. He currently works as an illustrator and concept artist, specifically for films and video games.
Rivaldo ultimately left Florida during the pandemic. His father, the owner and chef at Hooked in Clarks Summit, had made the move to NEPA just a few years earlier, and Rivaldo decided to follow in his footsteps. He now lives in the Abingtons, where he balances his freelance projects with his work at his family’s restaurant. He even designed the labels for Hooked’s new frozen soup line, which is available in select Gerrity’s Supermarkets.
This spring, Rivaldo is embarking on the next step in his journey and opening his own art studio in Clarks Summit. The studio not only serves as his workshop, but also a place where the entire community can connect with art. He plans to offer art classes and workshops for all ages, as well as services like digital portraits and graphic design.
We caught up with Rivaldo at the new studio. We had the chance to see some of his incredible work, hear his story and ask the essential question—why NEPA?
How long have you lived in NEPA?
I’m going on a year and a half.
What brought you to NEPA?
I graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. After I graduated there, I moved out here. I was supposed to work at a WWE opportunity up in Boston, which would have been super cool. It would have been for an apparel artist, which is something I was really passionate about. But I graduated in 2020, so two of my internship opportunities completely fell through. They had no budgets to hire any new people. I moved up here in Pennsylvania specifically to be closer to my pops because he had the restaurant.
Did anything surprise you about NEPA?
Yeah, the time people take out of their day to talk to you. It’s pretty awesome. Everyone’s very supportive. Everyone’s very in tune with each other. Being from Florida, people are idling at 70 miles per hour, so there’s not a lot of chances to get at the core connection or to really collaborate or contribute with each other, whether they be businesses, products or whatever the case may be. That gave me more of an inclination that I could start a business, and this would be a great place to start.
What do you love about your town?
It’s how people help each other. Just look at COVID, when Hooked was only doing takeout. I think that explains Northeastern Pennsylvania more than anything else. During that time, people supported the restaurant when it wasn’t open. We were only doing takeout, having cars waiting there. It’s just that idea of, “I know you guys are going to be open eventually. I know you guys have a good product. We got you.” Then we opened, and look at all this reception. That is something that doesn’t make national headlines. It’s something that doesn’t get posted about a lot. I think it should be on the forefront.
What’s your favorite NEPA restaurant?
This is going to be in public, isn’t it? So, Hooked. [laughs] But no, it’s either between Hooked and Rosario’s, just because of the localness. I know a lot of people in there. When times come that I get out of the restaurant and maybe I didn’t make anything for myself, they’ll throw me extra garlic knots. They’re always just looking out, so I appreciate them.
What’s your favorite thing to do in NEPA?
If I get extra free time, I’ll usually take my girlfriend to Scranton. Scranton’s awesome. They always have something going on. I love D&D’s. It’s a collectibles store down there next to The Railyard. I love that town, just with the train station next to the Radisson and that whole vibe.
What was your proudest moment as an artist?
The proudest moment I’ve ever had creating art was seeing the soups [Hooked’s line of frozen soups] in the store. For sure. I think not only just for me, but for my dad. I think that’s probably one of my proudest moments—to see his product be described visually and have it meet the same level of passion.
Which is your favorite piece?
Those faces behind you. I just made those last week. They’re called my “Phases of Faces.” I’m trying to get to a hundred. That series is called “Fruitful,” so his name is Berry, his name is Lemon and her name is Peach. I have three more coming—Orange, Kiwi and Grape. I’m going to keep making these. They’re really fast to make, but the goal is to eventually be the man of a hundred faces and try to animate them and try to create clothing and stuff like that.
What’s next for you?
My goal is in longevity—to be the change you wish see in the world, to be the light in people’s lives. I’m not just an artist. I am way more than this. I love to talk. I love to connect. This is a way that I can somehow seep into people’s lives, to somehow motivate them and push them to get further. It doesn’t necessarily have to be creative—just to not lose that enthusiasm or that childhood passion that you used to have when you were a kid, whether it be anything that you do.
It’s hard, and especially in art. If I can do that for one person, that would be great. But the goal is not one person. Hopefully, it’s a thousand. Hopefully, it’s more than that. But this is how I’m starting off.
Where do you see NEPA heading in the future?
It’s hard to say because I got here when it was COVID. I think probably the biggest thing that I’m seeing or that I’m hoping for in the future are more events—more communal things for people to gather together. I think it’s awesome, like the Summit Second Saturday and First Friday. I’ve been seeing that a lot. There’s always things going on and stuff like that.
I think coming from Florida, I was a small fish in an ocean and not really knowing when I came here that this was going to be my destiny or that this was going to be a part of my journey. I realized I was one of a few artists who were really trying to do this in the area. So, I was a big fish in a small pond. I realized instantly that this is a great place to be.
The more that I saw the family and communal aspect of Northeastern Pennsylvania, I realized that is something that my art and my approach is lacking. That is something that has reinvigorated it.