Rebel headquarters for Sacramento pop art icon, David Garibaldi, is right in the heart of R Street, across from WAL, the city’s epicenter of cool. While its exterior may scream “dark and mysterious,” the studio is as bright, vibrant, and meticulous as the artist himself. Neatly organized spray and paint cans and artworks border a well-lit-paint-splattered wall, center stage where all the magic happens.
On the day of our interview, Garibaldi was camera-ready for a commissioned piece. Not telling us or his thousands of Instagram/Facebook fans the subject of the piece, we all wait in anticipation to see what the artist has up his sleeves. Six minutes later, rabid paint strokes and fancy footwork — all synced to the hits of Queen — transform a black canvas to a handsome portrait of rock icon Freddie Mercury. The live stream ends with a quick plug for the flick, Bohemian Rhapsody. (He’s a business, man.)
Mercury is just one of the many influential figures the artist has painted with his trademark Rhythm and Hue process. He’s made a name for himself across the region and throughout the world blending music and movement with paint. Dance, music, and art have always been constants in his life; but it was through performance painting where he brought all of his passions together.
Garibaldi has performed over a 100 shows a year since his start in 2006. He’s traveled the world and connected with movie stars, musicians, and various philanthropic organizations. He’s appeared in music videos for rapper French Montana and country singer Hunter Hayes, opened for comedian and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, and performed at NBA arenas and NFL stadiums across the country with some epic halftime performances. In 2012, he sped up his process to an impossible 90-seconds to impress Howard Stern, Howie Mandel, and Sharon Osbourne on America’s Got Talent. (He and his CMYK breakdancers ultimately made it to the Quarterfinals that season.)
Let’s just say he bucks the starving artist narrative.
But despite his rise to fame, Garibaldi doesn’t let success get to his head. Rubbing elbows with the rich and famous is just a perk and is not the ultimate end he seeks. Rather, he’s more interested in sharing his talents to help others.
The phrase “passion and purpose” is mentioned constantly throughout the interview but without an ounce of insincerity. For Garibaldi, it is the guiding principle for all that he does.
“My purpose is to use my platform for something bigger, beyond me, and any personal gain,” says Garibaldi. “When you are an artist, you are not guaranteed anything; you are not supposed to be successful. I worked my butt off and thankfully, I found people that believe in what I am doing. After a while, I began wondering, what could I do with this opportunity? I wanted to find ways to make my paintings and performances a conduit for good.”
His first painting sold for $100, $200 below asking price; now his speed paintings sell for tens of thousands of dollars. At age 25, Garibaldi set a goal to raise $1M for charitable causes by age 30 (“I chose that number because it scared me”). He is well beyond that figure and is on his way to reach $5M.
His new ambition is to multiply and inspire creatives through the nonprofit Creator X, a joint effort between himself and his junior year high school animation teacher, Shaun Sullivan.
Although Garibaldi did not graduate high school (“I was very unfocused.”), lessons from Mr. Sullivan always stuck with him: “he taught me to look at art as something bigger, how to communicate intentions, and how to pitch them to others. These were concepts that are not typically discussed in a traditional art class,” recalls Garibaldi.
Garibaldi and Sullivan kept in touch and sought pathways to bring arts education outside of the classroom. The two launched a Creator X summer camp, bringing 120 students to Sheldon High School to learn four art disciplines (visual, digital, storytelling, and performing arts). Each day also began and ended with inspiring keynote speakers. “It really felt like a TedX art camp,” remembers Garibaldi.
“When I first got into ‘teacher mode,’ I was intimidated, but then I realized I was in a classroom full of young me’s. I knew I had to not only share information on figure drawing and painting but also teach the creative process and how art principles connect to real life,” says Garibaldi.
And as thank-you letters from parents continue to roll in, it seems that Creator X is doing something right. In fact, Creator X is already prepping for its 2019 summer camp.
Two days after Thanksgiving, the rebel with a cause will embark on another first, his Art Life Tour.
After test-driving the concept last year at Ace of Spades, the artist heads out on a five-city tour starting November 24. Garibaldi and his team aim to make the creative process captivating and public through light, sight, and sound. During his 70-minute set, he’ll paint eight portraits, ranging from movie icons to pop stars to patriotic and historical figures, all at a dizzying speed. His 12-person Sacramento-based crew features two dancers, a deejay, and live drummer Serge Lysack.
Building an experience is always first in mind for Garibaldi; it’s the whole reason why he’s taking on the task: “throughout my career, I’ve been lucky to support myself and my team doing one-off shows and fundraisers. While I’m able to share my craft, [these singular shows] limit the experience [my team and I] can provide for people.”
His social media channels only paint half the picture of his performances: “[My team and I] put out a lot of content and share videos of live shows. There is a reaction that can’t be replicated. [Our] challenge is showing people who aren’t [at the performance] what it’s like. I want to give loyal [social media followers] the opportunity to experience what I do live.”
Garibaldi also sets out to prove his naysayers wrong. (He and the art world have an interesting relationship, to put it mildly.) Art Life Tour is his first attempt to show that his brand of performance painting can be a viable form of arts entertainment. “I got into [art] ‘cuz there are no rules. I’m a creator…and I push boundaries. I’m all about creating…and not interested in doing something that’s acceptable,” says Garibaldi.
“All [show elements] are put together in an inventive way…I [storyboard the show] by writing out all my ideas on cards, laying them all out, and shuffling them up…then I start putting together the music, mixes and feel how it all works together and think ‘how would the audience feel when they hear this?’ If the music starts moving me, we’re on the right track.”
“If what brings you to the show is seeing live art, that’s great; but what you are going to experience is a level of inspiration you’ve never seen before,” says Garibaldi.
Art Life Tour Dates:
November 24: Ace of Spades (Sacramento)
February 7: Union Stage (Washington, DC)
February 8: World Café Life (Philadelphia)
February 9: Brighton Music Hall (Boston)
February 10: Gramercy Theatre (New York City)
With all of Garibaldi’s success, what keeps him grounded in Sacramento? 1) He wants his two children to grow up here, and 2) the River City is the true land of opportunity: “I always thought about Sacramento like this, if I don’t like what’s not here, I’ll create it…If it’s not here, let’s make it…If it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t matter if it exists anywhere else, let’s make it here. I’m constantly inspired by the people I’m surrounded by.”
Favorite Local Hangouts:
Get your daily dose of creativity and inspiration on Garibaldi’s active social media channels.