Siriaco Garcia overcomes a rough youth to become emerging star of central Iowa art world

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Siricasso stands for a portrait as he paints a mural at Midwest Autism Center on Thursday, November 16, 2023 in West Des Moines.
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By Jay Stahl, Des Moines Register

Siriaco Garcia’s right hand glided across the walls at Midwest Autism Center in West Des Moines.

The commissioned muralist outlined green hills, blue skies and brown tree branches with black paint.

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“I boldly outline my figures with a thick black outline, calling attention to their presence in my art against backdrops of bright colors, which invite all viewers into a cultural lexicon,” the central Iowa artist said.

Children who come to the autism center will walk through a double door entrance to a peaceful scene. Not long ago, when Garcia was growing up, his childhood was littered with a laundry list of disruptions, including domestic violence.

“I come from nothing. Growing up, my role models were doing everything they could to survive,” Garcia said.

Better known by his alter ego, “Siricasso,” Garcia channeled childhood pain into an adulthood spent painting. In his work, Garcia creates with a variety of mediums such as walls, shoes, T-shirts and sweatshirts. His work has ranged from paintings of rappers such as Tupac to colorful murals in his current home of Huxley.

Garcia plans to expand his presence throughout the state in what promises to be a breakout year, making Garcia one of the Des Moines Register’s 15 People to Watch in 2024.

‘It was my opportunity to start over’: Why Siriaco Garcia came to central Iowa

In his early years, Garcia encountered a rough home life in his family’s native Eagle Pass, a border town where Texas meets Mexico. The family moved several times, including a stop in Iowa, before returning to Texas.

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After returning to Texas, Garcia was hanging out with the wrong crowd and failed seventh grade, he said At the end of that difficult school year, his aunt asked if he wanted to move to Ames, Iowa.

“That’s what kind of made me want to come up here and like switch everything up. It was my opportunity to start over,” Garcia, now 28, told the Register.

How a high school art teacher helped Siriaco Garcia become Siricasso

In the early 2010s, then-Ames High School art instructor Shelli Hassebrock gifted Garcia a book about Pablo Picasso. Its chapters charted the path of the revolutionary Spanish sculptor and painter.

Weeks earlier, Garcia had painted a piece of artwork inspired by his childhood in Texas. The painting included jagged lines and sharp edges that reminded Hassebrock of Picasso’s works.

“He was able to tell me what every piece and part meant and that’s, as an art teacher, you don’t always see that because it’s hard,” Hassebrock said in a November interview. “It’s even hard for people in their 20s when they go to college to figure out what their art means.”

They cried together when Garcia shared with his teacher that his mom had been deported. She was the first person that he told.

In school, his dedication toward his art made an impression on other students.

“By the time he was a senior, I would say he was more of a role model in the art department because kids knew him,” Hassebrock said. “They thought he was super cool. You know? He drew on tennis shoes for kids.”

Siricasso paints a mural at Midwest Autism Center on Thursday, November 16, 2023 in West Des Moines.

The art staff at Ames High encouraged Garcia to pursue a path studying art, and he ultimately decided to attend Marshalltown Community College.

In 2015, while a student there, Garcia painted his first mural in the city of over 27,500 people.

‘He’s somebody who bet on himself’: Siricasso becomes full-time artist

Over the past six years, Garcia has established himself as an emerging star in the central Iowa art world. He is committed to bringing art to rural America.

“I’m so local,” he said. “You can see me at your local grocery store and ask me questions or chop it up. I’m not a gatekeeper at all. I’ll let you know what it is.”

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In 2022, he became a full-time artist. He has completed a series of commissioned murals in Huxley and the Des Moines metro area, including the ones for the Midwest Autism Center.

In October, Angell Wilson, the organization’s regional network operations manager, asked Garcia to paint four murals at the company’s facilities, including locations in Altoona, Ankeny, Waukee and West Des Moines. The pair originally met while playing basketball in Ames in 2018.

“He was just somebody that I naturally gravitated to,” Wilson said. “He had good character, and he’s a nice guy.”

Midwest Autism Center provides skills training and therapy for children ages 2 to 6. Wilson felt that Garcia could help make the building’s bare walls a colorful place where kids could have fun with their families. 

“He’s somebody who bet on himself. He was right out of high school and knew what he wanted to do,” Wilson said. “I was like, I knew exactly who I wanted to lead on this project, and of course it was Siri.”

Mainframe, mentoring and murals: How Siricasso plans to spend 2024

Siricasso paints a mural at Midwest Autism Center on Thursday, November 16, 2023 in West Des Moines.

In 2024, Garcia will help host his popular “Sip n Paint” parties, where anyone is welcome to come together at a venue to sip on beverages and paint.

He is partnering with the statewide Latino advocacy organization Al Éxito and the Des Moines Art Center for a Dia De Los Muertos celebration. He will continue his partnership with the nonprofit to help students at Hoover High School in Des Moines.

In March, Garcia is set to visit Fergus Falls, Minnesota, with his cohort from the Rural Regenerators program, a fellowship that brings together creatives from across rural America to reinvest in their communities.

He and his fellow alumni from last year’s class plan to set up a traveling art gallery exhibition across the Midwest. He is seeking venues and locations so he can bring the touring show to Iowa.

Garcia also will introduce Des Moines residents to Save the Art Volume Four, his annual art exhibition. The event includes live performances from local musicians as well as featured businesses and artists.

“We’ve had three in Ames, but I’m looking forward to bringing it to Des Moines because I know it’ll be successful,” he said.

In addition, Garcia plans to continue his relationship with Des Moines’ Mainframe Studios, the nation’s largest nonprofit art building. He regularly hosts events in the big room on the building’s first floor during “First Fridays,” an open house on the first Friday of each month.

And Garcia is leaving room for more metro murals. He has completed 36 so far.

“I love seeing people take pictures with them. I love seeing people’s reaction,” he said. “When I do these murals, it’s like I’m in a different zone. It’s me against the mural, and at the end, we come together and fall in love.”

Siricasso finds peace as full-time artist, father, mentor to many

His family is growing, and he now shares three children with his wife, Stephanie, an esthetician. He has chosen to raise his family in Huxley, a small Story County city wedged between Ames and Des Moines.

Stephanie Garcia, Siriaco’s wife, and their three children.

“I want to be someone that I needed when I was coming up. That big brother, that artist, that mentor in my community,” Garcia said in a recent interview.

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He smiles as he describes looking forward to bringing back his Columbus Park Art Festival during Des Moines’ annual Art Week in June. There will be food and family-friendly art activities, a live DJ and a bouncy jumping castle. He is searching for up to 75 artists to set up shop and sell their wares to festivalgoers.

Life now feels peaceful, like the murals at Midwest Autism Center.

“I’ve planted a lot of seeds in my days,” he said.

The new year looks like parenting, like painting — and more planting.

Jay Stahl is an entertainment reporter at The Des Moines Register. Follow him on Instagram or reach out at [email protected].

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