Project-Based Learning

The High School Career of Artist David Garibaldi

A successful performance artist and painter credits the teacher who taught him the meaning of tenacity.

September 27, 2010
An artist is working on paint. There are so many colors of paint on the floor.

Name: David Garibaldi
School: Sheldon High School
Location: Elk Grove Unified School District
CTA: Animation Pathway
Status: Professional Artist and Performance Painter

David Garibaldi is a performance artist with a calling. Garibaldi dances on a drop cloth while two DJs and drummer play hip-hop music. Compact and energetic, he grabs paintbrushes as he moves. Holding one in each hand, he starts making brush strokes on a life-size canvas board. As he dances, a portrait slowly emerges before your eyes: Martin Luther King Jr., Jimi Hendrix, Madeleine Albright. He calls the piece "Rhythm and Hue." He frequently performs at schools. And during the show, he tells the students his story.

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Garibaldi was failing in high school; he was more interested in painting graffiti late at night in rail yards and back alleys. That was true until his junior year: "That’s when I walked into the classroom of . . . " He pauses dramatically, then finishes: "Mr. Sullivan." Shawn Sullivan teaches the animation pathway program at Sheldon High School, in Elk Grove, California. Sullivan was blunt with the young man. "You can get paid to do this, or you will pay for doing it." A switch clicked on in Garibaldi's head.

Over the next few years, Garibaldi learned animation, taught himself formal painting, and began creating his hip-hop performance show. He’s toured with the Blue Man Group, performed during halftime at sporting events, and took his act to Europe. This year, a documentary about his work, titled Walking Dreams, premiered. Wherever he goes, Garibaldi makes time to meet with students and urges them to stay in school. "Art changed my life, and now I know it can change other lives."

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