Interview with Stephen Batiz

West Orange artist Stephen Batiz.  "I just want to create a positive place for kids to create, where they will feel comfortable and not be bothered with the stress that life puts on us."  Photo by Mike Reilly.

West Orange artist Stephen Batiz.  "I just want to create a positive place for kids to create, where they will feel comfortable and not be bothered with the stress that life puts on us."  Photo by Mike Reilly.

By Patricia Rogers

Batiz, what I call him sometimes, I have known since my early days in the Valley.  Back in 2011 when I was with HANDS, we were a part of a creative team in charge of the decor for the nonprofit’s 25th anniversary.  Stephen, Mike Malbrough, and the rest of ORNG Ink were handed the task of transforming an entire floor in the abandoned warehouse, Selecto Flash, into a party.  It was a time sensitive project and the one that brought me into the circle of artists that was called ORNG Ink.

Batiz has a mural facing the old Ironworks building -- a group project with local artists Mike Mal and Vladimir Jean.  He has put on and been a part of memorable shows like Transverse Megabirth, Tar and Mutt Putt.  He is a unique individual who I am glad I had the chance to meet and work with.  He’s been busy this summer working in the kitchen and teaching art at World Fellowship Center in New Hampshire.

Having Stephen on your team, you are already on a successful team.  He is smart, talented and most importantly has always been dedicated to his art and how he can help young people with it.  Over the years he has proved to be a great leader and gifted artist.  One constant over the years has been Stephen’s dedication to educating local youth.  He is starting his own program, Kiatud, and he is telling me all about it.

Patricia Rogers:  Hi Batiz, thank you for giving me this interview.  Start by telling me a little about yourself and where you grew up.

Stephen Batiz:  I grew up the in Valley Area of West Orange.  Thinking back, I probably wasn't the most ideal child to have around.  I believe I was extremely polite but would also have fits the second I didn't agree with someone (adults mostly, they always gotta 'know' everything).

Describe your journey as an artist.

I found art at a young age, being that it is the one thing that calms me and honestly the one thing that keeps me sane.  So it was basically a lot of doodling until I started painting more frequently my junior or senior year of high school.  Since then I've been practicing painting, and then we are back in present time where I am just an overall creative.

Who were some teachers, mentors or older artists who made an impact on your life?

I have a few art teachers that had an impact on my life.  As far as older artists, possibly?  I have always been a fan of graffiti, but I never got into the scene.  Some of my influences are within the graffiti world, but I've always wanted to paint like the masters and recently decided to just do my own thing since that's more true to who I am.

What is Kiatud? What does it mean?

So KIATUD is my own spelling of the Spanish translation of Quietude (Chill, Tranquil, calm), something like that.  I am a very calm person most of the time and Kiatud is basically the best way to describe myself as an artist and how I work with others when they are working on something creative.

Why do you think it was important to start this program?

Growing up there wasn't really much to do around the Valley.  I mean, there was always something to do but there was never really a place I could go and practice creating with a more experienced artist.  So I decided to try and start a more focused art program for kids that will allow them to work on their own project with more professional-grade materials so they have a better understanding of what Creating can really be.

How did being an artist-in-residence at Ironworks make a difference to you as an artist?

Working out of IRONWORKS was nice because I had a lot of time to learn about putting shows together and working with other artists.  It was extremely nice having a gallery/studio to plan shows, but the best part was the family I gained from working there.

How will this program be different from than others?

This program is different than most but not the only one of its kind, I'm sure.  I know there isn't much like this around the Valley area, so I wanted to bring something to the area that I would have enjoyed as a kid.  I know that I will always support and question my students, and they will also learn life skills along with creative skills while attending Kiatud's Creative Intensive.

How do you want this to help your community/hometown of Orange and West Orange?

I just want to create a positive place for kids to create, where they will feel comfortable and not be bothered with the stress that life puts on us.  This program won't change the Valley area, it will just be a positive addition to the area.  The last thing I want to do is change the area I grew up in.  I learned plenty from the Valley area, and I wouldn't want that to change. 

About the Writer

Patricia Rogers, #ValleyGirlNJ, lives in New Jersey's Valley Arts District.  The native New Yorker works as a writer, blogger and community activist. Starting Masconsumption Media in 2012, she has been passionate about capturing the stories of the vibrant up and coming Valley Arts District neighborhood through her blog, zine, events and more.  She blogs for Jersey Indie, Luna Stage, and Hat City Kitchen and offers many creative media services.  Visit her blog www.masconsumption.com and keep up with your favorite Valley Girl on social media at @valleygirl_nj (Twitter / Instagram).