Chris Guzman can be described in many ways: teacher, dog lover, boxing enthusiast, grill master, 'Ghostbusters' fan, loving husband and son, but most importantly, he is an artist.
Guzman loves his new hometown of Valparaiso and considers himself a “Valpo Guy," but he originally grew up in Hobart. Following high school, he attended the American Academy of Arts in Chicago for advertising design. After a year of working in advertising, he knew he needed a change. Not sure what to do, Guzman’s father reminded him that as a child he would line up his He-Man and Star Wars figurines and teach them how to draw. So he went back to school to get his teaching degree. He landed his first job out of college at Andrean High School in Merrillville.
“There I was. I was 22 years old and teaching 18-year-olds," Guzman said. "I was the same age as their big brothers. It was weird! But I am still very close to my original students and it was probably the greatest time I’ve ever had teaching.”
After meeting his future wife, Angi, he relocated his job to Gary, Indiana, where Guzman taught grades K-five for 18 years. He taught there for so long that he started having former students' children as students.
Guzman eventually transitioned to his current teaching position at Kahler Middle School in Dyer, Indiana. He has taught many different grades over the years. Guzman explains that each grade has different standards to meet, so he has different project assignments, but every grade completes a weekly sketchbook.
“The sketchbook is personal. It’s private. It is only seen by me and the student,” Guzman said. “It’s a private conversation that I’m having with the student. I can’t even tell you the level of creativity that flows out of them because it’s not being graded.”
Guzman is not just teaching art, he also creates it. Guzman has produced so much art that he has a successful business as an artist. 'Guzman Gloves' officially started in 2011, but, in actuality, it started way before then. As a boxing enthusiast, he was traveling to get boxing gloves autographed by the fighters. Around 2000, he had an impressive amount of signed gloves. His father had some thoughts for Guzman regarding his collection.
“My dad looked at them, then said ‘You’re an artist. Why aren't you doing something more with the gloves?’ So one particular fighter had signed off to the right and my dad told me to paint the fighter’s face on it and I did,” Guzman said.
Guzman went on to say that he started painting just boxers on the gloves, and then celebrities. The painted gloves helped him stand out from other people wanting autographs. He has about 500 autographed gloves that he kept for himself, but his favorite glove has a story to go with it.
“Stallone signed it. Then we were driving through Pennsylvania on the way home- so I had the signed and painted glove on my hand and I ran up the famous Philadelphia Museum of Art steps and raised my arms like Rocky. Other than my wedding day, that’s my favorite man-moment,” said Guzman.
Guzman doesn't just paint boxers and celebrities. He has also created “Fighter” gloves for premature babies and people with cancer. Recently, he has created a unique way to memorialize lost pets in his paintings.
Guzman also uses his skill to participate in fundraisers like Chalk the Walk in his hometown, where he created sidewalk art to raise money for the Family & Youth Services Bureau.
“We are all artists. Art has different facets, but we are all artists in one way or another," Guzman said.