Pelican senior Lizette Franco’s big heart for family leads to unexpected opportunity

By Nicole WK

Lizette Franco, right, poses with Dave and Donna Damlo and their German Shepherd, Max, while holding the portrait she created of the beloved pet. The graphite and colored pencil portrait of Max was commissioned by Dave Damlo and created by Lizette Franco.

Pelican Rapids High School senior Lizette Franco was considering giving up her passion for art if she didn’t receive high marks in the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) event in NY Mills in April. However, fate had other plans for her. 

Franco’s artwork is currently on display at the Pelican Rapids Library as part of the High School art exhibit, which is where Dave Damlo of Star Lake saw her painting of a Husky pup. He was immediately drawn to the eyes of the portrait and inquired with children’s librarian Nanette Albright about the artist. Damlo wanted to commission a portrait of his German Shepherd, Max. 

Albright, who knew Franco from her participation in Albright’s book club during her time as a librarian at the school, happily connected the two. Franco and Damlo met at the library, where she presented him and his wife Donna with a portrait of Max, earning her first commission. 

Franco credits her parents for her creative streak – her father is known as “the fixer” in their family for his welding and door fixture skills, while her mother is talented in crafting creative and elaborate decor for family events. Family is important to Franco, inspiring her to create artwork as gifts for loved ones and even draw portraits of them. 

Of the three pieces featured at the library exhibit, two are gifts for her niece and nephew, while the other is a portrait of her grandfather at 15 years old. Franco said she is considering going into nursing after graduation but hasn’t decided yet. 

The portrait of a husky pup that inspired Dave Damlo to commission a portrait of his own dog from Lizette Franco can be seen at the Pelican Rapids Library through the end of March.
Lizette Franco’s niece requested this charming piece featuring a puppy and sunflowers.
Lizette Franco’s portrait of her grandfather at 15 years old is a beautiful tribute to her family history.

Despite her uncertainty about pursuing art professionally, Franco’s nephew Derrick Pantoja inspires her with his own artistic talent. Pantoja recently won first place in the Shrine Circus coloring contest and tells Franco that he will be even better than she is when he reaches her age. As a proud aunt, she hopes he is right.

Franco’s story serves as a reminder that sometimes our passions find us, even when we least expect them. Her willingness to create art out of love for family has led to unexpected opportunities and recognition. She may even have a booth at this year’s International Friendship Festival on June 24 in Sherin Park. 

Until then, you can see Franco’s work and more from other talented art students of Pelican Rapids High at the Pelican Rapids Library through the end of March.