Making a Life Out of Making Art

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For Ricardo, art is something that has always been a part of his life. 

“I’ve been drawing since I was a baby,” he said. “I was always drawing and drawing.” 

A native of Mexico, Ricardo has faced his share of challenges. Before coming to the United States, he admitted he was difficult to live with and “nobody could handle me” – including his family.

Trying to Become an Artist

He left home as a young man as a result. Ricardo bounced around frequently, looking for employment. Twenty-five years ago he moved to Ketchikan to work as a fisherman, but his dream was always to make a living doing his art. It was rarely easy. He found himself homeless and struggling to make ends meet. 

“I tried to be a real artist,” he said. “It was pretty hard. You live on these dreams, but if you try to live on your art (when you’re just starting out as an artist) you could be homeless like me.” 

Finding Assistance

After making a trip to the senior center in Ketchikan, he learned he was eligible for benefits. Eventually, he was able to find a home at Seaview Terrace, Alaska Housing Finance Corporation’s senior and disabled housing facility in Ketchikan. It has given him stability and a sense of community. 

Today, Ricardo has become a well-known artist. His murals can be found around the city, demonstrating scenes of life in the vibrant Southeast Alaska community. His work has been lauded by local residents, who are frequently talking about his art (including his neighbors at Seaview Terrace) and asking him what is coming next. 

“It is something I was working for, but to reach this point creates different feelings,” he said. “I’ve been working for this, but I didn’t know it was going to happen, that I was going to get all this appreciation for my work and for me.” 

‘It is a beautiful life’

For Ricardo, his art has led him to a place where he feels valued, with an appreciation for both him and his work. And it has helped him move past some of the challenges he faced as a young man.

“It is a beautiful life. It is a blessing to work here,” he said. “I was a drifter, you know. Now I love my life and my work, and I see a lot of art and much potential for me.” 

We recognize that Ricardo’s story is exceptional and some Alaskans may be in need of safe, quality, affordable housing. If you are facing homelessness or need resources, we encourage you to contact Alaska 2-1-1. This free, confidential resource can help you to locate assistance in your home community. Dial 2-1-1 or 1-800-478-2221 or visit

AHFC’s Public Housing maintains waitlists statewide. See openings in your community.