The Man Behind the MuralsMay 01, 2021 ● By Amy Kryzak
Elaborate, large-scale murals have become ubiquitous in Frisco’s Rail District in recent years, thanks in part to artist and muralist Patrick Ganino. Behind each of the four Frisco murals he has created so far is his inspiration, into which aspects of the city’s history as well as his own interests are incorporated.
Born and raised in Middletown, Conn., Mr. Ganino says he was “always artistic. … I always drew and was very creative.” His love for art continued as his skills evolved by practicing creating murals on the walls of his childhood bedroom. He honed his skills by challenging himself with hands-on experiences. “When I started doing murals … I was like, ‘I’ve never painted a landscape,’ so I’d paint a landscape. ‘I’ve never done a sky mural,’ so I did a sky mural ... and I would keep wanting to … challenge myself.”
Mr. Ganino painted his first commercial mural in 1995 for a nightclub in Boca Raton, Fla. “I was 18 or 19 years old and they had a budget of $500, and so I did this mural. I think it cost me about $500 to do it, but I was pretty excited about it.” After that, he booked several other mural projects in Florida, and in 1999 founded his company, Creative Evolution.
Eventually, Mr. Ganino decided to leave his full-time job and devote his time and attention to painting. Searching for more clients, he turned to the phone book and began cold calling Connecticut designers, architects and builders, explaining what he could do in their clients’ spaces. “I basically printed these (photo) books … and I would give them to architects and designers and builders. If I couldn’t get in the door or get them on the phone, I would mail it to them. … I would find some way to get in front of them.”
Over the next decade, Mr. Ganino’s mural business expanded to New York City as more high-profile designers became eager to work with him. Even as he took on bigger projects, his philosophy remained the same: “If you do a good job and you work hard and you don’t cause a lot of trouble,” more people will want to work with you, he says. “If there’s an error on the job, I don’t tell everybody about it, I just fix it. So the designers, builders and architects loved working with me.”
In 2008, producers from the television series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition asked Mr. Ganino to create a mural to be featured in an episode of the show. He describes the experience as “very interesting. You get very little direction, and you have very little time to do it. It’s an all-nighter.” Despite the demanding timeframe, the job went off without a hitch, he says, and the show’s producers invited him back to complete murals for other episodes. He was later hired to produce murals and faux finishes at restaurants featured on the series Kitchen Nightmares, starring celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey. More made-for-TV mural work followed on Bar Rescue and other series. While worthwhile and valuable, Mr. Ganino describes those experiences as “grueling” due to the tight turnaround times of the projects. In one instance, the artwork was not even completely dry by the time filming began the next day.
The same year, he booked his first celebrity client, Judy Sheindlin of Judge Judy fame. Positive professional relationships with his clients and contractors, coupled with the success of those projects, garnered other referrals. Mr. Ganino has since worked with a bevy of celebs including Rosie O’Donnell, Dennis Rodman, Mike Tyson, Hulk Hogan, Chevy Chase, Wade Boggs and John Daly, among others. “You do a decent job and you’re quiet about it, almost like you’re invisible. ... You let the work speak for itself,” he says. “Then, eventually, [potential clients] will reach out and want to talk to you about it.”
A self-described “high-sensation seeker,” Mr. Ganino says, “Every project I do has challenges, whether it be location, the heat, the cold, it doesn’t matter. It’s just an awesome feeling” to complete a project. “It’s something I wanted to do as a young boy. I remember driving through town with my parents. I was in the backseat, and I saw a mural on the side of a building, and I was like, ‘I want to do that,’ and having that inspire me like it did, even now, I still remember it. … I also love the idea that maybe I can inspire another artist to want to do this, too. There aren’t many of us.”
The personal tragedy of a longtime family friend first brought Mr. Ganino to Frisco. Scott Hoffner is a local restaurateur and owner of Didi’s Downtown. Following the death of Mr. Hoffner’s mother in 2017, Mr. Ganino offered to paint a mural on an exterior wall at the restaurant in her honor. The next year, he completed the train mural that is featured there. He and Mr. Hoffner discussed several ideas and settled on the train theme given Frisco’s railroad-laden history. The men also added a personal touch: The two young girls depicted in the mural are Mr. Hoffner’s daughters. A self-portrait of Mr. Ganino can also be seen in the piece.
Donny Churchman, owner of Frisco-based Nack Development, soon took note of Mr. Ganino’s work at Didi’s Downtown. “I love what he did,” Mr. Churchman says of the mural. “I thought it was really cool and creative.” In 2019, Mr. Churchman commissioned Mr. Ganino for three Rail District mural projects. The first was a 40-foot-tall mural on the rooftop of The Patios at the Rail on Main Street. While brainstorming ideas for the project, Mr. Churchman says he let Mr. Ganino’s creativity take the lead. “For me, it’s always about people. … I told [Mr. Ganino], ‘Here’s my vision for downtown, you come up with something cool,’ and that’s what he did.”
The original concept for The Patios mural included an open-bar scene with notable people and celebrities congregating. However, when Mr. Churchman revealed that The Patios was built on the site of the former Double Dip Frozen Custard stand, they re-envisioned the mural’s scene as the counter of the Double Dip. That decision presented challenges, which included locating old photos of the Double Dip to use as a reference.
In the end, Mr. Ganino rendered the counter scene featuring an eclectic mix of recognizable faces chosen by himself and Mr. Churchman, who was also immortalized in the piece. After initially refusing to be included, Mr. Ganino told Mr. Churchman, “`I’m not doing [the mural] unless you’re in it,’ and he reluctantly accepted.” His likeness is seen conversing with his business partners, former Major League Baseball players Matt Kemp and Torii Hunter. Also featured are legendary boxer Muhammed Ali and famed martial artist and actor Bruce Lee. Meanwhile, the iconic likeness of Marilyn Monroe nods to the glamorous 1950s; and Justin Bieber is “instantly recognizable” to younger generations, he says. Smiling through the Double Dip’s window is Chevy Chase, a client of Mr. Ganino’s and one of Mr. Churchman’s favorite actors.
After the completion of The Patios mural, Mr. Ganino’s next tackled an exterior wall at the historic 1922 Carpenter Brothers Ford building, located at 5th and Main Streets. For the 1,200-square-foot mural, he decided to highlight the history of the building, where in the 1920s Ford Model Ts were sold and maintained. For the theme, Mr. Ganino suggested, “Let’s do it all in black and white. We’ll have a sales room, we’ll have a garage, all 1920s Fords.” Once the initial design was planned, it was Mr. Churchman who suggested adding the characters Marty McFly, Doc Brown and the iconic DeLorean from the 1985 film Back to the Future as a twist. “We decided to keep Marty, Doc and the DeLorean in color and keep everything else in black and white. It’s all life-size. … The DeLorean is 17 feet long, the people are all actual height, and it came out to be a really fun piece,” Mr. Ganino says.
A third collaboration between Mr. Ganino and Mr. Churchman can be seen on the side of the new Nack Theater on Oak Street. Once again paying homage to the area’s railroad roots, the mural features a 25-foot-tall train engine emerging from a tunnel. Riding on the engine is the actor Hugh Jackman, dressed in his ringmaster costume from the film The Greatest Showman. As for choosing Mr. Jackman for the mural, Mr. Ganino explains, “He’s the ‘greatest showman.’ What could be better for a theater?” In addition to the exterior mural featured at the Nack Theater, several large-scale works of art and canvas murals by Mr. Ganino will soon decorate its interior spaces.
Of working in Frisco, Mr. Ganino says, “Every time I come here, I typically rent a house on Oak Street … and I walk to work. Because of doing that, I’ve met so many people in the neighborhood and have become friendly with everybody. (Frisco) has become this really amazing spot for me personally. I travel all over the country and I meet friends all over, but this place has been special to keep coming back to.”
Frisco’s Rail District is now rich in captivating murals painted by Mr. Ganino, with even more projects in the works. If you haven’t already, consider taking a stroll down Main Street to get an up-close look at his work. Mr. Ganino chronicles his progress on projects locally and across the country on Instagram (@patrickganino).
Amy Kryzak is a wife, mom and blogger who loves connecting fellow moms, food in all shapes and forms and loves all things Frisco.