Walk around Louisville and you may very well bump into a piece of artwork by Tony Viscardi. The iconic metal signs of Diamond Pub & Billiards and Varanese are by Viscardiâ€™s hand. Perhaps youâ€™ve been to a suite at a UofL or UK game? More than likely youâ€™ve seen an aluminum cut-out of the Cardinals logo or the iconic blue and white of the Wildcats. Well, these are Viscardiâ€™s as well. This year, Viscardiâ€™s most visible work will be at the Kentucky Derby Festival â€“ a gong to be rung by the racers at this yearâ€™s KDF marathon.
But for Viscardi, the life of an artist and sculptor was not always in the cards, as his future seemingly lay in working metals in another capacity â€“ on the line at a car factory.
â€œI worked in a car factory for 10 years and was hating my life,â€ explains Viscardi. â€œI was working with metals and with aluminum, but I was always into contemporary design and art, so when I started messing around in my garage with metal I started creating clocks, it was the easiest thing to do.â€
Having spent several years working on small things like clocks, Viscardi caught the eye of a local interior designer who started utilizing his pieces in his designs. The works became so popular, he promised to get Viscardi out of his factory job within a year.
â€œSure enough, he was right,â€ recalls Viscardi. â€œI jumped without a parachute from a cushy job with benefits and everyone told me I was stupid and crazy for quitting that job, but I hated the factory life. But 10 years later I am here. Weâ€™ve been on HGTV, and we filmed in our studio for two years with John Ramsey in the mornings and have been on national TV, and now we do a little bit of everything.â€
â€œA little bit of everythingâ€ is an understatement, as Viscardi (who had to bring in the help of his friend John Austin, and fiance Marla three years ago) now has pieces being routed all over the world to places ranging from churches to million-dollar homes.
â€œWe made a huge cross for a United Methodist church â€“ the cross and flamesâ€ recalls Viscardi. â€œWe now have five or six cross jobs at all times, on a jobs board, for the past three years. Today I sent a clock design to U.K.â€
So while Viscardi has kept busy, heâ€™s also had time to do work for local charities.
â€œWe are always donating our pieces for local charity auctions, because itâ€™s important to give back. And weâ€™re always getting requests to give more which weâ€™re happy to do,â€ adds Viscardi.
But while charity, crosses and clocks are one thing â€“ this year Viscardi is working on yet another high-profile work â€“ the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon gong.
â€œThey [the KDF] asked if I could design a gong, with a sculpture around it,â€ explains Viscardi. â€œIt was going to be at the finish line but now itâ€™s going to be at the side where people who beat their previous best time can ring the gong.â€
Making the project even more special is the fact that Louisville Slugger are creating special sticks with which participants will use to strike the gong on race day.
For now though, Viscardi can reflect on the fact that heâ€™s doing what he loves, surrounded by people he loves, every single day.
â€œI love the freedom of doing what I want,â€ concludes Viscardi. â€œAnd of being out of the house, creating. I love being able to create things outside, as well; things that my kids may one day still have and can look at 20 or 30 years later, and that motivates me.â€
Learn more about Tony Viscardi at www.viscardidesigns.com. VT