“What’s in a name, really? I mean, besides a bunch of letters or sounds strung together to make a word.”
We recently asked Milt Coronado (a former tagger and mural artist) a few questions about his life, art and ministry. Here’s what he said.
Editor – Milton, because we’re on the West Coast and you are in the Great Lakes region, specifically the Chicago-land area, some of our readers won’t know who you are. Please briefly tell us about yourself and what you are “famous” for. I use that word loosely because we all have something about us that people typically identify us with.
Coronado – Well I am an artist, a youth counselor, and a pastor. My name is Milton Coronado, also known as Milt-one, and Pr. Graff. I was born in Chicago, Illinois in July 4, 1980 from Mexican immigrants, the fourth child in a family of ten children, not all from the same parents however.
At a young age of five, my family accepted the Christian faith. One year later, my mother passed away. My father remarried months but the type of relationship I had with my stepmother led me to a life of rebellion. By the grace of God I was able to graduate high school in 1998. One year after this, my father and stepmother got a divorce.
Just then thinking that life was going upright, the worst happened. In September of 2001, my father was fatally shot in the head, dragging me into a deep physical, mental, and spiritual desolation where I felt hopeless. However, through the outcome of Divine intervention and help from great friends, I was able to get my life back on a veracious path.
Today, I am known for, or am “famous” for being a “graffiti pastor.” An artist and a pastor. I travel across the country empowering youth, educating parents and community leaders on issues that relate with young people. Through a ministry called Street Art Ministry, I am able to share the love of Jesus, and disciple others through the creative art of mural and letter style writing.
Editor – So, give us the back story of how you got into graffiti?
Coronado – I got into graffiti because I had a big interest in art already. When my mother passed away (1985), I started drawing as a means of escape and to cope with her loss. By the time I graduated 8th grade back in 1994 I was pretty confident with my ability, and when I entered high school I concentrated on art classes and spent more time drawing than in the other subjects. By my third year of high school I was already drawing letters and names for my friends. During this time I started airbrushing t-shirts as well. I went from drawing letters on paper to painting them on t-shirts. It was from this type of art that I easily transitioned into painting letters on public walls. During this time a teen can be influenced into things that are outside of the morals and beliefs of their family. Though I grew up as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian and I knew I was doing something wrong, I did not see vandalizing public walls as a crime but as an exciting adventure. Something fun and artistic that I could do with my friends. The reality is that I was doing it because I was suffering from lack of attention, as a way to deal with the family problems at home, and I was uncertain about my future.
I did illegal graff from 1997 to 2001, the year of my fathers passing. It was his death that really woke me up from the dangerous life I was living.
Thanks to the love, and mercy of our Lord, and the guidance of two great friends, Pastor Manny Cruz, and Pastor. Josue Murillo, I was able to pick up a spray can four years after. This time however I was to do it to spray the message of love in Jesus Christ. ”
Editor – That’s a powerful story! And it’s amazing how God took the very thing you were doing that was illegal and destructive, and turned it into something that is positive and good! Have you run into any of the guys that you tagged with back in the day? And if so, what’s happening in their lives now?
Coronado – Because I still paint here in my city of residence, I do run into my old friends who I would paint with in the past. I am pretty well recognized here where I live as a Christian street artist and they all have respect for me now.
I thank God for that, because it is because of that I am able to witness without saying much at all. In this underground world that is what it is all about, respect and style. When I made the transition from illegal graffiti to positive and Christian street art, I didn’t get much respect or even treated well by those who had been painting for several years. Eventually I was accepted into the circle from those who didn’t know me because of my skill. They recognized I knew what I was doing and that I had the skill. Later they were inviting me to paint with them all over the city.
Summers are a busy time for artists to paint walls. Every weekend I get invited to paint with a group of friends in a certain location in the city. Because of work, family, kids soccer games, and ministry i sometimes have to decline. But it is always excited to be out there under the sun. with a spray can in my hand, water bottle in another, Christian music playing in my earbuds, and conversations about why I paint what I paint.
Editor – Thank you for sharing your passion for art and for using it to point others to your first love – Jesus Christ!
Visit Milton online.
This interview was conducted by Rich DuBose, Director of Church Support Services for the Pacific Union Conference.© 2017 - 2023 ASA. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.