Grand Rapids artist uses culture, bright colors to share a message

A report by Jacqueline Francis for Wood TV.

After moving to Grand Rapids nearly two decades ago, Caribbean artist Erick Picardo has become known for his colorful and bold murals spread throughout the city.

Born and raised in the Dominican Republic, Picardo has come to consider West Michigan home.

“This is the place right now where I feel I belong,” Picardo said.

With more than a dozen murals in Grand Rapids alone, the community has come to embrace Picardo’s artistic style that is inspired by his Caribbean and Latino roots.

He said it wasn’t easy at first.

“I see people basically slapping the door in front of my face as soon as I mentioned (that) I’m proud to be African-Caribbean,” Picardo said. “Believe it or not, that probably happened to me the first five years.”

Slowly and subtly, he began to incorporate culture into his pieces.

“This is a very conservative area in West Michigan, so I had to play around and figure it out,” he said. “How to keep promoting that part that is important to me, but not too obvious in a way.”

The artist is now known for being bold, playing with heavy brush strokes and bright colors.

“You can kind of identify my work with full of color, a lot of energy, joyful things,” he said.

When asked what the bright colors represent, Picardo said its something that runs through his veins.

“The bold color is a representation of the Latino people,” he said. “We are happy even though we live, for example, with a lot of poverty and corruption in our country, we are happy.”

With each mural, Picardo looks to share a message.

“This particular element is like peace,” he said, pointing to his mural featured at the intersection of Grandville Avenue and B Street in Grand Rapids. “You see the dove, a representation of peace.”

Picardo looks forward to painting more murals throughout Grand Rapids neighborhoods and perhaps even other cities across the state.

He views every brick wall as another blank canvas to make his mark.

“The challenge is what drives me into the particular process and then to see the result, in the end, is just a refreshing thing,” he said. “Like wow! Yes, we can, yes you can.”

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