Trade and Talent: Nelson Saldana Works as a Mechanic, Speaks as an Artist

Nelson Saldana works as a truck mechanic at Thermo King in Saugus. This past Saturday, Saldana was in Bellingham Square putting the finishing touches on a beautifully done chalk art mural.

Saldana’s latest artwork on the TD Bank building was part of the “Chelsea Prospers” downtown initiative. Claudia Paraschiv coordinates the project which is a series of chalk art murals called “Chalk Art Saturdays.”

Chelsea Prospers coordinator Mimi Graney said for six Saturdays the city is hiring local artists, like Nelson, to do “larger-scale chalk murals that provide inspiration and show off the skills of our local artists.”

Saldana, a 32-year-old Chelsea resident and 2007 graduate of Chelsea High School where he said he was inspired by art teacher Ms. Olsen, first attracted the attention of Chelsea officials for his previous large-scale murals he composed for a site on Division Street.

That mural and other Saldana artworks in Chelsea were considered “excellent,” and he was invited to participate in this summer’s “Chelsea Prospers” project.

“Chelsea has continued to reach out to me to do more work and this was the next one on the list,” he said humbly.

The theme for Saldana’s current project in Bellingham Square (TD Bank is located at 457 Broadway) is “We Come Together As One” and Saldana portrayed the message in eye-catching fashion.

In the mural, Saldana centered “We Are 1” between the continents of North America and Africa. He drew bodies of water in blue.

“I tried to make it like a globe, but not too much,” he said. “We are one and that means the community coming together as one.”

Saldana, whose family is originally from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, said he has been an artist “my whole life.”

“But I’ve been working more in public the last 2-3 years, displaying my art in galleries and things like that,” said Saldana.

Saldana’s artistic talents are known among his fellow employees at Thermo King, a world leader in transport temperature control systems for trucks, trailers, buses, and railcars. “I’ve done a few portraits for some of my co-workers,” he said.

Following his graduation from Chelsea High, Saldana  attended trade school where he learned mechanics. He continued to maintain a keen interest in art, a talent he first developed in the Chelsea schools. 

Nelson and his wife, Yesenia Saldana, have three children, Aliyah Saldana, who just graduated from Northeast Regional High School, Ivan Saldana, 3, and Melody Saldana, 1. Nelson’s proud mother is Evelyn Rivera.

Asked about the wide attention he is receiving for his amazing artwork, Saldana shrugged off the hometown fame.

 “I’m an all-around artist,” said Saldana. “I paint, I do murals, I do anything. My strength is my creativity. Hand me something to create with and I’ll make something with it.”

Mimi Graney said that Saldana has a unique way of delivering an inspirational message through his work.

“I really love his style,” said Graney. “He’s a really sweet guy and I love that he’s bringing together a message in the art that he is doing. It’s not just a great design, but it is actually communicating something. This mural was a subtle way of communicating a racial justice message without being so explicit.”

Graney has already contacted Saldana about being a contributing artist for a major art project in Chelsea. Saldana will join eight other artists in the design and painting of tabletops and stools located adjacent to a major landmark in Chelsea Square later this summer.

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