By Ginger DeShaney
Erica Hagler uses her superpowers for good.
The South Boston artist has a passion for employing her talent to give back to the community.
“If you have a talent, you should share it with people,” she said. “It feels really good to give back.”
Erica’s mom instilled in her family the importance of giving back. The family fed the homeless every Thanksgiving; they donated toys to families in need; they saved extra toiletries to give out to people in need.
So it’s no surprise that Erica is involved in charitable giving every chance she gets. In November and December, Erica organized “The Art of Giving.”
This project was born when Erica was sitting in her kitchen thinking, “I made it through 2020. My business grew this year. I was so blessed.” She knew she had to give back.
She called Barbara Caputo Kelly at the Condon Community Center asking if there was a family she could bless for the holidays. Erica told a friend what she was doing, and she wanted in, too. And so did many others. All together, 25 families were helped.
Erica created paperwork for the recipient families, getting as much information as she could. Each sponsor bought her family toys (such as PlayStations and bikes), items for the parents (such as air fryers and comforters), and $150 Stop & Shop gift cards.
“We wanted to make sure everyone got food, too,” Erica said.
A Facebook post from the Condon Community Center stated: The true spirit of Christmas shined brightly in the homes of 25 deserving families this Christmas morning as they were surprised and showered with gifts galore … This entire effort was created by the amazing (and, amazingly talented artist) Erica Hagler and her many incredible friends from the Artist Community who came together so wholeheartedly and generously to adopt Condon CC families and provide children and parents a very special Christmas – giving the best gifts of all – hope and happiness.
Erica also recently painted and donated a chest to a local restaurant group to raffle off to help support the business and its staff.
The restaurant/nightclub industry holds a special place in Erica’s heart. She hasn’t always made her living as an artist. She spent several years managing restaurants and nightclubs.
“Anything to do with restaurants, I have a soft spot,” she said. “Anything I can do for restaurants …”
In high school, Erica took the easiest art class offered, but her art teacher noticed how good she was and moved her to the highest art class, skipping all the classes in between. The new art teacher “made it difficult on me,” she said. “He made it so miserable for me.”
The students were required to enter every art contest in town, and being that she lived in San Diego, there were a lot of them. “I kept entering and I kept winning,” Erica said. She was doing huge projects for free for these contests. “That crushed my hopes of me wanting to do art after that.”
After high school, Erica started college. “But school was never for me,” she said. “I felt bored in class. I’m a self-taught person, and I don’t want to wait for other people to teach me.”
She started managing bars and restaurants in San Diego. Then she went to New York and managed a restaurant for celebrity chef Chris Santos and others. Five years ago, Erica’s boyfriend (now husband) convinced her to stop working in the nightlife industry and focus on her art.
At first she said no, “I won’t make any money.” But she is making money, thanks to her talent and hard work.
“I’m thankful for everything I learned from managing nightclubs and restaurants,” she said, including marketing, networking, and the art of competition.
For Erica, the first two years of making art revolved around building her portfolio, her clientele, and trust. “It takes time for people to trust you.”
Then there’s the marketing piece. “It’s all about marketing yourself, especially in the arts,” she said. “If people don’t see it, does it really exist?”
Erica was drawing little things for her house, and her friends took notice. Her first big break came when George Foreman III of Everybody Fights, the boxing club, asked her to create art for a new space he was opening in New York. She painted five canvases of influential people: Nelson Mandela, Ernest Hemingway, Sammy Davis Jr., Maya Angelou, and Amelia Earhart.
After getting that chance from Foreman, other people approached Erica for work, and her business, Blind Fox, took off.
She credits living in Boston, a big city with a small-town feel, with growing her business. “It’s funny how many people know each other,” Erica said. “It’s a great networking city.”
Her recent projects include creating murals for Yoki Sushi in Medford, all 5,000 square feet of the building, Parlr in Framingham, and 300 A Street in Southie; doing backdrops for Reebok photoshoots for the “Wonder Woman” film; and designing Yeti coolers for General Mills Tailgate Nation.
She has several jobs already lined up for 2021, including creating art for the fourth floor of 175 Federal Street, and for a few restaurants; and designing a new logo for Barstool Sports.
She hand paints murals, canvases, individual pieces; she designs vinyl wall wraps; she creates fine art pieces; and she does installation and embellishment work.
Once a client books her services, Erica walks through the space to get an idea of what the client wants, the color palette, theme, type of establishment, etc. Then she sends the client her file of 80 styles. “People don’t know how many possibilities there are for art,” Erica said.
The client will pick 5-10 they like and through a process of questioning, Erica narrows it to the final style.
While many artists specialize in one, maybe two, genres, Erica offers a wide range — and is talented in every style. “That comes from pushing myself,” said the self-taught artist.
Her favorite art to create is pop art/graffiti style. “Pop art is so classic,” she said. “And graffiti style is what the kids like. It blends older and younger generations.”
Some of her favorite projects:
- 300 A Street: “I enjoyed the drip art because it was so out there and messy.”
- B/Spoke Cape House: “I created a giant wave on the wall. It gave me the flow of movement.”
- Six String Grill & Stage (Gillette Stadium): She turned 15,300 guitar picks into an image of Dolly Parton. “It was really cool.”
In her downtime, Erica is always creating … for herself. “It’s very important for me to paint for myself,” without restrictions.