Ed Fuentes, a longtime advocate of the arts, passed away this week. His absence has understandably left a significant hole in both the Los Angeles and Las Vegas art scenes. Ed covered the downtown L.A. art world from 2006 to 2012 through his blog [view]fromaloft and was referred to as “a human cyclone” by the Los Angeles Times, drawing attention to his quick wit and ability to cover so many different angles in his writing and professional life.
If you never had the pleasure of meeting Ed, a black button-down, short-sleeved shirt and baggy jeans were his essential uniform. With a slight sweat on his upper brow, he often carried a camera and a sense of humor wherever he went. Spouting headline quips to frame every situation, he never had a shortage of ideas to debate or issues to contemplate. Everything had story potential to Ed, and conversations often manifested into actual projects, papers, articles and artworks.
Ed slowly transitioned his work into a series for KCET Departures called Writing on the Wall (established in 2010), where he wrote on everything from personalities in the graffiti and street art world to the role of public art and murals in Southern California. His writing style changed as the need arose, from stories to reporting and journalism. His coverage of the Los Angeles mural ordinance was fair, honest and always up to date. He prided himself on having an ear to the streets and a finger on the city’s pulse, checking for perspectives outside the mainstream.
I met Ed through our mutual appreciation of murals, street art and graffiti. We wrote for each other, shared meals, trips and ideas. He was a consummate and ideal writing partner, proposing outlandish and important concepts that functioned as a way of brainstorming. Ed’s very first grant proposal was a successful Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, which allowed him to establish Paint This Desert. Begun in 2013, Paint This Desert was an online arts journal that extended his coverage to his new home in Las Vegas, where he moved to in 2010. Ed invested in his new home city as much as he did in Los Angeles, garnering a community, highlighting the scene and becoming a friend and advocate to many.
Raised in Riverside, he worked in New York and L.A. and had a successful career as a graphic designer and art director for Variety and NBC. Ed referred to himself as a cultural journalist in recent years but he was so much more: an artist, designer, photographer and muralist. However, the title that seemed to delight him the most, but one that he never quite said aloud was that of a scholar. Ed earned his BA late in life from Nevada State College, then his curious mind led him to earn an MFA from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in 2018. Furthering his education was like throwing gasoline on a fire; Ed’s creative output flourished through art shows, print editions, writings on contemporary Latinx art and his recent 2019 solo show at the Riverside Art Museum.
I spoke with Ed by phone a week ago and he shared that he had not been feeling well. I was relieved that he was okay, told him that I loved him, and that I was thankful for his friendship. This conversation was different, more serious. Typically, it would be about BUNKO, Ed’s forgotten fictitious street artist and critic personality who tagged criticism on public art, his underground MFA committee that advised him through the labyrinth of graduate school, or one of the many panels or projects we collaborated on throughout the years. Unfortunately, that was the last time I would talk to Ed, and I am unable to express how frustrating that is. Ed’s ability to have a presence while being modest and meek was truly unique and a consequence of his humble demeanor. There wasn’t a hint of superiority with Ed and he tended to downplay what an important role he played in so many people’s lives. I am thankful for Ed’s service to, and passion for, his fellow artists, his ability to make art more accessible to so many people, his newly discovered career as an art professor, as well as his love for his parents, Lisa, and his friends and, of course, for all the memories he has left for each of us in the arts.