1.Give us a personal background on yourself? (Where are you from, where do you reside, what’s your preferred medium? Are you a cat or dog person? We want to know!)

Hi everyone, My name is Manuela Montano, but everyone calls me Manu. I was born in Bogota, Colombia. I’ve lived 3 different lives, in 3 different states and 3 different countries before landing in Miami; where I currently reside with my furry companion, Kilo-my dog.

I love anything potatoes, I enjoy deep conversations and people watching with a notebook in my hand. I love painting, I love drawing, I love ceramics…mmm is the sexiest, and I also indulge in working with paper. However, at the moment I’m specializing in public art management and relations; my life revolves in producing murals. Which means I’m either on a wall painting myself or as an assistant, or I’m behind the scenes planning a mural to be produced as a Project Director.

At home I’ve mostly been working on starting up my LLC, TheDirtyProjects, an art management and mural production entity that facilitates production experience between world-class artists and businesses, or brands, who wish to engage art in public spaces. 

2. How did you first start your journey towards becoming an artist?

My biology notebook! It changed my life, seriously. I was a scientist before, I studied marine biology in college. I was used to gathering data, logging research, writing papers on observational studies, and spending hours on meticulous work. However my notebook was my escape, it had more drawings than alphanumeric characters. That’s when I knew I wanted to be in the art world.

I went through a huge shift in college and ended up switching my major to psychology and adding a minor in art; my new goal was to become an art therapist. However, I took an unexpected trip to Ultra Music Festival in Miami; I never went back to the island again. That’s when I signed up for the visual arts program at The Art Institute of art and design in Miami.

My journey though as an artist, I believe is just starting. I still need to find myself first. I needed a place to create and excited to finally start my private practice. I think I’ll be an individual who will constantly bounce from being an artist to a curator/producer.

3. When was the first time you really saw yourself as an artist?

Hehe this is an interesting question. I was with my colleague, Tuto, 40 ft up in the air producing a mural for Elian Chali. All I remember saying was, “dude, we are artists.” I label myself as an artist in practice. Technique, and passion, I’ve learned from all the artists I have worked for. Business and administration, I’ve learned from working with Unconventional Group as their experience designer and Goldman Global Arts as their project manager.

I’m lucky, hanging out on the streets led me to meet a lot of people. Great people! Who believed in me and helped me obtain the work ethic and vision I have today. I totally immersed myself in the public art world and culture of Miami instead of getting a masters degree.

4. What do you think new artists struggle with the most nowadays?

I believe we struggle with the reality of owning a business. Choosing what market we want to be in there are many different types of artist. The reality of being an artist is that your craft is your business, but business is not our craft. No one taught us how to sell, keep quarterly goals, market products, or even write contracts. It’s up to the artist to put in the work to learn about those things for themselves.

5. How did you learn how to set a price on your art/craft?

I believe this varies for all of us but in the mural world I breakdown my budget into different sections; Labor, materials, aerial equipment and artwork and manufacturing. I also use square footage in a lot of my prices. Cost of product varies based on scope of work.

6. What has been your favorite piece that you’ve created?

I am a producer, so my favorite project that I’ve planned so far has been in Dallas with Goldman Global Arts. The public art activation included immersing 10 national and international artworks into the city of Deep Ellum. I worked closely with renowned artists; Pixel Pancho, Mantra, Daniel Kitchner, Sen2, Joe Iurato, Leon Keer, and more.

Understanding their needs and having production ready was my job. That included, prepping walls, purchasing product and material, renting all machinery, getting a job site ready following OSHA guidelines, safety checks and keeping project budget. Sounds intense but I enjoyed it alot.

7. Who’s one of your biggest sources of inspiration right now?

Source of inspiration Charlotte Dutoit. She’s the founder of Just Kids and owns her production company. She helps promote a lot of artists and engages all over the nation. I would have to say my friends also inspire because there are so many types of creativity around me.

8. If you could pick one of your pieces to represent you as a person, which one would it be and why?

I haven’t made it yet, but the productions I’ve been involved with are all so different that I think it’s what makes me. “Jack of all trades, master of none”

9. What has been your happiest moment as an artist?

The happiest moment was definitely Houston & Bowery Wall with Queen Andrea. It was the first time I traveled and it was the first mural I painted with nothing but spray paint.

10. Have you ever made any mistakes in the industry that have taught you a valuable lesson?

Yes, I’ve made a lot of them and keep making them. However, the biggest mistake was working with clients that needed rushed jobs, I’m done with that. Quality over quantity always.

11. If you were a dessert, what dessert would you be and why?

Perhaps a mochi ice cream platter because there are many variations and you sometimes do not know what you’re gonna get.

12. What kind of music do you like to listen to when you work?

Music! Uff depends on what I’m painting and my energy. I love hip hop, R&B, dance hall, funk, alternative, and edm. I go from Kendrick Lamar to Omar Apollo really quick. lol it varies.

13. What’s your least favorite trend at the moment?

Artists changing themselves to satisfy social media platforms. It’s like we’ve all turned into a reality TV show.

14. If you could design a home out of literally any material, what would your house be made out of?

Recycled material. Think it would be interesting to create a home with objects that already exist.

15. If you could leave us with one thought, what would it be?

Follow your gut. It’s never wrong unless you don’t know yourself. Be patient and know how to define success. Also when you look at a mural think of what had to be done to put it up 😉