Community Profile: Freddy Calderon and Romulo Casillas

Oct 18, 2022 | The Arts

Freddy Calderon and Romulo Casillas are artists, organizers, and  small business owners in the City of San Bernardino

Freddy (a multi-talented photographer, event organizer, and filmmaker) and Romulo (a designer, marketing manager, and filmmaker) have worked for decades to establish themselves as artists and successful entrepreneurs in the City of San Bernardino.

“You have to wear like 20 hats to make it as a creative,” Freddy emphasized, but if you keep at it, you don’t burn bridges, and your work speaks for itself, you can grow and get referrals and you don’t have to struggle so hard to put yourself out there.

Being persistent and knowing how to create connections and build momentum is a skill both Freddy and Romulo insist has helped them as artists and inspired them to look beyond their own careers as well, to give back to the community and infuse more creativity into life of Downtown San Bernardino.

About a year ago Freddy and Romulo started collaborating with organizers of the Downtown SB Arts Walk, including Kris Gonazlez, another of the event’s coordinators.  Freddy and Romulo heard about the efforts and knew their expertise would be helpful, suggesting local talented musicians and dancers, like the Aztec Dancers. Their experience with visual marketing and design brought a lot of prestige and visibility to the event, making many folks in the community proud to support and excited for something happening downtown again.

Although the benefits to local businesses are also clear – Viva La Boba boasts its highest sales on the nights of those events – Freddy and Romulo insist that the effort is rooted in community engagement before business. Local artists didn’t want to have to go all the way to Pomona to sell work, and residents wanted to see more happening in the city.

Other efforts like SB Food Fest, created and supported by Kim Knaus and Kenesha Boyd and volunteers at We Are The Change, have a similar impetus.

One of the threads connecting all of this work is the belief that the arts and artists have the power to inspire people to take care of a place and become interested in seeing this city in new ways. That’s what’s happening right now; folks are tired of hearing all the negative press about San Bernardino, about hearing how there’s no history here.

Freddy spoke eloquently to this point. “There is a psychological effect on people if you see no one taking care of the city.” Folks begin to say the same thing – ‘Well then I’m not going to care either.’ “But if you’re an artist now, we have to think about what the youth are seeing and give them something to see themselves taking care of in the future.  

We need to present the city’s history in a way that’s digestible and we need to take care of our historic buildings and document the murals and have the plan to plan and grow that program.”

The city has an opportunity here to invest in the youth and the creative energy that resides in the city and is actively supporting its regeneration.