Born in Sombrerete, Zacatecas, Mexico, Armando Ivan Silva Garcia arrived in northern Colorado with his family when he was just five. A product of Greeley public schools, he earned a BA in fine arts with a painting emphasis from the University of Northern Colorado in 2010—and decided then and there that he would apply himself completely to a career in art. Which, in a city of fewer than 100,000, could charitably be referred to as “optimistic.”

But then, Armando doesn’t seem at all worried about the odds. Instead of decamping to larger, more urban locales (even though his work has recently drawn the attention of a magazine at UCLA and a T-shirt company in Boston), he’s decided to work hard on honing his artistic skills in order to make a name for himself in his adopted home town. Why? “Greeley gives me what every artist needs,” he explains, “which is the chance to fail and make mistakes without the usual recovery time.”

Because of the built-in support in the community, Armando gets to participate in projects that, he believes, enable him to leave a mark. “The appreciation people have shown me in Greeley has inspired me to become a better artist,” he says. “I feel like I’m part of something here.”