Carrillo then continued his art studies at Art Division, which McCleary had recently established in the Rampart District of Los Angeles, and which was specifically created to serve young people like Javier who had lost access to community-based arts programs after high school graduation. Over time Javier became the Operations Manager for Art Division, and now teaches printmaking there. His development as an artist and teacher has given Javier ambition and focus, even though it hasn't been easy for him to explain his new career to his parents and five siblings: "We came from Mexico, and they wanted me to go to school to be a doctor: something big. My family has lived in a poor community, and they didn't see art as a career. Now that I am much older they kind of get it."
Emmanuel Galvez also met Dan at HOLA, but not as a student. Galvez was serving as a drawing model and when he mentioned to Dan that it was his birthday McCleary responded by handing him a small gift: a pen. "That made an impact," Galvez recalls, "someone actually cared." Although he had drawn in middle school, when Emmanuel met Dan he had no inclination to become an artist, and was generally unsure of his future: "I didn't know where I was going, and in High School I was hanging out with the wrong people."
Before long Galvez was not only studying with McCleary, but also serving as a studio assistant. "One day I organized Dan's work and just looking at it made me want to be an artist," Galvez comments. "It was like WOW, if I could start now someday I could be like him." In 2010 Galvez also assisted Dan and Javier in working on a major commission: a set of three panels commissioned by the General Services Administration for the Federal courthouse in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
"Dan is the big influence," Javier says, "Be a Dan McCleary." Emmanuel says of Dan: "I see him as a father, because my relationship with my dad after I graduated from high school kind of ended. You have to meet Dan to see who he really is: he is an amazing person."
Since McCleary's paintings have reached a masterful level of clarity, I think his description is more than enough. Characteristically, he had much more to say about his students than he did about himself or his own work.
Emmanuel's tenacity and diligence as a student and artist have been phenomenal to watch. He has learned not only from me but from his teachers at SMC and from his coworkers. He is thinking critically about his own artwork and the work of other artists in a very mature way. Javier has always had an incredibly sophisticated visual sense. He has also a natural ability to draw. The two are now joined by a knowledge of how to structure a painting with great intelligence and intuition.When words like that are spoken by someone you admire, they can change your life.