Franco the Great

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by Wyatt Salsbury

As the cloudy skies and cool, brisk wind swept over Harlem recently, Frank Gaskin, known as “Franco the Great” made his way to 125th street. The poor weather could not stop the 88-year-old neighborhood street artist from continuing his weekly routine. Franco pushed his cart full of art and supplies for multiple blocks, set up at his usual spot across from the Apollo theatre, and prepared for what would be a typical Sunday morning – selling artwork, greeting visitors and enjoying the company of friends.

Franco the Great has lived and worked in Harlem for over 50 years and is best known for his paintings on the metal gates of storefronts along 125th street. Franco’s work is deeply rooted within the Harlem community. While some paintings focus on themes such as the struggles of African-Americans, others focus on Black culture and life as a whole. But in addition to being a neighborhood icon, Franco has attracted visitors from around the world and his Sunday morning routine has become a frequent stop for various Harlem tours.