An an artist, educator, and activist, the late Sam Coronado believed in the power of art to shape a community. Coronado’s lifelong commitment to empowering Latinos to express their experiences through art emerged from his involvement with the Chicano Civil Rights Movement.
The lasting symbol of Coronado’s passionate work is his print shop and community space, Coronado Studio. First located on Austin’s east side, and later in the Montopolis neighborhood, Coronado Studio brought together artists, students, and audiences through the collaborative art of printmaking for more than two decades.
In the years since Coronado’s passing in 2013, the studio closed its doors, halting both its longstanding community arts programming and its groundbreaking Serie Project, a screenprinting residency that hosted over 250 artists. Coronado Studio remained empty until December 2020, when the artists Pepe Coronado (no family relation to Sam) and Jonathan Rebolloso moved in.
Pepe and Rebolloso met at Sam’s memorial service, and realized their experiences bookended Coronado Studio’s history. In the mid 1990s, Pepe served as Sam’s first unofficial Master Printer; about 15 years later, Rebolloso became Sam’s final Master Printer.
The two became friends and collaborators, bonded by the legacy of their shared mentor who taught them not only about the craft of printmaking, but about its value within the community.
Then last fall, Jill Ramírez, Sam’s widow, invited Pepe and Rebolloso to use her husband’s former studio to pursue their own work and to document Sam’s print archive, which contains over 250 pieces from the Serie Project residencies plus scores of special edition prints.
Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, Pepe first arrived in Austin in 1991. After starting a job in town as a commercial printer, he took one of Sam’s screen printing classes in 1993 and, in his words, fell in love with the process. At the time Sam had just launched the Serie Project, and he took Pepe under his wing as a dedicated assistant.
“It was a beautiful thing for me as a young immigrant artist,” Pepe said in a recent video call from Coronado Studio. “Sam was a mentor, a friend, a brother, and a dad, all mixed in one.”
After earning an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art and teaching printmaking at universities in Washington DC, Pepe moved to New York City, where he co founded the Domencian York Proyecto Gráfica and established his Coronado Print Studio in East Harlem. In late 2019, he returned to Austin and set up shop at Flatbed Press shortly after.
Mexico-born, Austin-based Rebolloso met Sam as a 17-year-old student in 2008. Rebolloso took Sam’s graphic design class during his first semester at Austin Community College, frequently showing up to Sam’s office hours. The two grew close, and when Rebolloso shared his struggle finding a job that would allow him to stay in school, Sam invited him to work part-time cleaning up around his print shop.
“As soon as I walked in, I didn’t know what I was looking at, but I knew I wanted to be there,” Rebolloso recalled of his first visit to Coronado Studio.
Rebolloso soon went from sweeping floors to making prints. He learned the ins and outs of screen printing first-hand from Sam before becoming a Master Printer himself. Rebolloso also took on projects and commissions through his own print project, Rebo Prints. After Sam’s death, Rebolloso set up in Buda before returning to Austin and moving into the house on the Coronado Studio compound.
Though the pandemic has prevented Coronado Studio from being the buzzing community center it once was, Pepe and Rebolloso keep steady on their — and Sam’s — mission to honor their community. Recently they hosted the El Paso-born, Austin-based artist Nikki Diaz, who created a limited edition screenprint for the University of Texas’ Voces Oral History Center’s Voces of a Pandemic project, which records, archives, and disseminates interviews “to help researchers, journalists and the broader public gain a greater appreciation of the experiences in the Latino community during this historic time.”
Pepe and Rebolloso also remain busy with their own personal projects. Pepe’s work is currently featured in the Smithsonian exhibition ¡Printing the Revolution! The Rise and Impact of Chicano Graphics, 1965 to Now. Rebolloso, who previously worked on posters for local events, is now creating printed merchandise with a political voice.
Their goals for Coronado Studio’s future include making Sam’s print collection available for exhibitions, and as a resource for students and art historians. And they hope to retool and resume the studio’s screen printing residency program next year.
“In the kind of work we do, you have to love the collaborative part,” Pepe explained. “[Printmaking] actually builds this community. By being a multiple art form, you can disseminate the message to a lot of different levels. The cultural equity that you build by having a studio in el barrio is very important. Artists and other people from other communities have to go there to engage, so it gives value to our own culture.”
Pepe and Rebolloso’s open vision match what they saw in Sam.
Reflecting on his predecessor’s legacy, Pepe described Sam’s original print shop as a jewel of East Austin, something that will shine again.
“He was so unafraid of the new,” Pepe said. “He was not afraid of giving a young artist a voice even if they were making something he didn’t necessarily connect with generationally.”