arts and culturefeatured-art-and-cultureIssue 36


By Crystal Nay

Improving a city center may sound like a daunting task. For one artist and his spray paint, transforming downtown areas across the globe is a very welcomed endeavor.

Aaron Vickery, 41, has been drawing for as long as he can remember. Starting with comics and comic books, Vickery made the transition to tagging once he reached
high school, following a path of illegal graffiti and street art for five years. But, in 1996, he was asked to elaborate on his artistic talents, which pulled him off the illegal graffiti game and into getting paid for his creativity.

“It followed a very natural progression,” says Vickery of the evolution of his art. “It started with people asking me to paint their bedrooms, then it moved to small businesses. At first, they would just cover the cost of the paint.”

And, as natural progression would have it, Vickery moved into making some money for himself, in addition to covered paint costs. His artistic prowess and skill with a spray can reveal that he could go into business for himself as a muralist.

Vickery’s background in graphic design has always been his cornerstone and safety net in the uncertain world of mural painting, while simultaneously allowing him to keep one hand in all things media. It has served him well. As a graphic designer for 5.11 Tactical, he was also involved in video production and retail environment design, where he would build stores in a 3D computer space before flying to various parts of the country to build them in a real space. He freelanced for a bit for E&J Gallo Winery in their creative sector and did a few other artistic gigs in the area.

“I hit all the big places in Modesto,” Vickery laughs. All the while, he kept painting murals. “I have completely lost count of how many murals I’ve done.”

One mural Vickery will always remember is an 8-foot by 72-foot art piece he completed for Facebook headquarters. “I had three days. It had to be completely freestanding, so it couldn’t even lean against another wall. I had to build the wall, paint it, disassemble it, drive it to Palo Alto, and reassemble it at Facebook.” It was a significant feat, but a well-accepted challenge for a man who changes the vibe of the country’s downtown areas by painting the sides of entire buildings.

Right now, Vickery is hot on the mural festival circuit— a festival concept that is spreading like wildfire. He currently travels extensively, visiting and participating in mural festivals around the world, including those in New Zealand, Canada, Guatemala, Mexico, and all over the United States. But, he is staying true to his Modesto roots and growing the FASM Creative Battle mural festival he started in his hometown’s downtown.

The mural festivals— and downtown Modesto’s included— draw an engaged, diverse crowd of people who all have some kind of appreciation for art. Complete with DJs, food, a beer garden, and kids activities, FASM Creative Battle is a family-friendly event that takes the joy of art and magnifies it to feel larger than life.

Psychologically, if you take a plain, beige wall on the side of a building that closes at 5 p.m. and is closed on weekends, it becomes a place no one really cares about. But, paint a mural on that wall, and it somehow—again, psychologically—becomes a place that people care about.

“I hope to break the boundaries of imagination of where community can be,” Vickery says of his goals with Creative Battle. “I want to do more in Modesto, and make downtown look like a huge outdoor gallery— make it an art destination, something that says, ‘We are this town.’”

Vickery’s murals can be found decorating various buildings of Modesto’s downtown, with him having recently painted a mural in westside Modesto. He vows that murals help keep city areas clean and appreciated.

It’s this concept that has inspired Vickery to also connect with city schools with the idea of holding little competitions for students to codesign murals for westside Modesto.

“Psychologically, if you take a plain, beige wall on the side of a building that closes at 5 p.m. and is closed on weekends, it becomes a place no one really cares about,” Vickery explains. “But, paint a mural on that wall, and it somehow— again, psychologically— becomes a place that people care about.”

And care about Modesto, Aaron “FASM” Vickery certainly does.

For more information on FASM and where to find his murals, visit

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