WILMINGTON — Geraldo Gonzalez has been a bus and rail enthusiast since he was a child and has relied on public transportation for most of his life.
Born in Philadelphia, he fondly remembers taking SEPTA buses from the 69th Street Transportation Center to Penn’s Landing.
Now, the 25-year autistic Wilmington resident has been dubbed the “King of Transit” for his dedication to artistry and photography of vehicles that move the masses.
Mr. Gonzalez began his artistic career at Christiana High School at age 15. He started as most do: with stick figures. But after some practice in his teens, Mr. Gonzalez won DART First State poster contests for his grade level in 2006 and 2009.
The artist in him then found a home at The Creative Vision Factory in Wilmington, where he held his first show in 2012. He brought his portfolio to Delaware State Arts Council member Michael Kalmbach, who helped Mr. Gonzalez get his “foot in the door.”
“A lot of people don’t take me seriously,” he said. “Michael helped me to get in here and start doing art here. Then, I started doing shows and started meeting new artists. A lot of stuff changed.”
Mr. Gonzalez’s artwork ranges from paintings and drawings of SEPTA and Amtrak trains and DART buses to transit scenes in New York, New Jersey and Philadelphia. He always draws from a reference, so he typically takes photos of every bus, train, track and road he encounters.
He creates art of the inside of transit vehicles, too, including the people on board, and has done a series of self-portraits.
Not all portrayals are realistic, either. Along with a rainbow of color in nearly every piece, some portray buses flying through the air above traffic or multiple trains merging.
Mr. Gonzalez's autism affected his speech growing up, but becoming an artist has helped with both his words and his shyness.
“Being an artist is the best opportunity to move on to the next step,” he said. “When I started doing art, it made me an independent thinker and changed my whole life.”
He said he “broke through the glass” in 2019, when his work won him an Individual Artist Fellowship as an emerging artist through the Delaware Division of the Arts.
As part of that fellowship, his pieces were displayed at the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover. In addition, they have been shown at Rodney Pratt Framing & Gallery, The Creative Vision Factory and the Delaware Art Museum.
His most recent show, at the Wilmington MKT Place Gallery in April and May, garnered the biggest crowd yet, resulting in sales of 15 of his creations.
Mr. Gonzalez said he draws a lot of inspiration from his father’s home, Puerto Rico.
“When I did my research, they had super, very colorful buildings (there), like I have never seen before,” he said.
As for the future, he has several goals, including an effort to get his work displayed on a DART bus.
“I started a petition for people to sign to get the bus wrap,” he said. “So my goal is to reach 100 signatures.”
Ultimately, however, he just wants to make art for a living.
“My goal is to gain support and meet new people,” he said.
He is planning his next exhibition at the MKT Place Gallery in March.
More information on Mr. Gonzalez’s exhibits and available artwork can be found here, @thekingoftransit on Instagram and The King of Transit on YouTube.