Amid paintings of models and cars, a skateboarding half-pipe sits in the back room of Camilo Pardo's studio in downtown Detroit.
It's a remnant of a wine and art party attended by a few hundred people last year. The 43-year-old Ford Motor Co. designer says the studio has become an unconventional meeting place for corporate and creative personalities to take in the Detroit art scene.
"It gives them the feeling like they're getting away from something," says Pardo, who has hosted events such as the North American International Auto Show's annual Designers Night party at his studio.
Pardo, who has worked at Ford for more than 20 years, is perhaps best known for his work as the chief designer of the Ford GT sports car, which goes out of production this month. Local observers say Pardo is helping boost the profile of up-and-coming artists.
"Over the last 15 years, you can follow all of the most significant cultural events by the evolution of events at his studio," says Richard Rice, director of Detroit By Design, an organization that promotes and produces creative and cultural programming.
Pardo has made a name for himself in various art forms. Comic-book-colored paintings of pretty women and fast cars line the walls of his studio space. Hanging in the back of the room are several stylish jumpsuits that he modeled after clothing worn by race car drivers. Pardo's car art often has been purchased by Ford, and the fashions have been featured at auto shows and his parties.
Pardo's paintings sell for $6,500 to $8,000 each, while prints sell for $1,100 to $1,400 on his Web site, camilopardo.com. His fashions have sold for up to $1,500 per piece.
Furniture line, too
Three pieces of his Merkury furniture line sit near the studio's front entrance - a 475-pound chair, a coffee table and a lamp. The pieces, crafted in aluminum, cost up to $24,000 each. They were created in collaboration with Michael Chetcuti, president of Quality Metalcraft Inc. in suburban Detroit.
Chetcuti and Pardo met because Quality Metalcraft was a key supplier for the Ford GT program. The two have collaborated on other projects, such as a sculpture made of door trim panels from the GT. But Pardo says the Merkury line has allowed the duo to show their talents in creating "functional sculptures."
"That's where fine art and industrial design come head to head," Pardo says of the furniture line. "You can combine your understandings of production and ergonomics with a mixture of the abstractions of fine art."
While Pardo has achieved his own success, Rice says he has been an asset in the community by promoting the next generation of young artists and designers.
For eight years, Pardo taught classes at Detroit's College for Creative Studies, his alma mater and one of the country's top automotive design colleges. He often showcases artists through events at his studio.
Staying put at Ford
Pardo says he sometimes thought about leaving, but his Ford job provided him opportunities to satisfy his desire to live in other areas. For instance, he worked at Ford design studios in Turin, Italy, and Cologne, Germany, early in his career.
The Ford GT project also served as a "pacifier," a project that Pardo was happy to delve into and that created a reason for him to stay.
Pardo seems content to stay in Detroit. While he continues to focus on his artwork and fashions, Pardo says he expects his next great work may come in the form of a new car design after the success of the Ford GT.
"It's a great surface or plateau to grow from," Pardo says of the GT. "It's the beginning of a number of great designs."
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