With a first glance at Foster Romano’s downtown mural, “SOL,” you’ll see rainbow-colored calligraphy packed tightly together, faintly reminiscent of Roman and Greek lettering.
And then you’ll realize that’s no alphabet you’ve ever seen before.
The Colorado Springs artist had two murals accepted into this year’s Art on the Streets, a blocks-long sculpture garden by Downtown Ventures. And at 16, he’s the youngest to ever be awarded a spot in the competitive, juried exhibit. Romano also has autism, ADHD, profound dyslexia and other learning disorders.
“The piece talks about his experience as a neurodiverse person navigating a neuronormative world,” says Claire Swinford, director of urban engagement for Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs. “It draws the eye. We don’t know what it says. He wanted people to have a moment of confusion to see what it’s like for him every day.”
It took a little pushing to get Romano to submit his murals to the call for entries.
“I didn’t want to. I didn’t think I’d get in,” he says, “but my mom said just do it.”
It was his intention to provide passersby with a little eye candy.
“I was just kind of messing around,” he says. “I wanted to make something cool looking. It looks much more cool than a painting of whatever.”
“SOL,” a vinyl mural, is located on the alley wall of the Trolley Building at 524 S. Tejon St., and “Loona,” also a vinyl mural, is on the west and south exterior walls of Cycle Gear at 527 St. Tejon St.
Romano’s artistic side might have been spurred by his father, Daniel Romano, a sculptor who works mostly in fabricated metal. He’s had three of his sculptures accepted into AOTS over the years. The duo decided to take some workshops from Virgil Ortiz, a mixed-media artist and Cochiti Pueblo ceramicist, at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College, where Ortiz was working on his 2018-2019 exhibit “Revolution: Rise Against the Invasion.”
Ortiz got to know the Romanos and asked Foster to collaborate on weapon fabrications for his “Venutian Soldiers” and “Aeronauts” exhibits. Over the past few year, he’s become a mentor to the teenager.
“He was always a couple of steps ahead of any adult in the workshop,” says Ortiz. “It’s incredible to witness his brilliance and talent come to life right in front of your eyes. He’s awesome to be around, especially in the studio, a never-ending blast of thinking and creativity. He’s sharp, funny and hardworking.”
Foster hopes to keep making murals and working on weapon fabrication, as the whole artistic life is proving to be a decent outlet.
“I didn’t grow up wanting to be an artist,” he says. “I wanted to be an engineer for awhile, but art was proving to be pretty good. It was working out better than all the other things.”
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