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Artist Spotlight: Micaela Levesque

Freelance artist, Micaela Levesque, wears a moldavite necklace around her neck as a lucky charm. The rare green gemstone, initially formed from a comet, is thought to propel its owners toward their destiny.

Self-described as a “careful observer,” Micaela is constantly formulating ideas and, above all, she’s motivated to create an abundant, meaningful life for herself.

“Art fits me because the opportunities are limitless,” Levesque shared. “I like designing my own life — one that isn’t so conventional.”

Self-taught with a spray can and paintbrush, Micaela uses bold colors, brilliant texture, and significant symbolism, leaving no detail left behind. Levesque’s brush strokes speak beyond the canvas, and her fixed facial expressions evoke all too familiar truths. Her work captures the authenticity of the human experience, and her art inspires conversations while connecting with inclusive audiences. Mixing vibrant paint colors with valuable messages, Micaela Levesque creates public art pieces with presence.

An Early Start to Art

“I was somewhat introverted as a kid,” she admitted. “While others were busy talking, I allowed my mind to wander and imagination to flourish.”

Dedicated, design-oriented, and innately in tune with improving the world around her, at 16 years old, Micaela fell in love with painting in public spaces after local restaurant owners commissioned her to paint El Yunquea famous waterfall in a Puerto Rican national park.

In high school, Micaela’s art teacher introduced her to oil paints, giving her the space she needed to create her own world on canvas.

“I enjoy everything about oil painting,” Levesque detailed. “— Applying the paint, layering, the mediums and the varnishes, mixing my palette, and the rich pigments — seeing the brush strokes is the best part.”

Micaela enjoys connecting with other creatives, meditation, and scuba diving. A fan of exploring the unknown, surprises, and problem-solving, Micaela appreciates extreme, adrenaline-pumping experiences, and she lives for unpredictable adventures — ones where you never know what’s coming next.

After earning a psychological sciences degree from The University of Connecticut, Micaela, seeking an unpredictable adventure, decided to travel to the other side of the world — a journey no one in her family or friend circle could have imagined.

Backpacking: Broadening Horizons

“In 2018, at 22 years old, I went to Thailand to teach English, and I just stayed out there,” Micaela stated.

In a small town, Micaela raced through dirt roads on a motorbike and learned to speak basic Thai to buy essentials. There, she visited endless night markets, captivating temples, and other historical sites.

“I was also harassed by monkeys a few times,” she laughed.

“I’ve always been a very curious, imaginative person. I like learning about different cultures and picking up intriguing, unexpected details along the way. I love traveling to foreign places, observing countries, and living amongst its people.”

After her time in Thailand, Micaela then traveled to Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Backpacking on a budget, “I spent about a month in each place,” she specified.

Carrying her 40-liter backpack, minimal belongings, two pairs of shoes, and Google Maps on her phone, from time to time, Micaela utilized the kindness of strangers to guide her travels.

“During the year I was out there, I only came across a handful of Americans. It was an eye-opening experience to take a big step away from everything I knew and everything I was familiar with and immerse myself without any expectations — surrendering, in a way, and being okay with the process.”

In Vietnam, Micaela bought whole meals for under two dollars. In Mexico, she ate street tacos and embraced sweat lodge ceremonies. At a dive shop in Malaysia, she painted a mural of Bob Marley. In the Philippines, Micaela also hiked ancient rice fields and painted flowers for a surfing teacher’s family.

Finding Compassion in Other Countries

“I didn’t know what was happening half the time,” Micaela disclosed. “At a restaurant, I didn’t know if I was making a mistake ordering, or what was in the food, but I thought, ‘I’m just going to do it anyways and wing it.’”

“There were plenty of moments I was confused,” she continued.

“In Indonesia, on the Island of Sumatra, I had just gotten off the plane, and I immediately had to walk up to people and say, ‘Hey, how do I get from here to Jakarta.’

“To my surprise, the locals took so much pleasure in helping me — without hesitation, they’d say, ‘ok, follow me’ or point me in the right direction.

“Even if they only spoke a little English, they’d call their cousin up and say, ‘ok, translate for me,’ and I’d talk to another stranger, and they would help me get from point A to point B. I was using the help of locals to get around, and it was a big burst of love — they wished me to ‘be well,’ said ‘safe travels,’ and expressed that they hoped I enjoyed their country.”

In return, Micaela used her creativity to express her gratitude to the communities that made her feel welcome. A small yet meaningful mural of Micaela’s titled “La Curandera” (The Healer) lives on the wall of an eco-hotel in Chunhuhub, Mexico. The work depicts a traditional Mayan healer and midwife in one body, with multiple arms holding various tools used to heal. During her travels, Micaela connected with the Mayan family who ran the sustainable mural site, and she came up with the design after asking them about their culture and traditions.

“It’s not always about the painting for me, but the experience and story attached to creating it,” Levesque acknowledged. “I remember painting while they cooked tortillas over an old-school wood fire stove. It was a beautiful experience to paint in a quiet area of the jungle just outside the town, working amongst spiders, snakes, and tons of free-roaming chickens, with only one spot with cell phone reception. I was in a true state of flow.”

“It’s enlightening to put yourself in situations where you never thought you’d be,” Micaela recognized. “The world isn’t as scary as it seems. My faith in humanity has been restored plenty of times with the help of strangers in other countries, and I’ve made long-lasting friendships and connections.”

Adding A Splash of Color to Connecticut

Since returning to the United States, Micaela’s been pursuing her painting career, producing artwork across Connecticut.

In 2020, Levesque won Community Renewal Team’s (CRT’s) “Best in Show” National Art Award for her self-portrait.

In 2021, Micaela was commissioned to paint five female leaders on the side of the CRT’s Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Women’s Empowerment Center in Hartford.

The massive mural features Justice Ginsburg front and center, holding an open book with blank pages and a message for spectators to “write your own story.” The mural also showcases Ella Grasso, the first woman elected Governor in Connecticut and the United States; Former First Lady Michelle Obama; Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor; and Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris.

“I wanted to invite viewers to be their own authors,” she informed. “I feel like it's a disservice to ourselves to wake up and let our circumstances define us — perspective is everything. Life gets more fulfilling when we shift to being the main character instead of an extra in our story.”

A year later, Micaela went on to win the Latino De Oro Arts and Culture Award.

Elevating Her Experience to New Heights

In March 2022, Micaela began her creative partnership with RiseUP for Arts, Connecticut’s only statewide non-profit dedicated to public art. A testament to her talent, in under a year, Micaela captivated fellow artists and spectators alike when she was commissioned to paint the following five sensational works:

1. Honorable Women of East Hartford mural (Collaboration with Michael Rice)

2. “Infinite Hope” MLK mural in Bristol

3. “Girl with Flowers” window painting in Evergreen Walk, South Windsor

4. “Stay Hungry” tiger, Paint Jam event in Hartford

5. "Giant Flowers" Pool House mural in East Hartford

“As an independent artist, I’m appreciative of my partnership with RiseUP. It’s great to have Matt Conway (RiseUP’s Executive Director) on our side — he builds the bridge between Connecticut artists and communities, and the mural reveal events are really special,” Micaela affirmed.

“I’m also excited to be creating in East Hartford,” she added. “— It gives me pride in my career knowing I’m contributing to my hometown. Looking back on my portfolio, I love seeing it all come together. I like meeting other artists and being more hands-on in the community; it’s a great joy to be a part of the public art movement.”

A Painter’s Process

Spilling her craft onto outdoor canvases, Micaela can be found eating apples and kiwis on worksites in between steadily concentrating and staying committed to her wall. She wears headphones and white Reeboks splattered with paint while listening to rap, reggaeton, rock, and podcasts, lost in manufacturing her masterpieces.

“Details are everything to me,” Levesque divulged. “For me, it’s a lot of moving — I usually step far away from the wall, then go in the middle of the road or across the street to stare at the work — I take a lot of photos too.”

“Summer evenings are my favorite time to paint,” she shared. “I like the vibe of it; people are calmer and happy to be outside. I’ve had a lot of positive reactions in Hartford around that time, where people stopped by the mural site after work or after summer concerts or Yard Goats games, and I got to engage with a lot of people. I also really like the lighting, I love being up high — on a lift 30 feet up, and you can see the sun setting — it’s one of my favorite things.”

Aspirations of Art Creations to Come

One day, Micaela hopes to paint a massive mural of one of her idols — the late American chef Anthony Bourdain. Sure that the work would embody more than just his portrait, Micaela imagines the piece will have a somber yet encouraging feel.

“Bourdain was an explorer, full of flaws, who did what he always wanted to do,” Levesque explained.

“He wasn’t the type to emphasize fine dining — he taught us to enjoy cultural differences and not criticize. He traveled the world and exposed us to what’s out there, and that’s something that always stuck with me,” she recalled.

A Public Artist’s Advice

“The best thing about being an artist is having an infinite creative abundance,” Micaela made it a point to mention. “And, in the times that I don’t feel creative, I can always find my way back to it.”

When asked about her most essential artist tool — “patience for the process,” she responded, “that and my brush — I only need one good one.”

As for advice for beginning artists, “Challenge yourself,” Micaela recommended. “Get out of your comfort zone — experiment with life outside of art to gain new perspectives.”

“And remember,” Micaela pressed, “progress over perfection all day.”

RiseUP for Arts has carried on the mission to ‘Empower communities to imagine what is possible’ since 2012.

“RiseUP is proving what’s possible year after year,” Levesque identified, “The organization supports artists by giving them opportunities to work with different establishments, and it makes me proud to live here.”

When planning future public art projects for the following years, “RiseUP is putting all the pieces together,” Micaela confirmed, “— matching artists with communities and showing that Connecticut can be a state with beautiful, high-quality murals.”

Are you interested in supporting local artists like Micaela Levesque?

Are you hoping to have a pause-worthy mural painted in your community?

Connect with RiseUP for Arts today to make your public art project possible!

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