Armando Franco (’11 VPA) stands behind the deejay booth at Blue Fin Billiards on Cannery Row, the headphone wires dangling from his ears. But instead of club gear, he wears paint-spattered jeans and instead of spinning tunes, he’s chalking up the outline of the Statue of Liberty on the wall, one of the elements that will appear in his next mural.

A nightclub may not be the first place one expects to see art, but this is the second mural Franco has been commissioned to do at Blue Fin. He aims to add color and energy to the dance area, and incorporates materials such as glow-in-the-dark stars to complement the black light and flickering lasers that usually illuminate the room. Perhaps it isn’t such a surprising venue for an artist who cites hip hop, graffiti and Jean-Michel Basquiat as inspirations.

“I want my art to help bring people out where they can make connections,” he says. “I want it to create a positive influence on my community, my peers and my family.”

This desire also led him to create a series of landscapes and architectural paintings for the Monterey County Rape Crisis Center’s Denim campaign. He became involved with MCRCC through his sister, Rosio Franco, who worked there as a CSUMB service learner.

Franco is also an active volunteer at Dorothy’s Kitchen. He started going to Dorothy’s to work on his Capstone project, a mural done with fellow student David Castillo ’11, but he has kept it up because, he says, “working there, you form relationships with the people. You don’t just stop going.”

Franco, who grew up in Gilroy, explored a number of majors, including business, psychology and music, before honing in on his passion for art. At one point, unable to settle on a major, the first-generation college student felt lost and almost dropped out. “I will love that university forever, because they gave me a second chance,” he says.

He credits the support he received through the CAMP and EOP programs for keeping him in school. “They helped me put my head in the right place, helped me believe in myself,” he says. The one-on-one attention he received from the Visual and Public Art faculty further cemented his commitment to graduating, and his fraternity brothers in Omega Delta Phi helped him keep his academics in line.

On campus, Franco became known for his works in blue masking tape. One of his first projects, done through the student club Working Hard as Artists Together, is still on display in the Student Center. He followed that up with tributes to Frida Kahlo and Vincent Van Gogh in East Campus residences. “I like blue tape because it doesn’t damage the wall,” he says. He’s also learned to push the limits of the tape, crumpling it to create texture and more sophisticated designs.

These days, in addition to the murals at Blue Fin and a job doing custom art framing at Michael’s, Franco is working on a series of smaller scale paintings on Dia de los Muertos themes. These pieces are psychedelic and colorful – Franco says developing a sense of color is an important part of his process now. He hopes to sell these works on his website,, and donate the proceeds to an area nonprofit.

Story by Liz MacDonald. Top photo by Kevin Garcia, second photo provided.

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