As an adolescent, Anthony Torcasio reveled in the rushes and the risks that came with being a graffiti practitioner. Never losing his love for expression yet eventually growing tired of the consequences his calling caused, he decided that the positive parts of his pursuits as a creative individual must nullify the negative aspects. The 37-year-old finds himself at the most potent point in his progression and has come to acquire distinction as a spray paint muralist specializing in abstract endeavors.
“Everything about this journey, especially working with children, is exhilarating,” the resident of Front and Fitzwater streets said from Rizzo Rink, 1001 S. Front St., where he and 50 youths last month united to make “The Colorful Spider.” “This road is offering so much redemption since there have been times in my life where the wrong voices dominated. Therefore, I love being a good influence on kids because they need reinforcement all the time.”
Along with the vibrant arachnid, the Queen Village occupant will be teaming with the Pennsport recreation site in adding a mural to its basketball court. Set to include “exploding picture frames,” the impending task, which he figures to begin early this month, will make apparent his penchant not only for ingenuity but also inclusivity.
“I don’t think of artistic talent as something that someone should think of as an individual way to apply meaning to the world,” Torcasio said, noting that the Rizzo Rink campers helped him because he thought “Why should I have all the fun?” “One person might do the work, or a bunch of people might have their hand in something, but what’s key is seeing how it’s a benefit to all that something new is in the world.”
The articulate artist will hit the court once he finishes his second mural for DiBruno Bros., 930 S. Ninth St. The completion of the Italian Market-situated labor of love will take his total to nine spray paint masterpieces, with Torcasio eager to reach double digits through Rizzo Rink.
“It’s a wonderful location and a place that’s going to continue to be formational for the kids around here,” the forward thinker, who suffered a chipped tooth as an 11-year-old courtesy of the space’s ice, said. “I just want to spread my belief that art can be a very therapeutic passion. There were moments when I was growing up where it wasn’t therapeutic but about building your ego and having an edge over people based on your graffiti prowess. Those days are behind me, and this neighborhood is a bit part of that.”
Torcasio has also had occasions for onlookers to compliment his growth through the String Band Music Under the Stars series at The Mummers Museum, 1100 S. Second St. Through “Laura’s Roses,” a birthday gift to his grandmother, which attendees can inspect on Thursday evenings and which anyone can peruse when walking in the vicinity of the building, he validates his communal take on art and emphasizes that sometimes in life, all one needs to signal a transformation is self-belief.
“I owe so much to this world,” he said of the artistic realm. “Say ‘yes’ to yourself, and other people will say, even shout, it back to you.”
The South Philly-bred individual, with roots on the 500 block of Wolf Street and the 200 block of Federal Street, explained that his youth yielded constant desires to be creative and active. By age 10, he tabbed graffiti as the main means to channel his curiosity and urge to stand out. The illegality did not deter his determination, and, in fact, served as a bit of inspiration, especially when he quit school at 16.
“Even with the arrests, I still wanted to do it,” Torcasio said of his 15 punishable offenses. “That sense of self-satisfaction was amazing, and the mystery of the possibilities really struck me. Still, though, I knew I needed to distance myself from it eventually.”
His epiphany came at 19 when he realized the fines and the other deterrents, including strained relationships with family members and friends, were no longer going to make a mess of his future. He essentially distanced himself from artistic outlets in his twenties, but three years ago, when interacting with his then-two-year-old daughter, Torcasio gained a concrete appreciation for abstract art.
“Out of nowhere, it seemed, I found this pull toward experimentation,” he said of the eureka moment that he shared with Adrianna, his child with wife Jennifer. “I’ve sort of become a Cinderella story because I went from someone with not that much left in terms of goals in this field to someone who spends most of his time thinking about how I can make this my only job. This life, where I’m always thinking about improving, has become my normal life.”
Feeling incredibly confident in his skills, Torcasio, whose days job finds him working as a maintenance porter, began to establish compelling connections, including one with Jahmall Crandall, the local brains behind the Ralph Brooks Revitalization Project, 20th and Tasker streets, and Jane Golden, the founder and executive director of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. Pretty much the possessor of an “I’ll do anything” attitude in order to showcase his enthusiasm, he has done work for, among others, The Fillmore; Image on South, 303 South St.; South Street Souvlaki, 509 South St.; and the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital’s Sidney Kimmel Center for Radiation Oncology, whose New Urban Optics exhibition united his work and that of peer Justin Rubich from April 18 to July 31.
“I might sound like a broken record, but I can’t believe how fortunate I am,” Torcasio, a frequent art show presence as well, said. “I like getting my name out there just like I did as a kid, but it’s more about others now. It’s about seeing what they can find out about themselves through looking at these pieces.”
In going what many might call “legit,” the merry muralist believes he has found more substance within his handiwork and holds that as he builds even more bonds and ponders more ways to make his ideas realities, he will undoubtedly make a masterpiece out of his days.
“I think being a husband and a father has given me that extra stability,” Torcasio said. “That makes for more inspiration, which, I hope, in turn leads others to shine their lights.” SPR
Contact Editor Joseph Myers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at southphillyreview.com/lifestyles.
Photo by Joe Myers