( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) Globally Renowned Argentinean Artist Magda Love Dedicates Her Craft to Making a Difference in Her Community
ENSPIRE Contributor: Naomi Stamps
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, Argentinean artist, Magda Love, has taken up her paintbrush to complete a unique task—reviving the Mike’s Coffee Express food truck in Elmhurst, New York. Picking a new place to eat can be quite a challenge when you’re new to an area. Some people use the two factors to decide, which are reviews online and how many people are usually eating from there. But the vibrant artwork painted on the stainless steel restaurant on wheels beside the long line might draw in those visiting Mike’s Coffee Express for the first time.
Love’s passion for teaching, learning, being creative, and giving back to her community has been greatly influenced by having a schoolteacher mother and a sculptor father. Besides painting, Love has been involved in many creative hobbies, including opening her clothing store at just 19 years old. By the time she was 21, she had made the big move to New York, which escalated her career. As she continued to make clothes, Love further pursued her love of painting by creating large murals around the New York area and smaller ones for galleries.
While much of her artwork promotes love and community, Love also uses her artwork to raise awareness on social issues. For example, she has worked with two organizations, Together 1 Heart and Beauty for Freedom, to allow female survivors of sex trafficking in Cambodia to paint murals. When Love isn’t painting, she’s teaching and mentoring youth from different educational institutions, such as City As School-High School. Love’s artwork has been viewed in many places, including MTV, NY Ink, MSN Latino, and Complex Magazine.
ENSPIRE talked to Magda Love about her artwork and the artists that inspire her.
How long have you been creating art?
I have been encouraged to create art since I was a child, my father is a sculptor, and my mother is a teacher. They taught me from an early stage to be creative and to think creatively. As a result, I have always drawn, paint, made collages and explored different mediums like photography and sculpture. But I became a full-time artist about ten years ago, which has granted me beautiful opportunities like this one – partnering with DIAGEO, Johnnie Walker, Street Vendor Project to recreate Maggie Morales’ food truck, Mike’s Express, through painting a new colorful exterior that honors her business and resilience.
What artists inspire you?
I am very inspired by poetry and mythology. I love reading stories and imagine how they would look while listening to music. In terms of visual art, I am very drawn to traditional folk arts and primitive art. Some of the most contemporary artists that have made a visual and emotional impact on me are Louise Bourgeois, Matisse, Picasso, Alexander Calder, Eleonora Carrington, and Frida Khalo. I am a passionate follower of several outsiders and naïve artists as well. I love art that is made with frankness and conveys strong emotions.
What is the meaning behind your name Magda Love?
I was given the longest name on the planet, María Magdalena Marcenaro, and I Love Magda, and I was playing around with the name, and for anyone that knows me, Love was just the natural organic last name to pick. I am all about Love, for everything you do, for the people around you, for nature, for all the small things all around us. I wanted my name to express that every part of me means caring, inspiring, understanding, and hugging most of the people who cross my path. Maybe a hopeful way to aspire to create a more loving and joyful world around myself and others.
Maggie Morales, the owner of “Mike’s Coffee Express,” is the inspiration behind Love’s latest creation. The Morales family has been serving their customers for decades in Queens and is dedicated to helping families affected by the pandemic, natural causes, and Hurricane Ida. One aspect that makes this food truck unique is that while coffee is in the name, you can also grab a hearty lunch, dinner, or both compared to well-known coffee shops. Despite facing hardships along the way, this family continues to push forward to give back.
ENSPIRE talked to Maggie Morales about her food truck business and what has inspired her to keep going.
How many years has “Mike’s Coffee Express” been running?
Mike’s Express has been operating for over 41 years in the Jackson Heights Queens area.
What are the most popular coffees and meals served?
For breakfast, the most popular main dishes are bacon, egg, and cheese, BLT, & Mike’s Breakfast Boom Sandwich (eggs cheese bacon hash brown LT mayonnaise on the roll. Of course, our cup of coffee is also very popular.
For lunch, rice & beans with chicken, rice & bean w / roast pork Italian sausage Hero and pepper steak rice & beans.
What is your favorite thing about serving customers in your food truck?
What I like most about serving the truck’s customers is that they tell me how satisfied they are every time I offer them my service. Their smiles are the reason why I return.
My customers are many times the best part of my day. I’m excited for my customers to see the new look of Mike’s Express that was painted by Magda Love with DIAGEO and Johnnie Walker. The art represents my personality and my business. My customers are going to love it!
It’s truly inspiring that you pushed yourself to continue running the family business after losing your husband to COVID-19. What led you to this decision instead of closing down the family business?
The inspiration to continue working with the business after losing my husband to COVID-19 were his words to me “You can do anything you propose, Maggie. You will do it because I know you are risky and strong.”
Those words have stayed in my mind. They were like an injection to my day-to-day life to continue working and show myself that I can continue despite not being with the person I love the most. The decision not to close the business and continue working, apart from knowing that I could, was because I understood that I had an opportunity to be able to work through the economic crisis that we were going through during the pandemic in 2020. I could not put aside the opportunity to reopen since it was the only thing I had at hand and the only thing that could help me survive and pay my bills.
Instead of choosing to look for work, I had my truck in front of my eyes. Thinking about the opening was very hard because I knew that inside the truck, there was a deep feeling that I would have to face. That day it felt as if I saw my husband next to me; it was a challenge. As I enter the business, my feelings are still there inside of me, but I continue smiling at my people to give them the best of me, delicious food, and lots of love.
Magda Love and Maggie Morales are two powerful women who have not only overcome obstacles but have also committed themselves to give back to those who need it. When we face hardships, it’s hard to fathom how to continue in our craft. As we see with Morales’ story, it’s an ongoing challenge. But we have to think about what we are risking by giving up and how it affects those around us. Love and Morales’ stories show us how our crafts can both inspire and encourage others to be better people. If you’re in the New York area, stop by Mike’s Coffee Express for a bite to eat and to get a close-up of the van’s vivid artwork.
See more of Magda’s artwork on her website and follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook.