I was actually born in NYC and lived my formative years in Corona, Queens, a stone’s throw from Shea Stadium (now Citi Field) and despite the proximity, everyone in my family was a Yankee fan. Legend has it, my dad had asked his older brother for a loan to buy a house in Queens, and when his older brother refused, my parents packed up and headed out to Providence, RI. The year was 1974 and there was the promise of a small, developing community of Dominican immigrants who were beginning to populate the South Side of Providence, working at junk jewelry factories like Providence Chain and Pakula. In a nutshell, that’s how I ended up growing up in Providence.
My family settled there and raised a total of five kids. They still live there to this day (Most are Red Sox fans.). My younger brother works for the city, my sister has been an RN at Rhode Island Hospital for over 20 years, and my brother-in-law is a State Trooper. My dad has long since sold his auto service business and my mom still works for Herf Jones; they are some of the hardest working people I know and they gave everything, so that we could have a better life.
I attended Lexington Avenue School, which has since burned down. It was there that I got 'the bug' to become an artist. That’s where my gift was discovered. It was Ms. Dee, my second grade teacher, who commissioned my first piece. She asked me to draw a URI Ram on paper, from looking at the one on my friend Dwayne’s sweatshirt. We both sat in the reading area at the front of the class and I’ll never forget the look of joy on her face when the ram was complete. I knew then I had a gift, and I thank her for giving me that moment. That summer, I was asked to come back to the school to help paint murals in the cafeteria. My art career was on its way.
For middle school, I attended Roger Williams, which was literally a zoo, even back then. It was a scary place for a 10 year old. It went from 5th grade to 8th at the time, and at one point that year, God blessed me with the awareness that Gilbert Stuart Middle School was about to be shut down and that the student population at RW was going to double or maybe even triple. I went home and begged my dad, who, at the time, was attending Rhode Island Trade Shop School at night, to get me outta there! Next thing you know, it was 6th grade and I was the new student at St. Paul’s School in Cranston.
By the time high school came around, going public was the only choice: there were 4 more kids that had to come through St. Paul’s ranks, and somehow my mom and dad were able to work hard enough to make it happen. Classical is where I ended up and it was a great experience. I had a chance to join the Computer Club and contribute artwork to the school arts publication, the Laureate (I think that’s what it was called?). It was at Classical that my art teacher, Ms. Koch enrolled me in portfolio preparation courses at RISD. Every Thursday, I’d walk to the East Side to RISD for art classes. This changed my trajectory. I was exposed to new experiences and was able to gain a competitive advantage when it came to applying to colleges and art schools.
Some of my favorite memories about growing up in Providence were the giant grinders we would buy from Tony’s Market, taking the bus downtown to the Arcade, buying comic books at Starship Excalibur, and clothes shopping at Chess King, Continentals, and Geller’s Shoes. I remember walking into Continentals and seeing this great shirt on the wall. It had a flap on the chest and I just had to have it. Problem was I didn’t have enough money. It was $26 and I had about $15 on me. I told myself that I would be back. (I worked at my dad’s garage fixing flats, doing brake jobs and oil changes, so I really learned the value of a dollar.) I wanted this shirt, and you better believe I took the bus back downtown that same day, after asking my mom for a small loan, and wore that bad boy in my 8th grade graduation photo. [Photo above.]
It wasn’t all work and school growing up on the South Side. I was afforded the chance to play little league for many years. My team was sponsored by Washington Park Woodworking and my favorite memory was hitting a grand slam to win the game – what made it more special was that I had forgotten my glasses that day! I also have fun memories of a few summer programs that I participated in. One in particular was at the Edgewood Community Center where I spent a summer learning about photography and had a chance to interview local merchants in the area.
Fast forward to my college years, which took me away from Rhode Island and off to Connecticut, which I still call home to this day. I fell in love with Connecticut primarily because it was halfway between my birth home, NYC, and the place I grew up, Providence. Just close enough to visit, but just far enough that you feel like you are away. Providence has changed quite a bit since I left, and it's been for the better. It's become a much more tolerant and diverse cultural center than it used to feel like when I grew up there in the 80's. I still enjoy visiting and have attended a few of the Water Fire events that take place downtown. I graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Arts from the University of Bridgeport, and as my wife and I like to say, we got the ‘package deal’ because we met each other at UB.
Some of my Rhode Island favorites to this day are Del’s Lemonade, clamcakes, chowder and doughboys from Iggy’s on Oakland Beach, and of course, my all time favorite, my mother’s home cooking. A simple plate of her rice, beans, and steak and I’m transported back to a simpler time. If she knows I’m coming to visit, my entire Providence family gets excited because they know a feast is in order. Recently, she had some successful hip surgery and we didn’t want to ask her to cook, so we picked up the next best thing - local Dominican food. If you're ever looking to try some Dominican fare that's as close to home cooking as you can get, I would recommend La Gran Parada, which is at 937 Broad St. on the South Side. When I’m in the mood for sushi, I like to frequent Uncle Sushi on Reservoir Ave. I know there are more places I’ve hit recently such as Chelos or Gregg’s (Sorry they aren’t too fancy.), but there’s no where to get clam cakes outside of Rhode Island, so that’s where I go if I want a sit down serving when I’m in town. I definitely like the new additions of restaurant chains like Bonefish Grill in Garden City, but there’s really nothing like home cooked meals, so I have to say that my mom takes top marks in all food categories.
Professionally, I currently own and operate a full-service creative agency with locations in Hartford and Shelton, CT as well as Palm Coast, Florida. Design and business have always been passions of mine, and having served as an Art Director on the original team behind Priceline.com, really fueled my interest in launching new companies. We cater to startups and entrepreneurs as well as existing businesses looking to rebrand an existing product or service. One of the best parts of the job is getting to bring my French Bulldog, Handsome Rob in to the office with me every day. He really sets the mood here at Peralta Design and we’ve got some clients that really look forward to seeing him (more than me I think). We’re now in our 8th year in business and it has been a steady trajectory, growing both in our client base and in our project complexity and scope. It’s a blessing to be able to come to work every day with a great, brilliant team and do the work we love to do. We just launched a new ‘sizzle’ reel that will help give you a peek inside our creative world and what we have to offer: http://www.peraltadesign.com/about-us/
I’ve been active for 26 years and a Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., a member of the Shelton Exchange Club, and am a March for Babies volunteer and former board member for the Connecticut chapter of the March of Dimes. I currently serve on the Greater Valley United Way Corporate Volunteer Council. I strongly believe that to whom much is given, much is expected. Or as Peter Parker once said, with great power comes great responsibility. Seriously, we have been blessed, so I do my best to give back to our community and strive to inspire the next generation.
My wife Nancy and I are practically empty-nesters, considering the fact that we had children very young, we are now enjoying the fruits of those sacrifices we made in our 20's. My daughter graduated UConn a couple of years ago, and my son is now a Junior at UConn. My wife and I get to ‘date’ more often and we’ve recently begun to make some long-anticipated home improvements and get some traveling in here and there. We try to stay active and as a couple, we’ve run several half-marathons together. We are just about to start training for her first century ride (100 mile bike ride). I also enjoy golfing, motorcycling, and going for Sunday drives through the countryside with the local chapter of the Porsche Club of America.
Photo Credits: All photos courtesy of Ramon Peralta, except for the Del's logo, which was found via Google Images/Wikipedia