UC Davis Graduate Paints Very Big Art Career

Editor’s note: This alumni success story is presented here as it was first published in the College of Letters and Science Magazine in 2016.

People celebrating under a freeway with its underside painted as a mural
Created by art studio and Italian major Sofia Lacin and her partner, "Bright Underbelly" brightens the underside of the W-X Freeway (Highway 50) in Sacramento. (Chad Davies courtesy photo)

Just before completing her undergraduate degrees in art studio and Italian in 2008, Sofia Lacin was hired to paint a mural at the Davis Crepeville restaurant where she worked. It was a big wall so she recruited her high school friend Hennessy Christophel to help.

“It was difficult, but we had fun,” said Lacin, who grew up in Sacramento. “I found out I liked painting out in the open and solving the problems involved.” 

Business focused on large fine-art projects

That restaurant painting led the two women to form an art-making partnership specializing in murals. After a few years that included some commercial jobs, the duo — dubbed LC Studio Tutto — began concentrating solely on large fine-art projects.

The two recently did their first out-of-state project (in Knoxville, Tenn.), painted a mural in the underpass leading into the Napa Valley town of Yountville this fall and are working out details for two Los Angeles projects. 

Highest-profile art is under Highway 50

Their biggest and highest-profile artwork so far is Bright Underbelly, a 70,000-square-foot mural on a portion of the underside of Highway 50 in Sacramento known as the W-X Freeway, completed in March.

The job that really launched LC Studio Tutto can be seen in Davis at Mace Boulevard and Interstate 80, a mural on a 4 million-gallon water storage tank that was selected from a nationwide call. 

Painting murals is physically demanding, exhausting work.

For Bright Underbelly, the duo spent many cold winter weeks lying on their backs painting as the highway above them shook with the passing of thousands of cars and trucks. 

“That’s the easy part,” Lacin said with a laugh.

Doing the math in an art career

Profile of Sofia Lacin
Sofia Lacin

Half their time is spent on job proposals, meetings, making calls and organizing finances. Another 35 percent is art research and design. About 15 percent is brush-in-hand time. 

When it comes to making a living making art, Lacin had the benefit of growing up in a household that blended art and commerce. Her parents, Kent and Greta Lacin, own a long-running Sacramento photography and media business. (Her father earned a Master of Fine Arts degree from UC Davis in 1974.)

“I didn’t study the market or do a lot of research,” she said. “We were walking a fine line,
inventing a career we didn’t know existed.” 

You have treat an art career ‘as a job’

Her advice for making a creative career work is a mix of idealistic and practical: “Never lose sight of your curiosity and always be willing to do something you don’t know how to do. Take risks, but be smart in how you take risks. Surround yourself with people you think are really talented. And you also really have to treat it as a job —you go to work every day like any other job.”

For her, it has paid off. Recently the partners left Sacramento to seek better connections to the international public art world, with Lacin heading to Los Angeles and Christophel to the Bay Area.

Jeffrey Day is the content strategist for humanities, arts and cultural studies. Devoted to communicating about the arts and humanities, Jeffrey earned a degree in anthropology.

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