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Where do you start a story about an artist whose works are as integrated into Lakeland as quick rain showers are into the summer forecast?  

You could start with how he worked in youth ministry for 20 years, and how that experience serves as a backdrop for how he now connects with clients.

It is tempting to recreate scenes where he was a barista at Starbucks attempting to craft foam so “foamy” that a penny could rest on it and then tie in how the book “Quitter” by Jon Acuff inspired him during his transition from dabbling dreamer to professional artist. 

You could dive deep into how he and his wife have experienced the hand of God at work and the blessing of supportive community the past 12 years following a near fatal bike accident that forever changed him as a husband, father, friend and creator. 

There are many places to start to try and define the story and impact of Josh Galletta, the artist known as Bump, but inevitably you will reach the same destination—one that is rare, colorful and filled with possibilities.

You Are Infinite

Amidst a large crowd of endearing fans Bump gave high-fives, took pictures and signed autographs. This was at Willow Oak Elementary in Mulberry, of course.

He had connected with students at The Great American Teach-In previously, helping them envision lives and careers that likely seemed beyond their grasp. 

The administration was so impressed with Bump that they asked him to design the cover of their yearbook.

This is the same artist who has earned work with mega corporations like Publix and recently had his work commissioned for an event at The White House, yet he gave this small task his full attention and respect.

“They asked me to come in and sign the books…I ended up staying for about an hour and a half, and I ended up signing like over 200 or 300 books,” he recalls with a grin. “And I end up drawing something in every single kid’s yearbook, like hundreds of little flowers, dragons, robots.”

This is the type of spotlight Bump enjoys. He is, after all, the illustrator of local author Ida Mundell’s book “Goodnight Lakeland,” he has taught art classes to underserved youth through his sponsorship with Tombow, and he has filmed art lessons with organizations like Visit Central Florida.

The characteristics that help the 45-year-old unlock a child or teen’s creative potential or simply bring them joy through his sketches are the traits that also made him an impactful youth pastor.

Galletta’s dad was a pastor and worked at a Christian radio station, a path Bump didn’t intend to follow. Bump said he remembers considering himself kind of a “Jonah” in a sense, not rebellious to religion, but also not super keen on pursuing a career in ministry.

Yet whenever he would go to some of his favorite hangouts, like skateparks or punk rock concerts, somehow he would end up in deep conversations that often led back to God. 

So he reached out to a friend and asked if he knew of any churches that were hiring, and within a week Bump was a youth pastor. He helped grow a youth program from eight children to more than 100 regular attendees. Today, he reflects on how his ministry experience enables him to be consistently responsive and empathetic to his creative clients.

“Kind of part of the ministry is always being available to help somebody. We had, you know, kids get raped, abortions…they’re going through anxiety, depression…” he said. “It’s like you gotta be in the kids’ lives. And I think for me that transcended to my art and my business.” 

Every Day I’m Hustling

Bump, who is best known for fun and bold black-and-white illustrations that can both wow and charm, started really getting into drawing in high school, when he would create comics and illustrate personalized pieces to give as gifts.

Fast forward several decades, and drawing was not just enjoyable, it was a lifeline for him. After long days at work and spending time with his wife, Mary, and their kids, Emmersyn and Fynn, he would sometimes draw into the early hours of the morning.

“Part of my accident, with the PTSD, was I couldn’t sleep without having, you know, flashbacks. So I would just draw whenever I wasn’t able to sleep.”

His drawings started to stack up, and pretty soon he and his family were setting up a tent at weekend markets as a profitable side hustle. He made more local connections in the art and business industries, and started to wonder if this hobby could become a full-time job.

He admits there were several times he was left scratching his head when local vendors or creatives wouldn’t divulge what they deemed “trade secrets” of making a living as an artist, but Bump’s DNA is to grind through the rough spots until they come out smooth.

Bump said he became confident in leaving his job in youth ministry to pursue his dream thanks in part to the collective wisdom he gained from many recognizable locals, including:  Andy McEntire (Indie Atlantic and Concord Coffee), Mayor Bill Mutz, Steve Scruggs (Executive Director of the Lakeland Economic Development Council), Tim Cox (former Director of Creative Services for Publix) and Steve Madden (Madden Branded Goods).

“They all sat with me for coffee, one at a time. I’m like…what do you recommend I do?” he says. “And every single one of them is like, ‘Pursue your art, do your art, do your art, do your art.’” 

Bump said his first big break on the local scene was when he started partnering with Scout & Tag to sell custom Lakeland products. That domino falling led to referrals that set him on a path to do commissioned art like murals, corporate branding for large entities, and plenty of logo and custom artwork for small businesses and nonprofits.

“His imagination is wild, and I’m like, where did that even come from?” – Bump’s wife, Mary

If you ever stop by his home studio, you will be inspired, but you’ll also quickly realize that being a self-employed artist is far from luxurious. Bump creates the majority of his magic in a windowless room that covers just more than 100 square feet. He jokes that the fanciest piece of equipment he owns is “a 100 dollar lamp.”  He has shelves of neatly organized vinyls, hundreds of Lego mini figures to chat about his designs with, and plenty of personal relics that remind him of who he is and where he’s come from.

One such piece  that hangs on a board is an email from a Starbucks employee. It was a message asking him if he would be interested in designing a mural inside the Starbucks at Southgate. He was very interested, and it was one of his first highly visible projects.

“I was like, ‘Holy crap. man.’  I mean that’s just like, I don’t know how you top that.”

Top that he has. 

One of his favorite pieces to date is a large canvas mural in the Publix Greenwise off South Florida Ave. that he collaborated on with local artist/storyteller Fred Koehler. 

He said “it felt like Christmas” to be asked to do such a significant project for one of the nation’s most recognizable supermarket chains. 

His son Fynn said one of his favorite parts of that mural are the hidden “easter eggs” that only a discerning eye can find. “He tries to sneak as much stuff in as he can,” Fynn said.

Create Stuff

The ability for Bump to add in the silhouette of a yeti or obscure reference to a favorite hero to a piece of art that will be seen by thousands is a perk earned through hard work, long consultations and projects of all sizes and profit margins.

His trademark home and business “portraits” can be found on walls and mantles throughout Polk County, and he admits that he has had to steadily increase the prices on those as demand has risen and he’s had other opportunities in the marketplace—whether it be T-shirt designs, murals or working on logos and branding with businesses.

He says trying to help others reach their personal and professional goals through art is all about a thorough creative process that is predicated on building a relationship first.

“It’s telling their story…I’m telling their life,” he says. “So I want to make sure they feel I’m capturing it, but also I want them to love it enough that they’re gonna put it on everything.”

As his wife tells it, watching him go from start to finish on some projects is like watching a real-life account of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a short story turned movie where a man escapes his mundane ordinary life through vivid daydreams.

“His imagination is wild, and I’m like, where did that even come from?” she says of her husband of 20 years.

One stark difference between Walter Mitty, at least at the beginning of his story, and Bump Galletta, is that Bump is OK making other people the heroes in his story.

For several years he led and curated Lakeland Creative Makers, a collective of artists who would come together monthly to network and hear about successes and failures from business and creative leaders. What began as a small gathering of about 15 people with the help of fellow artists Sunny Balliette and Becky Yohe quickly grew to a group of more than 100 that ended up a catalyst for similar collectives to be started around the country.

The pandemic forced the group to be put on pause, but it invigorated the creative community and built lasting (and profitable) connections.   

“The whole thing was just to motivate (people) and you’re trying to create a culture as well,” he said. “It’s not like you’re just providing a service…you want, when you can’t take on a job for some reason, to be able to say, ‘Hey, here’s four artists in town I would recommend.’”

Bump believes part of using his platform for the benefit of all includes leading open conversations with the city and other development agencies about the compensation artists receive on publicly funded projects. 

In 2021, the city launched an initiative to bring more than 100 murals to Dixieland and downtown through the Lakeland Community Redevelopment Agency. Most artists love the opportunity to be able to make a lasting impression with art you can see from blocks away, but Bump and others have taken issue with the fact that commissioned artists are paid $5 per square foot. National rates are often $15-$40 per square foot for professional murals—and Bump said that he simply wants local artists to be part of the discussion from the start, instead of seeing a lot of out-of-towners take the jobs because they aren’t worth the time for some of Lakeland’s best talent.

“I felt like the way the city came up with the way they’re gonna pay and take care of the client, the artist, is not fair,” he says.

He brought the discussion to social media through the Creative Makers Facebook page, trying to gauge the temperature of other creatives related to the rate. The post got a lot of traction and was polarizing—so much so that Bump’s phone started blowing up with messages and calls, many from displeased decision makers who took the post personally.

Bump said city officials have mentioned they would like local businesses to pitch in to offset costs, and Bump and other creatives have explained that when you add up the time for planning, getting approvals for the work and scheduling lifts, etc. it makes it hard to walk away from other more lucrative day-to-day jobs to do one of these murals.

“I felt like the way the city came up with the way they’re gonna pay and take care of the client, the artist, is not fair,” he says.

“I talked to all the artists in town about this…we all have a certain rate we go for, like we’re all kind of in the same realm,” he says. “Some are a little bit more, some are less, but we’re kind of in the same pocket and the city’s not even coming to a quarter of that.” 

Bump said he may have ruffled some feathers, but his priority is to take care of his family and also continue to have open, honest conversations with local leaders about the future of Lakeland’s art community.

One thing about the artist known as Bump is that he’s open to change, and as with most daydreamers, he acknowledges there are always possibilities on the horizon.

If you look long enough at Lakeland’s horizon line, and the buildings set along it, you will most likely see a piece of Bump, and you might just start to daydream.

To purchase Bump’s art, request a personalized piece or schedule a consultation for his creative services, visit bumpgalletta.com or check out his Instagram @bumpgalletta

 

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