Fecundo Gastiazoro’s latest Smithers mural is a tribute to Grammy Award-winner Alex Cuba on the side of the Warehouse One building on Main Street. (Tom Roper photo)

Fecundo Gastiazoro’s latest Smithers mural is a tribute to Grammy Award-winner Alex Cuba on the side of the Warehouse One building on Main Street. (Tom Roper photo)

South and north: How an artist from Argentina wound up in northern B.C

Tom seeks insight into the man behind many Smithers murals

Born in the Matadoras corner of Buenos Aires among a population of 14 million, Facundo Gastiazoro spent his formative years in this working-class neighbourhood trying to find his place. His father was a writer of economic history with seven books to his credit and his mother worked as a chemist proving and disproving formulas for industry. Their home was constructed in a former slaughterhouse and Facundo will never forget the smell.

“We were working class, we lived a hard, dignified life,” he said.

Post-secondary education in Argentina was free and that provided an opportunity for even poor people to have a chance to get ahead.

“Doesn’t free education take away the incentive to work hard because its free,” I asked.

“No not necessarily so,” Facondo said. “And, in fact, there are more opportunities to study the philosophies and the arts to expand one’s capabilities. I was able to study architecture, graphic design, and animation without the overwhelming burden of debt accumulation. My passion became art, all forms including painting, writing and videography. I did murals in Buenos Aries and even joined the Muralist Syndicate Union to fight to improve wages for artists.”

“Sounds to me that you were pretty entrenched in Argentina, your culture, your work. How would you end up building a house on Hudson Bay Mtn. Road and living in Smithers. B.C.?” I enquired.

“Well that’s easy to explain,” he said. I fell in love. My now partner was travelling for a time in South America and just happened to end up in Buenos Aries and as fate would have it, we met and found we had similar interests and passions. She was originally from Toronto but had settled in Smithers after coming out west 10 years ago. She also had enough of the big city lifestyle and embraced the small-town existence. I also was ready for the change, the economic situation in Argentina was in collapse and I was prepared to follow my partner to this paradise we now call home.

“The people I have met in this community, they have supported me during my application for landed immigrant status. I have found other artists to work with. I had a band in Buenos Aries back when I was a teenager. We played a dark rock style. My music has flourished in the Bulkley Valley. I have collaborated with Richard Jenne and Mark Thibeault. This is a special place and I am very appreciative to be in Smithers.

“ I have had several occupations here including art teacher, log peeler and sander. I worked construction with Rob Goodine, building our house and studio. We collaborated on the windows. Windows are important to me, the light, the angle, they create the mood. I even got the opportunity to change the outside look of the Central Park building with the help of Pam Henderson and others.

“We brought back some dignity to the structure. The other adventure I am involved in is a C.I.C.K. radio show. We are connected together, a lawyer, a taxi driver and a psychologist with me, an artist. We converse and create in Spanish. It fills my cultural need and intellectual demand to seek alternative solutions for just societies. We try to understand the logic of the drive for profit, can we replace that? We get together every month to look at our solutions. It’s fun and challenging at the same time.

“But my first love is murals and I was very honoured to produce this mural celebrating Alex Cuba’s life and his impact on Smithers. Alex is a great guy and deserves this recognition for his accomplishments in the musical world of Latin music. I love the colors of the mural and love the circular impression of the Alex Cuba influence. I also want to create a mural of my own for Smithers. A mix of local native style with a Latin American influence. I am not sure how, when, or where, but I think it could be possible. Making art public is important for the people. What good is art in your home, it should be free for all to see and appreciate.”

You have a true desire to create Facundo and we, the public, will reap the rewards.

Thanks for allowing me some insight into your character.