Art, Community & Entrepreneurship: How Edwin Ushiro Connected the Dots

edwin ushiro poses in front of his mural at cafe dulce

If you’re one of the 100,000+ commuters that pass through Union Station each day, you’ve probably seen Edwin Ushiro’s artwork. Edwin Ushiro is a local artist and LTSC small business client whose art can be found throughout Little Tokyo, Los Angeles and even internationally. Most recently, Ushiro’s piece ‘Better Together’ is featured in Union Station as part of Metro’s ‘We Are…’ Portraits of Metro Riders series.

Although creating art comes naturally for Ushiro, selling and promoting his work required learning some new skills.  Luckily, he found LTSC’s small business program. Before the pandemic, Ushiro attended free workshops led by LTSC’s small business counselor, Mariko Lochridge, on a variety of topics geared towards starting and growing a small business.

Mariko Lochridge poses by Edwin Ushiro's piece, "Better Together"

Small Business Counselor Mariko Lochridge poses next to Ushiro’s piece for Metro’s ‘We Are…’ Portraits of Metro Riders series.

For Ushiro, the marketing strategies that he learned were especially helpful. “[During Mariko’s lectures] she went over topics like a call to action and social media strategies, and I kept thinking about how I could apply them [to my print releases],” said Ushiro.

The program’s peer network also proved valuable, allowing Ushiro to share his art with a test audience. “It was like having a focus group. I had an upcoming print release, so I used it [for one of the workshop assignments] and presented it to the class. Mariko and the class gave really good feedback, and from there I made adjustments,” recalled Ushiro.

Applying new strategies and honest feedback, Ushiro almost immediately saw the workshops’ effect. “I used all the social [media strategies] that I learned from Mariko to promote my release. When it came out, it sold out, and I was like, OK, this really works,” he explained.

Turning creative work into revenue-generating opportunities can be tough for many artists. LTSC’s small business counselors support artists however they can- from creating networking opportunities to sharing information about paid gigs.

LTSC introduced Ushiro to Scott Oshima of Sustainable Little Tokyo who was searching for artists for their “Windows of Little Tokyo” community art exhibition.  Ushiro was selected to paint local small business Cafe Dulce’s window. He went on to install his iconic piece, “Re-Up”, which depicts several key members of the Little Tokyo community, whom Ushiro saw as “the foundation of the future of Little Tokyo”. This included the late Dean Matsubayashi, LTSC’s former executive director.

When the mural debuted, it led to a chance encounter for Ushiro that he will never forget. “I went to take photo documentation [of the mural] for myself, and just by chance, Dean’s parents were there taking pictures in front of it. I heard [Dean’s dad] mention that his son was in the piece, so I introduced myself,” recalled Ushiro. “It brought another perspective to what art can do, because his dad said, ‘this is the closest that I can be to my son right now’. For me, it was just honoring him, but I didn’t see what that would echo. Bringing some kind of conclusion to his parents.”

To view more of Ushiro’s work, please visit his website at https://mrushiro.com/ or by following him on instagram at @edwinushiro.

LTSC’s small business workshops are held throughout the year, currently via zoom. Info on upcoming workshops can be found at https://www.ltsc.org/events/ or contact Mariko Lochridge at opens in a new windowmlochridge@ltsc.orgcreate new email for more information.

Edwin Ushiro poses in front of his "Windows of Little Tokyo" mural titled, "Re Up"

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