The (Mexi)Cool Kids: Vient Studios
Live music from great bands, yummy food trucks, free activities for the kiddos (like face-painting and balloon animals), adult beverages for the 21-and-over crowd, dancing, singing, socializing – and a general coming together with thousands of Costa Mesans of every age and persuasion. It’s excellent in every way!
While the series is always a feel-good, rip-roarin’ time, we found it especially cool that 2017 was the year the “city of the arts” vibe really took root at the concerts. This is the year the Costa Mesa Foundation – those wonderful volunteers behind the event – decided to invite a local artist to make their mark.
In the years to come, the plan is to let a different, local artist design a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork for each year’s concert poster. Die-hard concert fans can then collect the series and gradually build a killer collection of unique, Costa Mesa art. (We’d love to see a wall of framed concert posters in some of our local bars and restaurants!)
To kick off this new, more artistically-minded direction in 2017, the Costa Mesa Foundation partnered with Robby Vient, of Vient Studios. He’s created an original, collectible poster celebrating the beauty and diversity of Fairview Park through his bicultural, illustrator’s lens. The finished piece is a rich, multi-dimensional homage to our “jewel of the Westside.”
We sat down with Vient – along with his wife, Samantha Craig Vient – to learn more about his process for creating the beautiful, new concert poster – along with all the other creative curios they have in the works.
New Art At Its Heart: Poster for the 2017 Costa Mesa Concerts In The Park (Original Artwork by Illustrator, Robby Vient)
With a degree in Illustration / Graphic Design from the prestigious Art Center College of Design, Vient is a trained artist with a sharp eye for color, shape and scale – as well as a heart for storytelling (there is always a deeper meaning or message behind everything he creates).
Most of the time, you’ll find him working on client projects through his home-based outfit, Vient Studios, or designing fun (and funny) novelty items for his brand, Mexicool. Vient also serves on the Advisory Board for the Art Program over at Orange Coast College where he mentors up-and-comers on how to launch their own careers in the field.
Vient’s wife, Samantha, grew up in Westside Costa Mesa – and has attended numerous concerts at Fairview Park over the years – so the couple was thrilled to be part of the effort to bring more “city of the arts” to the Costa Mesa Concerts.
“Fairview Park is such a unique place,” said Robby. “It’s urban but wild at the same time. Of course, it’s also a mesa, so it’s like a mountain overlooking the ocean. You’re just immersed in nature when you’re over there, making it a really vivid and interesting context for an open-air, live concert.
“So in the artwork I created for the poster, I tried to incorporate all those little aspects about Fairview Park and the concerts that then add up to the whole of the experience. There’s a kind of a pyramid thing going on, all the different building blocks – lots of animals, lots of nature, the ocean, the cliffs, the walking paths – all culminate at the apex with the concerts at the top. It’s my tribute to the entirety of the Concerts In The Park experience.”
Artist, Robby Vient, Brings Fairview Park To Life In His Original Poster Artwork for the 2017 Costa Mesa Concerts In The Park
The nature-meets-urbanscape vibe of the Westside also had a big impact on Samantha’s childhood growing up on Costa Mesa’s Westside.
“Having that canyon in my backyard was just so cool,” said Samantha. “I was such a tomboy. We would run down there and get crawdads, go bike riding. It allowed me to have a very outdoorsy childhood despite being in the middle of coastal Orange County. That’s a pretty special thing, especially these days.
“My dad was also a big ocean fisherman, so he was part of that community. I remember when the very first Wahoo’s opened on Placentia, my dad would sell fresh tuna to the family.”
The nature of Costa Mesa wasn’t the only environmental factor that influenced Samantha’s childhood.
“When I was young, I always noticed the Hispanic workforce within our community,” said Samantha. “I remember talking it through with my mom, being curious, asking lots of questions. The exposure I had to living in Costa Mesa alongside a migrant workforce – it very much helped shape who I became as I grew up.”
“She married a Mexican, after all,” laughed Robby.
“Well, it piqued my curiosity about other people and other cultures,” said Samantha. “Eventually, that led to a career in International Relations and Public Policy – then living in Mexico for a while – and yes, a Mexican husband.”
The Vients have harnessed their biculturalism – coupled with their quirky and irreverent sense of humor – to launch their own brand, Mexicool.
Mexicool It: A Brand Built On Bicultural Tee Shirts, Funny Veledoras, Novelty Paper Wallets, Irreverent Air Fresheners
Photos: Brandy Young
“The first thing you need to know about Mexicool is that I like to be called Presidente,” joked Robby.
“We originally started out calling ourselves ‘Mexico Collective’ as a marketplace to sell other people’s wares,” explained Samantha. “It was never our intention to make and sell our own stuff. But Robby got this idea to make paper wallets, each with a funny, bicultural theme. That was the first product.
“I was honestly hesitant to get back into designing tee-shirts,” said Robby, who was co-creator of the popular brand, Naco, back when he first graduated from college. The company grew really big, really fast – and those growing pains led to creative differences and an ultimate fallen out between the Naco founders. It left a bad taste in Robby’s mouth for the tee-shirt concept, in general.
“Because of that experience from my past, I didn’t want to do the same thing,” said Robby. “I did everything to avoid it – came up with every product idea for Mexicool but shirts. Eventually, I gave in and we did a couple tees. And guess what? They are, like, 80% of what sells. Evidently, the universe is trying to tell me something.”
Balancing Act: Couplepreneurship + Parenthood Means There’s Never a Dull Moment in the Vient Household
Not just the universe, but fans and followers, alike.
Robby Vient has a natural ability to meld humorous messaging with clean, vintage-inspired design on soft, well-fitting shirts. It’s a veritable tee-shirt trifecta and his creations are as pleasurable to wear as they are to gift. The burgeoning brand continues to flourish as the Vients try to take it all in stride.
“We just had our first baby, last year,” said Samantha, who handles billing, order fulfillments and finance for the brand. “Between Allie and Mexicool, it’s a crazy time for us. It’s really like we have two babies and we’re honestly still trying to figure it all out.”
“Living the dream, one nightmare at a time,” laughed Robby. “But seriously, we couldn’t have done a business like this any sooner in our journey. It would not have worked out for us, at all.
“From the outside, now may not seem like the ideal time to do all of this and navigate early parenthood, but this all feels very ‘meant to be.’ We’ve built up enough life experience – through all the learning, bumps and bruises – and come out of it loving and trusting each other more than ever. Now somehow things seem to be aligning, almost magically, and it’s just the perfect time for us to build Mexicool.”
Now that the Vients are parents, does it give them a new perspective on the future of Samantha’s hometown?
“Costa Mesa was such a different place when I was growing up,” reflected Samantha. “There was nothing that aesthetic or hip about it. A lot seems to have changed, lately. Suddenly, you’re cool if you came from Costa Mesa. That’s a total flip, which is very interesting.
“I just remember things like Victoria Street. It was not pretty. I drive down that street now and, if traffic is light, I think to myself how beautiful it is now. It’s a beautiful street.
“That being said, I worry about the development. Part of what makes Costa Mesa so cool is the mishmash of industrial, small business, residential and restaurants. If you take out the small business and industrial entirely – if you eradicate those – you’ll lose a lot of the flavor over the next 25 years.
“Part of what makes Costa Mesa cool are things like all the surfers and other guys who have turned their personal passion into a hobby or business. The question for our generation will be: How do we maintain that authenticity and not become just another Orange County city full of manufactured recreation?”
“I say, build the grassroots arts movement but keep the cultural diversity,” added Robby.
“You should end the article with that,” agreed Samantha. “That’s a good one.” ♥
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