SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — 18-year-old Juan Beltran came to the United States at age 16 not knowing any English. He left his home in El Salvador to escape violence and pursue dreams.
“That was one of the most difficult decisions that I made in my life. I was 16 years old when I come to America. One of the reason was because I wanted to run away from the violence, feel opportunities for the young people like me in El Salvador, and looking for a way to develop my art skills in America, and definitely get a better life here,” Beltran said.
When he got to the United States, he was immediately recognized for his skills.
“I knew that this student had so much potential. And he had leadership ability, and it was cool to help connect him also with another artist in the community, Hector, who also does art and has mentored him throughout the last couple years,” EL liaison Amy Tulson Robles said.
Amy Tulson Robles works for the Sioux Falls School District at Washington High School. With artist Hector Curriel as his translator and Tulson Robles as his liaison, Beltran presented his pieces at an art conference just two months after having moved to the U.S.
“We were just so inspired. And while he was sharing that logo with hundreds of teachers, he got a standing ovation because people were just so inspired just by his artwork. And It was incredible,” Tulson Robles said.
About two years later, his art is now displayed in La Luna Café in downtown Sioux Falls.
“That people come and see my art and they ask, ‘Who painted that? Who made that? Nice pictures.’ When they hear it’s a young man—it’s a young boy—he has talent, he’s from El Salvador, then people start to have more interest in my art and know my history—my life history,” Beltran said.
Beltran hopes to eventually teach art and open his own studio in Sioux Falls.
“Everything that I have is by the grace of God,” Beltran said. “It’s a gift. If it’s a gift, I have to give my experience. I have to share my knowledge.”