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Making Her Mark at The Emily: A Conversation with Raspy Rivera


As The Emily Hotel's inaugural Artist in Residence, Raspy Rivera is making her mark on the hotel in more ways than one. From room key cards featuring her signature face designs to a hand painted feature wall for the hotel's seafood-forward restaurant and patio, Fora, she is curating a collection of art and experiences helping bring The Emily to life.

A Puerto Rican actress & artist hailing from Chicago's Logan Square, her warm radio voice earned her the nickname, Raspy Rivera. Raspy's love for drawing and painting was reawakened during the pandemic when she was faced with being immobilized for eight weeks as a result of fainting down a flight of stairs. Being forced to sit still and slow down, uprooted a lot for her; including a new found desire to share her he(art). The blessing of downtime created a safe space for her to pour into her hidden talent & it quickly became the best way to fulfill her need for artistic expression while she couldn't be on set.

Recently we sat down with Raspy to learn more about her creative process, what inspires her and the story behind her custom pieces for The Emily.

When are you most creative?
There isn’t a certain time of day where I feel more creative, but I do feel that my best work comes when I surrender and just allow myself to be a vessel. The more I let go and detach myself from the outcome of things, the better the result! I also believe that creating an environment that allows you to feel free, make mistakes and have fun is a game changer.

Who and what inspires you?
To me, inspiration is everywhere! My mind soaks in people, faces, their structure and they all trickle into my work somehow. Since the mission behind my work is for people to identify themselves or someone they love in my imperfect faces & honor the beauty of their individuality, everyday people inspire me.

If there was a soundtrack or song that captures the essence of An Original Raspy, what would it be?
Superhuman and Colors by MoodbyMatteo are left on loop! No explanation needed- please just bless your creative process with these inspiring songs and watch what happens.

Tell us a little about the original pieces you’ve created for The Emily so far.
'Emily's Evolving'
The painting I commissioned for the lobby of The Emily Hotel is an ode to Emily Carr, the hotel's namesake, and her short stint of painting totem poles. I took my version of them in relation to the faces I paint and mixed in a heavy Chicago influence. I wanted to tie in elements of nature through a limited palette of metallics to symbolize the sun. If you look close enough you’ll catch The Emily ‘e’ as the eyes of some of the faces.
Media: Acrylic on canvas, Dimensions: 36inX36in, Price: $2,222

Favorite places for art & culture in Chicago?
Silver Room in Hyde Park, Entre Sueños at Soho House Chicago, Esmé, Steppenwolf Theatre, and The Art Institute of Chicago

One piece of advice for creatives about to start their careers?
Here’s a little more than one...
~ Experiment with different mediums & stick with the ones that bring you the most joy.
~ Trust in yourself & your talents!
~ Listen to your gut and put blinders on for anyone that doesn’t see your vision.
~ Reach out and utilize the resources available.
~ Write down your goals & get specific.

An up-and-coming artist we should have on our radar?
I’m a big fan of David Ellis, also known as “Ewrks”. He’s an artist from Alsip that I met last year at the Soho Vendor Mall presented by Refine Cltv. His body of work is abstract surrealism with an emphasis on appreciating mundane black life. I’ve watched him evolve as an artist in front of my eyes and it’s so inspiring!

Describe your perfect day in Chicago.
My perfect day in Chicago begins with some early movement in the West Loop at Train Moment. Starting my day around a strong community like that sets me up for the perfect day and locks in my positive mindset for the rest of the day. Then, I refuel with a smoothie from Edie’s All Day Cafe & Wine Bar before I swing by Blick to get the supplies I need for whatever project I’m working on. After that, I’ll post up at my studio or Soho for some meetings with clients and brainstorming. I’m a big fan of 20 min creative breaks so I sprinkle those throughout my day (either a walk outside, a stretch on the roof or calling someone I love). When I’m done with my work for the day, my fiancé and I love cooking dinner together and unwinding to some vinyl records.

Keep up with Raspy's most recent projects, commissions & collaborations on her Instagram @Raspyrivera

- Emily xx