Look­ing to steer Lati­nos into auto de­sign

Lati­nos have helped shape car cul­ture but are un­der­rep­re­sented in Art Cen­ter pro­gram.

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Charles Flem­ing

Los An­ge­les is a world cen­ter for au­to­mo­tive de­sign, and its Latino pop­u­la­tion has made mas­sive con­tri­bu­tions to Amer­i­can car cul­ture — from cus­tom paint and pin­strip­ing to lowrider car de­sign.

It has made less of an im­pact on Pasadena’s Art Cen­ter Col­lege of De­sign, the top auto de­sign train­ing in­sti­tu­tion in the na­tion, where just 5% of about 2,000 stu­dents are of Latino her­itage.

“It’s not enough,” said Ste­wart Reed, chair of Art Cen­ter’s Trans­porta­tion Sys­tems and De­sign pro­gram. “We’re not sat­is­fied with that num­ber.”

Bruno Gal­lardo is the ex­cep­tion to that rule, the only Latino in the pro­gram’s grad­u­at­ing class of 2015. The 26-year-old from Van Nuys joins an au­gust body of alumni. Grad­u­ates have gone on to dis­tin­guish them­selves as de­sign­ers and de­sign ex­ec­u­tives at a long list of U.S. and Euro­pean car­mak­ers as di­verse as Alfa Romeo, Ford, Tesla and Volvo.

Luxury car builder Hen­rik Fisker was a grad­u­ate. So was Wil­lie G. David­son, grand­son of a Har­ley-David­son co-founder and later a key designer at the mo­tor­cy­cle com­pany.

There’s no easy an­swer as to why there aren’t more Bruno Gal­lar­dos on that list,

but the school’s global rep­u­ta­tion means it draws stu­dents from ev­ery­where — and not nec­es­sar­ily those match­ing the de­mo­graph­ics of their South­ern Cal­i­for­nia home. School of­fi­cials say the high tu­ition and a limited sup­ply of Latino pro­fes­sors may be part of the rea­son.

“We’re try­ing to in­crease the di­ver­sity of our fac­ulty,” Reed said. “We know it starts with the fac­ulty.”

Lo­cal Latino stu­dents, mean­while, don’t nec­es­sar­ily see the lo­cal school as a home for them.

“There was this per­ceived re­al­ity that this isn’t a field for Lati­nos,” said ac­tor, co­me­dian and car en­thu­si­ast Cheech Marin. “It’s a club for th­ese other guys.”

Marin col­lects Chi­cano art and has helped judge Art Cen­ter com­pe­ti­tions. The school, he said, is miss­ing out on a wealth of his­tory and cul­ture that Latino stu­dents could bring to au­to­mo­tive de­sign. L.A.’s Lati- nos rep­re­sent a car cul­ture that ac­tu­ally pre­dates the au­to­mo­bile, he said.

“The whole Mex­i­can fas­ci­na­tion with cars comes out of the fas­ci­na­tion with horses,” Marin said. “That’s the rea­son lowrid­ers go slow. They pa­rade their cars like they pa­raded their horses around the square in Mex­ico — in or­der to show off for girls.”

Lati­nos from East Los An­ge­les drove the cul­tural phe­nom­e­non of cruis­ing, which drove lowrider car de­sign, which gave birth to home­grown cruise mu­sic — in­clud­ing Richie Valens’ “La Bamba” and War’s “Low Rider.”

“Low-rid­ing cul­ture started here in Los An­ge­les,” said Les­lie Ken­dall, chief cu­ra­tor of the Petersen Au­to­mo­tive Mu­seum, which has hosted two lowrider-themed ex­hibits.

Gal­lardo ended up at Art Cen­ter through the in­ter­ven­tion of a man whose home his mother was clean­ing. The Hon­duran im- mi­grant worked as a house­keeper for tele­vi­sion writer John Peaslee, who no­ticed her son’s keen in­ter­est in cars.

As a boy, Gal­lardo thought he might end up a me­chanic, like his un­cle, who owned his own shop. But Peaslee one day took him to an open house at Art Cen­ter, an im­pres­sion that stuck.

Gal­lardo, a sharp dresser who has thick, wavy black hair and a pierc­ing in one eye­brow, is the sec­ondy­oungest in a fam­ily of five chil­dren, and the only boy.

His mother en­cour­aged his in­ter­est in build­ing with an early Lego set. (One of his first constructions was a car.) Later, she helped him buy bro­ken-down mo­tor­cy­cles and beater cars, which he turned into daily driv­ers and sold to raise money to buy bet­ter ve­hi­cles.

While at­tend­ing Birm­ing­ham High School, Gal­lardo crammed in work­shops and week­end classes that Art Cen­ter of­fers for younger stu­dents who show prom­ise. He con­tin­ued tak­ing Art Cen­ter classes part-time while at­tend­ing Pasadena City Col­lege, hop­ing to be ad­mit­ted as a full-time stu­dent.

Af­ter he was, ad­min­is­tra­tors said, he was able to take ad­van­tage of schol­ar­ship pro­grams — the school dis­trib­utes $15 mil­lion a year in fi­nan­cial aid — which took some of the sting out of the school’s tu­ition. A typ­i­cal un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree costs more than $150,000, and Gal­lardo es­ti­mates his stu­dent loan tab at about $100,000.

Art Cen­ter rep­re­sen­ta­tives said about 90% of grad­u­ates are work­ing in their cho­sen field of study within a year of grad­u­at­ing. A cer­tain per­cent­age are hired be­fore they grad­u­ate, for en­try-level de­sign jobs that may pay from $55,000 to $80,000 a year.

Within a cou­ple of weeks of grad­u­at­ing, Gal­lardo said he had al­ready in­ter­viewed with Honda, Gen­eral Mo- tors, Chrysler and other au­to­mo­tive com­pa­nies — af­ter hav­ing done un­der­grad­u­ate in­tern­ships with Ford, Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory and Po­laris In­dus­tries. The in­ter­view­ing is very com­pet­i­tive, es­pe­cially for car com­pany de­sign jobs.

“It’s like the NBA draft,” said Gal­lardo, who likened tran­si­tion­ing from star stu­dent to job can­di­date to “go­ing from be­ing the big­gest shark in the tank to be­ing in an aquar­ium full of sharks.”

Gal­lardo’s de­sign in­ter­ests are far-reach­ing, and his tastes are eclec­tic. Be­fore en­ter­ing Art Cen­ter, he built his own elec­tric mo­tor­cy­cle, and to­day con­fesses great ad­mi­ra­tion for the form and func­tion of the Tesla elec­tric car.

His school projects in the de­sign pro­gram in­cluded a Lam­borgh­ini — be­cause, he jokes, the com­pany ac­tu­ally makes a 200-mile-per-hour su­per­car called a “Gal­lardo.” (His “dream car,” when he was a boy, was the Lam­borgh­ini V12 Coun­tach, he said.)

It’s not the out­side of the car that ex­cites him, Gal­lardo said, as much as the in­side: “In­te­ri­ors are my pur­suit. I see a lot of missed op­por­tu­ni­ties there.”

And his Latino her­itage, he thinks, does not de­fine him.

“I re­ally don’t con­sider my race as an inf lu­ence,” he said. “The only time I pay at­ten­tion to that is when I’m fill­ing out a form.”

In late May, Gal­lardo’s fam­ily and men­tor Peaslee at­tended the grad­u­a­tion. “We were all sob­bing,” Peaslee said.

Af­ter he took his di­ploma, Gal­lardo said, his mother gave him a con­grat­u­la­tory card — with a caveat.

“She said, ‘I’m go­ing to give you this card, but first you have to give me back my credit card,’ ” Gal­lardo said. “She said, ‘ You’re on your own now.’ ”

Luis Sinco Los An­ge­les Times

BRUNO GAL­LARDO, in his stu­dio workspace at Pasadena’s Art Cen­ter Col­lege of De­sign, is the only Latino in its auto de­sign pro­gram’s grad­u­at­ing class of 2015.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.