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  • Words by Kristy Calabro, Photos by John Domine

Akumal 2019: A Celebration of Art, Community, and Familiar Faces

The Akumal Arts Festival in Mexico, is about a week away and Sold is gearing up once again to bring you full coverage of the event now in its second year. We already went over our recap from last year and this time around there are over 130 artists and performers taking part in the festival. We wanted to highlight a few artists who will be painting in Akumal for the first time and some of them may seem a little familiar to you.

The legendary Chris "Daze" Ellis started his art career painting train cars. He is a pioneer and one of the most notable artists that has made the transition from the subway to the studio. Daze has had several solo exhibitions and his work is collected by celebrities like Eric Clapton and Madonna. From the Bronx and Brooklyn to Beijing and Brazil, his art is found all over the world and pretty soon you will be able to add Akumal, Mexico to that list.


John Paul "JPO" O'Grodnick is the co-founder and CEO of Sold Magazine. He is a visual artist and his improvisational paintings draw inspiration from his experiences with meditation. JPO has collaborated with the GAP, MTV, the Grammys, Saks Fifth Ave. and more. His murals are always so colorful and vibrant and they are sure to brighten and bring joy to the community of Akumal.


From his Kurt Cobain on Dodworth St. to Vigo the villain from Ghostbusters II at the Bushwick Collective, Huetek's work can be seen all over BK. That's because he's a Brooklyn boy, born and raised. He paints hyper realistic portraits on the streets that we think this community is going to enjoy. He is also an illustrator, graphic artist and musician who is honored to be apart of the Akumal festival. Just keep rockin' Huetek!


Jenna Morello, from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and is known for her large scale walls of hearts, flowers, musical instruments, among other themes. She works with many different mediums and makes beautiful resin hearts, wood cutouts and other mixed media pieces. Jenna designed a window display for Macys' Window Project in Herald Square for Pride month this year. She recently painted in Montana, Indiana, Modesto, and next up Akumal.


Kristy McCarthy aka "D.Gale" is a self-taught painter from NYC you can often catch her painting at Welling Court in Queens. Through her art, she raises awareness for social and environmental issues. Kristy has worked as lead teaching artist on various youth-led murals in New York City and also in Ecuador and Peru. She is a perfect artist to instruct one of the workshops in Akumal. D. Gale will be teaching a Zentangles & Mandalas class. Participants will learn basic pattern making techniques and practice visual meditation practices.


Bella Phame are from Rio de Janiero and Brooklyn respectively, who are currently painting in North Carolina, but shortly after are headed to Akumal. You may be familiar with this art couple because they have popped up in almost all the boroughs of NYC and their work is instantly recognizable by their signature purple and teal color palette. They also work on painting projects with a purpose like the "Equality" mural for East Village Walls. It's about inclusion and also brings awareness to American Sign Language.“The sign for 'equal' also means 'fair.' Start with your hands 'bent', a couple inches apart then bring them together." They're also giving a Paper Collage workshop during the festival.


Another notable art couple is Key Detail and Julia Yu-baba both originally from Belarus, now NYC. Key Detail loves getting opportunities to paint his unforgettable style in different places because of the positive energy it brings to the community and the chance to meet new people. Key Detail's work can be found all over the world and recently he painted in Michigan, DC, Indiana and a mural titled “Immigrants“ for the Imagine Mural Festival in Louisville, KY. Look for the couple and their "littlest" assistant, son, Max to bring even more positive vibes to an already thriving Akumal community.


You don't have to look up at the sky or through a telescope to see stars in NYC. You can see them sparkling and flickering on the streets thanks to Outersource. He recently collaborated on a wall with Belowkey and returning festival artist Ramiro, for Climate week that said, "Save the oceans. Save our water. Save us from ourselves!" located at Superchief Gallery. Outsource's next voyage is Akumal where the "Arter" Spaceman is going to spread his constellations and make a bright town, shine even brighter.


An environmentalist and advocate, bringing a little creative disruption to the streets is AcooL55. Around three years ago he starting wheatpasting in Italy, the United Kingdom and the US. Check out the Great Wall of Savas in Queens to see AcooL55's work. He is also a professional photographer and filmmaker. He spreads message about the environment and different social issues like, "Make toys not bombs" and "Imagine a world without plastic." He makes you stop and think, while you're walking down the street.


Queens is in the house! Last, but not least and probably the most appropriately named artist to be painting in Akumal is Turtlecaps. He is a longtime graffiti writer who started in the late 80's, early 90's and learned by practicing in the streets and on train tracks. Turtlecaps character is a mix of a turtleshell, with a spray paint cap head, a wind-up key on its back, and Mickey Mouse like shoes. He is a huge supporter of the artist community especially in Queens, NY. Turtlecaps will also be giving a workshop, "Math through Art". The course will teach formulas and measurements using NYC Boundless Brooklyn water tower kits, encouraging kids to figure out equations. After, they'll paint or draw on the water towers making their own creations. Akumal is "the land of turtles" and it's only fitting that the one and only Turtlecaps will be joining the painting fun and festivities this year!


The entire Sold Magazine crew would like to thank the curators and organizers of the 2nd Annual Akumal Festival. We are very grateful to be back this year! Stay tuned starting the week of November 4th-10th where John Domine and Kristy Calabro will be reporting back the entire week! Check Sold's Instagram stories, feed, and also Facebook. We're looking forward to WIPs, workshops, seeing familiar faces and friends new and old, and celebrating Akumal once again with this beautiful community!


For more information:


Akumal GoFundMe click: here

Artist's Instagrams:

Daze @dazeworldnyc

JPO @jpoart

Huetek @huetek

Jenna Morello @jennamorello

D. Gale @dgaleart

Bella Phame @bellaphame

Key Detail @keydetail

Julia Yu-baba @juliayubaba

Outerscource @outerscource

ACool @acool55

Turtlecaps @turtlecaps

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