Artist Ludwin Cruz thinks in images.
"I don't talk to myself in my head, it's just visuals of situations that are happening," he tells Pride Source. "That's just my language internally: It's all visions."
Cruz's unique way of seeing is also how he approaches his artwork.
"Whenever I start to envision something, it's almost like thousands of images flashing in my brain, and it's always changing constantly," he says. "I'm almost, like, capturing snippets at a time of what I can keep up with."
Born and raised in Miami, Cruz graduated from Detroit's College for Creative Studies with a degree in industrial design and a minor in illustration. He has been in Michigan ever since, currently working as a designer for Ford Motor Company.
When Cruz learned about the Ruth Ellis Center, he wanted to find a way for his art to help REC's work with homeless LGBTQ+ youth.
"I honestly first heard of it through a friend, and she's the one who kind of got me acquainted with [Director of Development and Advancement] Mark [Erwin], from the REC. What they do is phenomenal," he says. "To me, the biggest thing is always trying to find a way to give back to the community."
His experience growing up in Miami inspired his desire to see homeless kids get the help they need. "Where I was born and raised, it was low income and not the safest environment," he says. As a result he saw how kids miss out on opportunities. "It really resonated with me what they do," he says. "So that's pretty much why I went forward and tried to make something happen with that."
That "something" has taken the form of an upcoming Non-Fungible Token (NFT) charity auction.
Cruz will donate 50% of his profits from the sale of his first digital NFT series, "The Lilium Series." The series features the faces of children overlaid with flowers. The juxtaposition is intended to illustrate the great potential for beauty in the children society casts off.
"Kids in the street are trying to make it happen. At the end of the day, just because they're in that situation doesn't mean they don't have positive things to give," he says. "They still have a lot to offer the world."
Cruz chose flowers because "flowers are very resilient. They grow back."
"Given the fact that they're in their environment doesn't mean they can't grow into something very beautiful," he says. "There's no reason why we can't see what they see: the beauty in the world and what they can add to it."
He says this series aligns well with the Ruth Ellis Center in that they are both "giving younger people more insight into what their future could possibly be."
Mark Erwin, director of development at Ruth Ellis, is happy about the partnership. "We're very excited about the potential for NFTs to create value for our organization, and proud to be partnering with a local artist in this effort," he said in a press release.
Cruz is excited about NFTs because they combine his love of art with his interest in crypto currency. Selling artwork as an NFT protects both the artist and the collector, he says. "As a creator it makes it so someone can't steal my art and for someone who collects art no one can steal it from them."
Cruz created another digital NFT series he calls "The Bond," which depicts the connection between people who love each other regardless of factors like sexual orientation and ethnicity.
"It's showcasing the concept that you always have opposing interests," he says. "There's always a sense of trying to separate the two individuals who love each other, but the bond, the strength of that love, is what's keeping them together."
Cruz has experienced this personally in his relationship with his fiancé. He is Latino and Catholic while she is Muslim. "We had a lot of tough hardship trying to get everybody to be accepting of our love and our connection together," he says. This has given Cruz some insight into what LGBTQ+ people face, which made him even more motivated to help the Ruth Ellis Center.
"I want to be someone who's going to be there and say this is okay and this is a beautiful thing. There's nothing to be ashamed about," he says. "And there's no problem with being associated with it either."
In other words, Cruz is not concerned that his connection to the Ruth Ellis Center might cause assumptions about his sexual orientation. "I have a lot of close friends who are gay, and growing up, I noticed a lot of hardships that they've gone through, and that's something that always bothered me," he says. "I believe that love crosses all kinds of boundaries. The fact that they support that community as well is something I'm totally for."
Cruz says he is proud to be an ally of the LGBTQ community, adding, "You can't just sit there and be quiet."