Gene Roddenberry, Debbie Reynolds, Stevie Nicks, Vikki Carr – all famous creatives in their own right that lived in El Paso,… but didn’t stay. Jim Ward, Hal Marcus, Ho Baron, Gaspar Enriquez, and the late Tom Moore are just a few examples of artists that allowed “El Chuco” to seep into their identity and make its way into their art. Hopefully, the newly minted Roderick Artspace Lofts, 601 N. Oregon (Las Plazas Arts District), will serve to give local artists the opportunity to stay in El Paso and make the city known for our art on a national level. Even the great Tom Lea wasn’t as recognized beyond Texas in his lifetime.
These are the sentiments of new Roderick Artspace Lofts tenant and local D.J., Julio Salgado, 33. He left us, returned and is among a growing community of creatives that want to leave their mark on El Paso.
The Roderick Artspace Lofts was named in honor of the Roderick family, local arts supporter, broadcast pioneer, El Paso Symphony Orchestra Association founder and former El Paso Times publisher Dorrance D. Roderick, his wife Olga B. Roderick and their daughter, Frances Roderick Axlelson, a founder of the El Paso Community Foundation.
Speaking of the El Paso Community Foundation, the organization lead the seven-year process to realize this affordable downtown housing for artists. Initially spurred by Chris Cummings Sr., Chris Cummings Jr., and Katherine Fulwiler Brennand, the trio were instrumental in bringing this vision to life in addition to donating the land on Oregon and Missouri where the property resides.
D.J. and Producer, Julio Salgado (a.k.a. DJ Birth Defects) was among over 130 applicants hoping to be accepted to live in the apartments that provide both a living and studio space to those that qualify. The $12.7 million, 51-unit, low-cost apartment building for working artists also offers commercial retail space on the ground floor.
“During my early childhood before my parents divorced, I lived on the westside of town, and although I wasn’t born here, I consider this my home,” said Salgado, adding, “My family wasn’t artistic, but they did enjoy listening to rock, pop, and electronic music and that had an influence in my early development.”
Salgado has worked professionally as a D.J. for local Cumbia band, Frontera Bugalu and organized D.J. workshops at Joe, Vinny and Bronsons café in Central. Additionally, he has performed at Chalk the Block and the Downtown Art and Farmer’s Market in Union Plaza.
As an artist and an artist in El Paso, Salgado expressed that his struggles include, “…self-doubt, lack of local support, and a small music scene.”
Coming from living in Seattle Washington for a few months, Salgado felt welcome and not noticed in an obvious way by the community. Simply blending in as a person and not a person that isn’t part of the conservative mindset that he feels is pervasive in El Paso. With the recent revitalization in downtown and the Roderick Artspace Lofts, Salgado is excited to be a part of the new energy. “The city embracing the local art scene has inspired me to be part of a new era in El Paso, where finally the city can be recognized nationwide for having its own artistic style and not be defined by stereotypes.”
“Living here will enable me to focus mainly on my music and interact with other artists, which is essential to my development. Downtown is perfect for my creative journey because it situates me in an area where I can be close to not only our city but also Cd. Juarez. I get the best of both worlds,” said Salgado.
Salgado’s D.J. moniker, Birth Defects, betrays what his music sounds like. “The name Birth Defects came from my brother who’s very conservative you know? He told me once that if he ever had a band he’d name it Birth Defects. It was weird coming from him, but I thought it was a good name because it doesn’t really tell you what the music is going to be about [no preconceived notions.] It also made me think about how we are as humans, we like to think we’re just one way and define ourselves with a single word but there’s always more to us,” said Salgado.
The Roderick Artspace Lofts, if nothing else, promises to bring and retain a community of artists together, infusing Downtown El Paso with not only an additional economic impact, but a collective creative energy that helps to provide a sense of artistic identity for our city. “I would like downtown to become an artist hub, and a place where future generations can flourish and inspire,” Salgado said while looking off into the evolving downtown skyline.
Artists interested in applying to the Roderick Artspace Lofts should call (915) 881-3364 or visit artspace.org
To learn more about Julio Salgado’s D.J. services visit djbirthdefects.com.