An outlet through art
Like most days when Rifle Police Officer Jose Valadez is on the job, you can find him cruising the neighborhoods of Rifle in his patrol vehicle checking in on the community he considers part of his family.
“Just being there to listen to people who need someone to listen to them,” Valadez said. “Sometimes that’s all I think it takes, they need somebody to talk to. Services to others is the rent we pay on this earth.”
Valadez, a 20-year law enforcement veteran, has adopted the city as his hometown and has watched the small town grow and become the little city it is today.
Born in Juarez, Mexico, Valadez moved with his family to Colorado when he was 11. The family made stops in Brighton and Glenwood Springs before settling in Rifle where he has lived for more than three decades.
When he is not upholding the law and serving the people he is sworn to protect, he can be found pursuing a rekindled passion for art.
Throughout high school Valadez studied art, and even for a little over a year in college. In his own words he says life happened and he chose a different calling, to serve and protect, leading Valadez to earn his POST certification from CMC.
Valadez started as a reserve officer for the Silt Police Department, before being hired on at the department in 2000. He served Silt for five years before accepting a job with the Rifle Police Department in 2005.
A little over three years ago Officer Valadez began picking up his art again, and it has taken off from there.
He said it began with the department’s public information officer, Robin Steffen, asking for a little help making a banner for an event. She had heard about his artistic talent as he started spray paint art. Now Valadez spends his spare time painting watercolors, dabbling in acrylic paint, and drawing and painting on rocks.
Valadez can’t remember when he started painting designs on rocks, but according to his records he has painted nearly 300 rocks. Each rock Valadez creates he marks with his radio call sign, #421, because he said his name is just too long to sign on the front of the rocks. Typically he labels the back with Rifle ROCKS Group/post/keep or re-hide.
A few people have asked for and even tried to pay him for them. He usually just asks for enough money to cover his supplies. Most of the rock artwork he has created he has hidden in hopes people will find them when they are out enjoying the Colorado outdoors.
Valadez said he hides them throughout the Western Slope, the Denver area, and even as far away as Las Vegas.
“I’ve given out a lot of rocks, it’s been awesome,” Valadez said. “I have a list, when people ask me to paint something for them — a rock, a water color, or a canvas.”
Valadez admits he would never make a good commission as an artist; he paints what he feels in the moment, so some of his customers might have to wait until he can get to their design.
Last year around this time Valadez was feeling patriotic and painted several rocks and hid them for the Fourth of July weekend in Rifle.
He planned to do it again this year, and when he showed Kathy Pototsky, public information officer with the city of Rifle, three rocks he had finished, she asked him to join forces for a planned city-sponsored scavenger hunt.
“You can see some of his artwork around the building. In fact when he first started doing those, I fell in love with it and commissioned him to do one,” Pototsky said. “He can do it all. He did a watercolor that is just absolutely unbelievable.”
Valadez painted 11 patriotic rocks, and the city hid them in businesses around the city. Participants in the hunt have to find them and take a picture with the rocks in the business; and submit the picture to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to win one of the original designs by Valadez.
Valadez said that most of the times when people find his rocks they end up keeping them. Sometimes they might share a photo on social media, but usually he never sees them again. With the scavenger hunt he believes hundreds of people will get to see his rocks.
“Rock painting has been the most rewarding for me, because I give those away, and hopefully bring a smile to someone’s face,” Valadez said. “It makes me happy to make someone’s day.”
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