M. S. Franco named featured artist for 2009 XIT Rodeo & Reunion
By Robin Scott
The 73rd XIT Rodeo & Reunion and the Dallam-Hartley Counties Historical Association – XIT Museum proudly announced Manuel Franco as the 2009 featured artist. Franco has graciously painted and donated an original painting in acrylic entitled “Buffalo Spring Division – XIT Ranch” to the XIT Museum. A reception in Franco’s honor and to unveil the landscape painting is scheduled for Thursday, August 6th at 7:00 p.m. at the Museum.
Franco is a native of Coyame, in the northwest state of Chihuahua, Mexico, about 50 miles west of the Texas border at the city of Presidio. He moved to Texas in the 1970’s while still in his 20’s, without being able to speak English. His hard work and enthusiastic spirit allowed him to master English and blend into the community of Dumas where he continues to reside today.
Although Franco has enjoyed a love of art since early childhood, he originally pursued a career as an engineer. He attended the University of Chihuahua where he received a degree in mining engineering. Upon his arrival to Texas, he worked for the Swift Company, but his longing to create art continued to occupy his thoughts. He made a leap of faith and began working as a full-time artist 30 years ago and has now attained national and international notoriety.
Franco and his wife, Risa, travel throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico each year to attend different art expositions and benefits. Franco has won many awards for his art and art displays. Upcoming events include the 38th Annual Ruidoso Art Festival on July 24 – 26, the 73rd XIT Rodeo & Reunion on August 6 – 8 at the XIT Museum and the 2009 El Dorado Hotel Southwest Art Show on August 20 – 23 in Sante Fe, New Mexico.
Franco paints with watercolors, oils, pastels and acrylics. The painting donated to the XIT Museum is an acrylic. His first medium was crayon, when his mother would send him out into the fresh air and encourage him to draw at the age of five. He paints cowboys and Indians, wildlife and western art, but is perhaps best known for his Southwestern art. Since his studio and gallery are in his home in Dumas, he is always surrounded by the art he enjoys so much.
Franco’s art is sold on the Internet through many different art dealers. Many of his paintings have been made into limited signed and numbered printed editions and have become collector’s prints and posters. On a trip to Mexico at a gathering of many University of Chihuahua officials, a young boy of about 10 made his way through the crowd surrounding Franco to request he autograph his “Western Horseman” magazine that displayed a portrait Franco painted of his father, Don Tello Franco, in 1984. His art is enjoyed by all ages of admirers.
Franco has also earned the respect of other well-known artists such as Amado Pena, Ed Morgan and Michigan artist R. Scott and Pampa sculptor Gerald L. Sanders, Franco’s friend and mentor who passed away in 2004. Meeting and talking with other artists is also one of Franco’s passions. Traveling to the various art shows, festivals and showings allows him to learn about what other artists are doing and where they have been.
Art proliferates Franco’s life. His wife tends to their urban garden in their backyard that has everything from miniature corn she uses for decoration to zucchini squash and tomatoes. On a warm Wednesday afternoon in July, Risa showed the silkworm she discovered in the garden that she planned to raise to maturity and then let go once it becomes a moth.
The Francos are in the process of building an art studio and gallery in a building in their backyard next to their beautiful garden and peach trees. The Francos work on the new studio in between painting and traveling. A single ceramic tile set in the cement entryway of the new studio is a sign of things to come. It’s an Indian and signature “M. S. Franco” that has become Franco’s recognizable logo.
The Francos share their modest home with their beloved Smokey and Poca, two cats that lazily rest in the window that overlooks the patio and garden. They live amidst art of every sort on a quiet Dumas street. Their life is a testament to Franco’s motto, “Visual art has the ability to penetrate deep into the heart of someone who sees it. The ability to communicate – everything!”