By Gregg McQueen
Franco Gaskin has given to the streets for over three decades.
Now it’s the community’s turn.
Gaskin, a prolific muralist and artist better known in Northern Manhattan as “Franco the Great” or “the Picasso of Harlem,” gained fame during the 1970’s after painting murals on the metal gates of closed Harlem storefronts across 125th Street.
The artwork helped beautify the neighborhood, offering beacons of vibrant color when the area was more readily identified with crime and decay.
“My paintings, a lot of media picked it up, cameras would come film me. That ended up being seen all over the world,” Gaskin said. “I felt like an ambassador, like I was bringing tourism into Harlem.”
Over the years, Gaskin has painted more than 200 gates along 125th Street, as well as numerous indoor murals throughout Harlem, he said. His subjects include vivid scenes of dancers and musicians in motion, somber portraits of larger-than-life characters such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali, and even a triumphant Mr. T.
Now 93 years old, Gaskin lives alone in a St. Nicholas Avenue apartment and has limited physical mobility, which prevents him from traveling the neighborhood to greet local residents or show off his artwork.
On August 12, Gaskin’s daughter Felicia Nesfield created a GoFundMe online campaign to raise donations for a wheelchair and other equipment to help her father get around. The fundraiser has so far garnered nearly $8,900.
Read more: “Respect to the Legend” | Manhattan Times