Painting the picture Artwork: Kirk Maggio didn't make it in the NFL as a punter, but he's getting his kicks painting -- and the Ravens have taken notice

Stadium Watch

June 26, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Kirk Maggio's talents will be on display this fall in an NFL stadium near you, though not in the way he'd have dreamt as recently as three years ago.

The Ravens commissioned Maggio, 30, a former Calvert Hall quarterback and All-American punter at UCLA, to produce a series of football-related paintings that will go on the walls at the Ravens' stadium. The assignment provides a neat segue from football into a career long on the back burner.

"I always knew that I wanted to be a painter," Maggio said. "[While he was at UCLA,] a lot of players would kid me. They would say that while they're studying for finals, I'm painting pictures."

The contract with the Ravens -- which will pay him $50,000 -- has spurred interest in his work from other corners. Ravens players such as Tony Siragusa, Larry Webster and Michael Jackson have put in orders for his paintings, which achieve near-photographic quality. He also was contacted by Sinai Hospital and ESPNZone.

"It's at least flattering to have been approached by the likes of those people," Maggio said. "A lot of things that come up don't necessarily pan out, but at least people are getting to know my work as the guy who's doing the Ravens' stadium."

Football and art have been side by side through most of Maggio's life. While at Calvert Hall, Maggio would work several hours each evening on art projects for instructor Victor Janishefski after putting in several hours of practice under coach Augie Miceli.

Though Janishefski denies that this created a major conflict, "it was a struggle," said Andy Maggio, Kirk's father. "The art teacher didn't want him to play football, and the art teacher and Miceli would get into it."

The battle continued at UCLA, where he would take his art projects on road trips.

After Maggio's All-America season in 1989, the Green Bay Packers made him their 12th-round draft pick in 1990, motivating him to devote his time to football. However, at about 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, Maggio is built more like a painter than a punter, a heavy strike against him in NFL training camps.

"I've been through it so many times," Maggio said. "You get into a camp, and, most of the time, you're there to push somebody or you're there as an extra leg so the starter doesn't wear out."

He bounced around for two stints with World League teams in Birmingham and Sacramento, was cut by Baltimore's CFL team in 1994 and gave up on professional football not long after that.

The end meant going into his father's business, where he sold severance packages to the home health industry. Though he was successful -- earning $60,000 while working part time -- he said he didn't enjoy the business.

"It was really difficult for him," said Maggio's wife, Cari. "I call it a two- or three-year healing process. But I see it coming through in his painting, so I think it's important that he went through all that."

Maggio approached the Ravens early in 1997, with a painting of a raven that he'd hoped the team would put on a wall of its downtown offices.

At that point, the team hadn't thought of what artwork it would use for its skyboxes, but Maggio's original painting piqued the club's interest, and he was asked to come back with a football scene.

Since December, Maggio has produced the four paintings from which skybox owners may choose. The paintings share space with the pool table in his Southfield townhouse. The paintings -- the raven, two defensive "doggie pile" shots and one image of the line of scrimmage -- are notable for their uncanny resemblance to the photographs upon which they are based, capturing every shadowed tattoo, striated muscle and helmet bolt.

"Everyone was impressed with what he had done," said David Cope, Ravens vice president of marketing and sales. "I'm not an art critic, but I was impressed with the attention to detail. He was able to express the fact that he was a football player."

The Ravens offered Maggio the contract at the end of last year, allowing him to quit selling health benefits packages and focus on his artwork, which he hopes to expand beyond sports-related subjects.

"I really enjoy doing the sports stuff, but at the same time, I want to be able to do the pretty pictures, so to speak," Maggio said. "Because this [sports-related paintings] is where I am now, it's taking up a lot of my time and it's where I want to be, but I don't want to limit myself to that."

Pub Date: 6/26/98

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