By: Jessica Clifford
Sometimes we do not realize our passion until we are later on in life. For public and commission artist, Gina Franco, that is exactly what happened.
Franco, the artist who just painted a mural last weekend on one of the walls the YES! Weekly office, always knew she enjoyed drawing but she never considered turning her interest into a career.
“I didn’t think you could make money with art, so I just pushed it away,” Franco said, remembering she felt this way while attending Guilford College’s business school.
While taking classes, she needed to take an art class as a general education requirement, which became her first art course. She instantly fell in love.
Before Franco’s mother died, she did not have the time to make art because she was taking of her mother and her son. Six years ago, she included art as a major focus in her life.
Since then, she has found which styles of art she likes best. “I like to do murals because I like the scale. I love to work big,” France said, while also adding that many people get to see the work she does when it is done in a large public place.
Her work can be seen around Greensboro and Winston-Salem.
One mural is located upstairs in the Center for Visual Arts in downtown Greensboro. This piece features a pattern of colorful crayons. For Franco, the most exciting part of this commissioned project is when families take pictures of their children in front of her mural and send them to her.
Another one of Franco’s murals is located at Westerwood Tavern in Greensboro. To create this mural, Franco pulled the design from parts of the community so it could celebrate the neighborhood where the tavern is located.
Though Franco loves her work and is always recognized by her simple patterned murals, her favorite and most sentimental piece is at the International Resource Center. “The most important one to me was the [mural] at the IRC because I also experienced homelessness, so I had a connection to that,” Franco said. “That one is the most personal.” This mural features a pattern of doors – “to represent homes and housing.” The piece is supposed to bring awareness to human right involved in healthy and safe housing.
YES! Weekly’s publisher Charles Womack took notice to Franco’s work on social media and wanted her to paint an entire wall in the office. “I pulled things from what I felt like YES! Weekly is always involved in,” Franco said. The bright-colored and geometrically animated mural consists of music, food trucks, baseball, social media, films, golf and a burger.
The mural took eight and a half hours to complete, with no breaks. “I like to go until it’s done,” Franco said. Though Franco tends to use spray paint as her medium, the YES! Weekly mural is solely acrylic paint.
Franco insists that artists need to work for free first, especially those making public art because she said people only commissioned artists with a portfolio of their work. Franco offers some advice to aspiring artists looking to get their name out there.
“You have to be your own number one fan before you convince others to be your number one fan,” Franco said.
“I wish I could tell people to quit their jobs and put their heart and soul into it, and it will work out, but that’s not really true.”
Franco has a few upcoming events, where she will be painting live.
On Sept. 30, Franco will be at Art on Tap in Center City Park. This festival consists of interactive art spaces, a beer garden, live music, food trucks and events for people of all ages.
She will also be featured as the monthly artist for October at Wiseman Brewing in Winston-Salem. On Oct. 6, Franco will be performing a bar-takeover, installing her artwork around the insides of the brewery.
Franco works at Guilford County Schools, while her commissioned art is a second income. However, she hopes one day she can turn her art into a full-time career.
“I’d rather be doing this than anything in the world,” Franco said.
Her outlook on art has changed since she has taken it more seriously. “There is always a way to make money in art,” Franco said.
Check out more of Franco’s work on her Instagram account @ginaelizabethfranco, and message her for a commissioned mural or installation.