Ortega said he would often see students from other states ask about available apartment listings. They would always ask about places in Williamsburg, Bushwick or other neighborhoods along the G or L lines.
None of them asked about Queens.
Ortega, a native of Lima, Peru, moved to New York City in 2000. He’s lived in Queens since 2000, and currently lives in Jackson Heights, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country.
Ortega is a visual artist and has used the cultural diversity of the borough to improve his own work.
“I have access to other cultures,” Ortega said. “I have access to different artists of different backgrounds.”
Ortega helped unveil a mural last Thursday at Elmcor, a multigenerational social service agency in Corona. He was also selected to be a 2016 recipient of the Queens Council of the Arts New Work Award and is working on a painting exhibition in Queens.
Ortega said exposure to other cultures has enriched his own potential as an artist.
“I mix with other cultural expressions,” he said. “For example, I learn about Colombian art expression or listen to music from Bangladesh.”
Because much of his work is based on personal experience, he’s been able to draw on his years living in Queens for his art.
But art isn’t the only reason why Ortega likes Queens.
“It’s a family neighborhood,” he said. “All of the supermarkets are also great.”