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Chicano artist encourages students
Different cultures have different ways of doing things. That's okay with artist and author Simon Silva. And it should be okay with the rest of us.

The Southern California artist shared his feelings with Central Valley High School students Friday as he spoke about art, life and the joys of appreciating other cultures.

Silva, who has made a name for himself in the art world, shared his struggles to break free from life as a poor migrant field worker, go to college and expand his view of the world.

Central Valley Spanish language teacher Marie Gasca, a fan of Silva's work, invited him to appear at her school.

Silva struck a chord with students, saying he loves and finds meaning in art, movies, music and even conversation. He showed a clip from the movie, "Freedom Riders," depicting a poor Latino student who read an essay on his struggles being poor and finding value in school. It might as well been him, he explained.

At the outset, Silva suggested that he values three qualities in people: those who read books, those who have manners and those who do whatever is the opposite of what is popular in culture.

"Take positive risks," Silva told students.

Silva said he wanted to go to school to explore his future and get away from a life where he laid on urine-soaked mattresses at farm labor camps and had to make due with only three pairs of pants in a school year.

He remembers becoming infected with lice and his father's remedy for exterminating them by stripping them down publicly and spraying his children with Raid.

"I thought that that experience dictated my life," said Silva. "Those things don't dictate your life. What dictates your life is the effort you make in life."

Silva fought his father over continuing his education. He eventually went on to graduate from

Silva did graduate from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and learned how tough it was to make a living.

He may have shocked his audience when he said "education is for all but college is not." Silva noted that all jobs are important but each person should find work they enjoy.

Silva showed slides of his work and would pause to explain the painting or the idea he was trying to convey in its design. His 1991 work, "Amor A Todas Horas," depicts a mother holding an infant as she stares out a window overlooking a Mexican landscape as the moon rises. He said he never appreciated the work it took to be a parent until he became one himself. Silva said society has it all wrong in paying millions to sports figure who "don't change the world" when it should be $23 million for six years of motherhood.

"It's a shame we don't appreciate our mothers enough."