James De La Vega was born in East Harlem, the son of Jaime De La Vega and Elsie Matos, and graduated valedictorian at York Preparatory School and attended Cornell University, where he graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He is a former art teacher at York Preparatory School.
In 2003 De La Vega failed to win a primary for New York State senate while campaigning on healthcare access for Spanish Harlem residents.
James De La Vega (aka De La Vega) is known as a community-inspiring artist. Those who come across his work know him primarily for his murals and sidewalk chalk drawings. His murals can be found mostly in East Harlem, and his chalk drawings may show up anywhere in Manhattan. His street drawings are usually accompanied by aphoristic messages such as "Become Your Dream." Legally, his outdoor work qualifies as graffiti, although many put them in a separate genre. James De La Vega was a recipient of a Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant in 1999.
Artist James De La Vega was featured in MoMA PS1 Exhibit 100 Drawings in the spring of 1999 alongside other prominent contemporary artist such as Danica Phelps, Rob Pruitt, Amy Gartrell and Olav Westphalen.
In 2011, De La Vega collaborated with Tory Burch to create a line of accessories that benefited the Tory Burch Foundation.
Street Art vs. Vandalism
In July 2003, De La Vega was charged with vandalism for a mural he painted on a blank wall in the Bronx. He was offered one year’s probation in exchange for a guilty plea, but he refused to say he caused “damage” to the property and thus sentenced to 50 hours of community service.l
Apple iPhone 5s Ad Campaign
In May 2014, artist De La Vega filed a cease-and-desist letter to Apple, claiming their new ad campaign for the iPhone 5S uses his trademarked slogan, “You are more powerful than you think”. Apple's usage of the slogan 'clearly misleads customers into believing De La Vega somehow supports, approves and/or endorses its products' it apparently adds.
- Become Your Dream by De La Vega. Harper Collins, 2009. ISBN 0-06-118923-5
- Stewart, Ronald. "Headmaster's Thoughts - May 2007". www.yorkprep.org. York Preparatory School. Archived from the original on 4 January 2014. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
- "Street Muralist May Soon Be Looking at Jailhouse Walls" by Ian Urbina, The New York Times, June 12, 2004.
- "James De La Vega, an Artist From El Barrio" Archived 2007-10-20 at the Wayback Machine by Alejandro Ponce, harlemlive.org (unknown date).
- Horowitz, Carol (9 July 2003). "A Community‐centered Approach to Diabetes in East Harlem". Journal of General Internal Medicine. 18 (7): 542. doi:10.1046/j.1525-1497.2003.21028.x. PMC 1494885.
- "Marked Man: Guerilla Artist James De La Vega Leverages his Street Smarts to a Fashion Career" by Colin Fleming, Smithsonian, October 2007.
- De La Vega Museum, New York Magazine.
-  Spotlight On: James De La Vega Spotlight On • September 7, 2011
- "NYC street artist says Apple stole his slogan". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2017-05-24.
- "New York street artist claims Apple stole advertising slogan from him". Mail Online. Retrieved 2017-05-24.