Dreaming Big

Armando Silva

UNC alumnus Armando Silva works on some of the final elements of the huge mural that now decorates a formerly blank wall at UNC’s recreation center. Related: Slide show depicting the transformation of the blank wall into the finished piece of art.
Photo by Barry LaPoint

Armando Silva gave up the security of a full-time job at a local car dealership to pursue a dream of using his UNC degree in Visual Arts to make a living as a painter. It’s a big dream that requires a big canvas.

Silva, who received his bachelor’s degree in May 2010, recently finished a 50-foot-wide and 20-foot-high mural on a wall in the Campus Recreation Center. While it’s not his first large piece, it’s by far the biggest he’s done to date.

The focal point of the mural is, fittingly, the large head of a bear, a subject he used on a smaller scale two years ago as part of an award-winning mural he created for a competition sponsored by a local restaurant. He also painted a mural of the Northridge High School dance program’s logo when he was a senior at the Greeley school.

It was the large mural with the bear’s head, though, that prompted Campus Recreation Center staff to commission Silva to turn a huge blank wall into a work of art and a source of school spirit.

“I love working in large formats,” Silva said. “But what I love even more is doing something like this in a place where people aren’t expecting to see art.”

Still, when offered the temporary job of painting the mural, Silva agonized over leaving the dealership where for eight years he’d worked his way up the ladder – part-time while in school and full-time on breaks and after graduating in May.

“I thought and thought about it,” Silva said. “I finally decided that I needed to follow my dream, and that if I was going to do it right, I needed to quit my job at the dealership and put all my energy and focus into it. Now it’s my “baby” and I’m really grateful for the opportunity.”

Silva, whose parents moved to Greeley when he was 5, said he’s always loved to draw and paint, but his passion for it came at a cost. As he got older, some of his peers made fun of him because he liked something they couldn’t relate to. After flirting briefly with gang life and tagging in an attempt to fit in, Silva realized that he was headed down a dangerous and unfulfilling path.

“My dad always told me that I should go to college and I decided to change directions and try to make something of myself,” he said. “I’m proud to be the first in my family to earn a college degree.”

Silva said he doesn’t regret quitting his job to take on the huge mural.

“I believe in myself and this mural has helped me look beyond using my art to just benefit myself,” he said. “I want to inspire other people to dream big, too.”

Of Note
- It took Silva approximately 280 hours between Nov. 1 and Jan. 14 to complete the UNC mural.
- To show rec center staff his vision for the wall, he used an 11-inch by 17-inch computer-generated sketch that served as his guide while he painted the mural.
- Rather than project an enlarged image onto the wall from the sketch and trace it, he outlined the mural’s elements freehand with light yellow or green paint and went from there.
- Sliva’s “normal” canvasses are 3 or 4 feet tall and wide. Examples are at http://www.aisgarts.com/.

- Gary Dutmers

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