Karla Osete began practicing her creative hand at age 12, when her father took notice of her artistic skills and enrolled her in art classes with a Mexican architect in Nogales, Sonora.
“I haven’t stopped since then,” Osete said. “Aside from the careers and jobs that I’ve had, art has always been there. It hasn’t been so much an economic activity, but more of a daily medicine.”
After graduating from Nogales High School in 2001, she went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in accounting and her master’s in business management. When she finally had the chance, she dove a bit deeper into art by studying at the Instituto de Bellas Artes at the Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua in Mexico.
Now 40, Osete has been steadily emerging as an advocate for the arts in Santa Cruz County, sharing her talent and creating opportunities for others to get involved and develop their own skills.
Her paintings have been displayed at various exhibitions from Tubac to Nogales over the years. Among her bigger projects are several art installments at a new trails park, as well as mural collaborations that have inspired her to continue engaging with the community.
Osete’s first mural collaboration with local artists Tony Plak, Priscilla Nefftys and Gerardo Frias made her realize how fun it was to work on such projects, she said, adding that the other artists had a fun energy she hadn’t experienced before.
For her second mural, she called out local youth to participate in the art project outside of the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona in Nogales – a project that gave her a different perspective regarding the local art scene.
“Before painting murals, my vision was more about myself,” she said. “But this project changed that vision. I liked that others participated with me and that they felt included, important and excited.”
Leading a group of kids ages 6 to 16, Osete taught the volunteers every step of creating a mural, starting from cleaning the wall to how to paint a particular object to the right scale – ultimately completing a mural representing two hands giving away fresh food.
“I feel as if that was the perfect opportunity to plant a seed because even though I was assigning a certain part to each person, I could see that they were delighted to be participating in the mural,” Osete said.
Since then, she has called out for more community volunteers to take part in adding more life and color to the community, most recently at the Monte Carlo Trails, where other members of the 0S3 bicycling group she belongs to teamed up to create a painted-rock artwork beside one of the paths.
Osete also completed a giant bicycle sculpture at the entrance to the park, with plenty of guidance from her father and the helping hands of experienced welders.
“I made that bike with my father and I felt that, as an elderly man, he revived. He was happy, excited,” Osete recalled. “So it’s really cool because these collaborations, calling for volunteers, they excite everyone, from young kids to elderly adults.”
She added that she has never dedicated her time to being a full-time artist – something that limits the scale of the projects she can take on for herself and others.
Osete uses a large portion of her free time working on personal projects at the La Linea art space on Morley Avenue, formerly known as Revival, where she’s one of the shareholders trying to keep the studio open.
Her desk sits at the back of the room, surrounded by finished art pieces including a mural at the top edge of a wall, depicting a woman rising from the darkness and reaching for the light.
“My work is exactly a reflection of my brain, of my thoughts,” she said about the different themes shown in all her artwork. “Maybe with time I’ll be able to identify something in my work that is related to my life, but I think it’s too early for that.”
When it comes to her personal projects, Osete said, she hopes that her art has the power to make people smile and take a good feeling from it.
“I like painting things that are significant for our area,” she said, adding that opening doors for other future artists also brought her “big satisfaction to know that I gave them that opportunity and it’s a memory they will carry with them.”