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Jeff Vorva's Im-PRESS-ions: Garibaldi's got talent -- and is using some of it for charity

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Jeffs Col Impressions

Some of us are getting at that age when we see young punks run afoul of the law and say things like “why can’t they use all of that energy for something positive?’’

I’ve been saying it in recent years whenever computer geeks decide to gum up our laptops and home computers or hack into some place they shouldn’t be and do millions of dollars of damage. Why can’t they spend all of those hours doing something positive?

David Garibaldi had a little punk in him.

He admits to doing illegal activities in South Sacramento involving graffiti. He was a high school dropout and was seemingly heading nowhere with his life.

Why couldn’t this kid do something positive his talent?

Thanks to some advice from an art teacher, he turned his life around and became an amazing performance painter. He paints pictures of celebrities in less than six minutes while using music and dance in his act. He made it to the finals of “America’s Got Talent’’ in the seventh season (Judge Howie Mandel couldn’t get out of his seat fast enough to applaud Garibaldi after one performance) and has made his share of money entertaining and dazzling audiences all over the world.

His hometown media speculates he could be the next Andy Warhol.

But the cool thing about Garibaldi is that he came up with an idea.

His goal was to make $1 million before he turned 30.

All for charity.

In late 2012, at age 29, he accomplished that goal.

Garibaldi was in Oak Lawn on Jan. 19 – Martin Luther King Day – to speed paint portraits of King, Rosa Parks and Mahatma Gandhi during a presentation at the Advocate Christ Medical Center Auditorium. Those three pictures will be auctioned off at later time to help one of the hospital’s anti-violence program, so Garibaldi did not stop helping once he reached the $1 million goal.

He said some auctions have raised “tens of thousands of dollars’’ per picture.

“I realized I had this unique opportunity to use a few minutes on stage and a few hundred dollars of materials to see the value in what it brought to other people’s lives,” he told the Oak Lawn crowd. “I wanted to change the purpose behind the passion. Along the way, I was thinking ‘I don’t think we’re going to achieve this goal. That’s a very large number.’ But the night I met that goal was a reminder on why I stayed on that path.’’

Usually his act finds him painting celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Jay-Z and has done some touching pictures of Jesus.

He and a few other artists banded together and made it to the finals of “America’s Got Talent” and the group did a lot of dancing and painting to get pictures done in under two minutes.

“A lot of people overlook that I did paintings in 90 seconds,” he said after the Oak Lawn performance. “I usually do these in six minutes and that’s pretty fast. Doing this, a performance and dance in 90 seconds, was tough. It wasn’t the millions of people watching that made me nervous – it was doing something I had never done before.’’

Between the first stroke of the brushes through the final product, this guy jumps around, dances, dips his hand in the paint and throws it onto the canvas until this mess all of a sudden shapes up to be a brilliant work of art.

Sometimes he is not sure what the final product will look like until it’s over.

“Paint drips and paint doesn’t always go where you want it to,” he said. “Things change in the middle of a performance all the time. But it’s a process I’ve been doing a long time and I’m trying to perfect it. I try to capture the portrait during that moment.’’

After Oak Lawn, the next day he was performing in New Jersey and the next day he was throwing paint around in Scottsdale, Arizona.  He said he does 100 shows a year and when he’s not creating on stage, he said he practices a lot at home.

“Talent without hard work is just kind of a cool hobby,’’ he said. “I practice and try to find new ways to create.’’

SUBHEAD – 21 and counting

This was the 21st MLK celebration at Christ and one of the people overseeing all 21 events is the center’s staff chaplain, Rev. Richard E. James.

James and his committee have brought authors and entertainers – and even a play -- to the center for more than two decades including Chris Gardner, whose memoir, “The Pursuit of Happyness,”  was made into a film starring Will Smith.

J.R. Martinez, an actor and war veteran who suffered burns over 34 percent of his body and won the season 13 “Dancing with the Stars” competition, was also a guest.

Having cool guests on MLK Day is nothing new, but I asked Rev. James what he could possibly do for an encore after Garibaldi’s presentation.

“That’s a question I love to hear every year,” he said. “Our aim is to provide the creativity that Martin Luther King lived and died for. Our mission is to keep his values and philosophy alive and to put on a multi-cultural presentation that many people can enjoy. It’s not just a black thing.’’