Written by: Frank Iacono
Allow me to introduce you to The Artful Runner, Jeremiah (Jerry) A. Iannacci. Jerry is an artist and Art Teacher from Eddystone, Pennsylvania. He has been producing drawings and paintings focusing on his primary interests — distance running, baseball, scenes from American life, and the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen (since February 2012) for the past seven years. The Artful Runner marks the first time that all of the various images he created will be displayed and available for purchase online at http://theartfulrunner.vpweb.com.
Jerry grew up in Eddystone, a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with his parents, two brothers and sister. At different times in his life, his small row home included extended family consisting of his maternal grandparents and his paternal grandmother. Eddystone is a working class town along the banks of the Delaware River. The industries that line the river’s edge and the small town life the borough provided has distinctly influenced his art to this day. In fact, many of his works, feature references to family, friends and places that played key roles in his life.
The Artful Runner was first formed as Facebook Fan Page in 2011, after Jerry came up with the name by combining two of his favorite subjects: Art and Running. In the future, the goal is to open an Artful Runner Gallery and Cafe in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. Specific locations are still being considered.
Part of The Artful Runner philosophy is to help others. In that regard, Jerry set up a scholarship fund in memory of his brother, Thom (an accomplished jewelry designer) and his mother, Anna M. (a fan of all things creative) at Ridley High School. The Iannacci Family Scholarship for the Arts will be awarded annually to student(s) in the visual and performing arts. For more information on how to donate to the fund, please contact him or leave a message in his Guest Book.
In this edition of The Creative Spotlight, I had the pleasure of interviewing artist Jeremiah A. Iannacci, the creator of The Way of The Boss — Art Inspired by The Lyrics of Bruce Springsteen, a series of water-color, acrylic, oil paintings, prints and drawings that illustrate specific lyrics from his song extensive list.
CS: When did you first discover your creative talents?
I have been drawing and painting since I was a kid. In grade school, at St. Rose of Lima in Eddystone, Pennsylvania I was always the class artist. Teachers and other students would ask me to draw things for class. In high school, I was fortunate to transfer to Ridley and meet Mrs. Joan Costello . Mrs. Cos, as she was known, made sure I used my talents wisely and pursued improvement constantly. My dad would always draw when I was a kid and my grandfather was a master sculptor and stone mason.
CS: Who would you say influenced you the most for becoming an artist?
I would have to list a whole group of people who influenced my desire to pursue art as a career. But, the person who most influenced me most was my mom. She encouraged me to go to art school at Kutztown University, even after I tried to go in a completely different direction.
CS: Who is ultimately your favorite artist (please explain why)?
My favorite artist is a complicated question. The artists of the Italian Renaissance are the greatest artists of all time. They created the language all other artists use to this day. Rembrandt is also a master of the art of painting. However, the artists I like the most are the Ash Can School.
It is a distinctly American style and captured the essence of early to mid-20th Century ordinary life.
If I had to choose one artist, it would be Edward Hopper. Hopper created the iconic image, Nighthawks that made an immediate impression on me as a teenager.
CS: Do you feel that you’ve developed a unique identifiable style through your artwork? If so, please describe that style and why you selected it?
I’m not sure that my style is fully evolved yet. It has been described by most as semi-realism.
CS: Please share with us what inspired the following works:
Most of the images (all except for Playing Catch, Winter Running Group, and I Don’t Run For Medals) are inspired by specific lyrics from Bruce Springsteen songs. They are part of a project I began a year or so ago.
• Roll Down the Window and Let the Wind Blow Back Your Hair – is inspired from Thunder Road, a classic road trip song and my favorite song ever recorded.
• Running Barefoot on the Beach – is inspired from Seaside Bar Song, a lesser known Springsteen song about summer nights at the beach.
• Change Your Shirt, Tonight We Got Style – is inspired from Meeting Across the River, a song requested by oldest brother, Mike. It has been his favorite as long as I can remember.
• When I See You Walking with Him– is a line inspired from a song called I Wish I Were Blind. The song is about a break up and the guy seeing his ex with her new man.
• Looking for that Million Dollar Sound – is a line inspired from the song The Promise from the period between the success of Born To Run and the release of Darkness on the Edge of Town. It is a full to disc set of unreleased songs from that period. The Promise was long thought to be one of the greatest song ever penned by Springsteen, despite never actually appearing on any album. The song chronicles the life paths of a group of friends. It is brilliant.
• I’ll Do the Work that God Provides – is inspired from Jack of All Trades from the Wrecking Ball cd, it chronicles a guy desperate for the work that will provide for his family. It is a theme throughout the songs on the cd that addresses the current state of American life, rich get richer and everyone else struggles to live their American Dream.
• Church Doors Flung Open– My City of Ruins is a song written about the demise of Asbury Park, NJ; but, in the aftermath of 9-11 it became a hymn of revival and redemption. It is now part of the live show when Springsteen recalls the lost members of the E Street Band. The image depicts a church in a desolate part of town, where the preacher still preaches, but the congregation is gone. The sky above suggests a heavenly presence despite the bleak foreground scene.
• Wearing the Cross of my Calling – was inspired by the song The Rising and was suggested by long time friend and Chicago city fire fighter, John Joyce. While the obvious scene shows a fire truck with a firefighter leaping from the rig, the right side of the image shows a chaplain with rosary beads in hand. He offers prayers for those fighting the fire and the possible victims inside the burning building. The chaplain symbolically represents Father Mychal Judge, the first casualty of 9-11 on the ground in NYC.
• She Stares Alone into the Night – is taken from Racing in the Street, a song about racing cars and relationships with girls, youthful exuberance and the loss of it…I read a quote where Steve Van Zandt (E. Street Band guitarist) commented about the two original versions of the song. In the other, the car racing guys were without female companionship. Little Steven, as he is known, told Springsteen “there has to be a girl, there is always a girl”.
As mentioned, the other three works were influenced and inspired by my other favorite things to do – run and play baseball.
• Playing Catch – Playing Catch could be a father and a son or brothers, depending on the viewer. It is one of the simple joys in life, two gloves and a ball on a baseball field or in the yard.
• Winter Running Group – shows a group of intrepid runners meeting on what is obviously a cold and dreary day. The inscription across the top is borrowed from the old Postman’s Creed.
• I Don’t Run For Medals – is more personal and a statement of my beliefs. My running medals never meant much to me, I’ve always run for other reasons.
CS: Which of your artwork pieces is your favorite and why?
Having a favorite drawing or painting is sort of akin to having a favorite child for a parent. I am happy with the results of most of the work I’ve done, but see more problems with them than most other people. I like the image I created for the song Factory a lot. It depicts a guy entering the gate of a factory. The guard-house at the entrance is stone and symbolizes my paternal grandfather and the guard inside is based on my maternal grandfather. I really like the image for Walk Like a Man. It is specific to the song, yet universal to the experience of fathers and sons on the beach. I’ve done some drawings for a book that I’ve written called, Winter On The Pond, about kids playing pond hockey. I really like some of those drawings too.
CS: If you had to describe yourself in 5 words what would they be?
5 words – Son, Brother, Uncle, Step Dad, Artful Runner…I know, that is 6.
CS: What types of art do you most prefer (please explain why)?
I prefer realistic or semi-realism in painting, drawing and printmaking. I like to be able to see recognizable things and interpret the meaning of the work.
CS: Where have you displayed your artwork in the past?
I have shown work at the Community Art Center in Wallingford, Pennsylvania; a now defunct gallery in Olde City Philadelphia, and at Kutztown University.
CS: How did you come up with idea behind the name The Artful Runner?
The Artful Runner combines my love of running with my creative side and is a play on the Artful Dodger of Dickens’ fame.
CS: Can you tell us about the concepts for Art in a Pub Night I and II, the featured art work and ultimately the benefactors?
The idea of Art Nights in a Pub, Tap Room or other non-traditional art venue is an attempt to bring art to places where it can be seen by people who don’t go to galleries and museums. The gallery world is not my world. The idea of taking art to the people is something that just came to me one day while running. I pitched the idea to my cousin, Dave Magrogan – owner of Kildare’s Irish Pubs, and thought it would be great. Bars are just the first venue I am exploring, I hope to do home parties or events at youth organizations to help the, raise money to defray the costs for families who want their kids to participate in athletics. In fact, Artful Runner work will be used at two other fundraiser events on April 6th, Nall AC beef & beer at Tom & Jerry’s Sports Bar and Ridley Ice Hockey Alumni Day.
The Art Night format begins with a video presentation that chronicles The Way of The Boss (TWOTB) project from its beginning in February 2012 until now. It continues with a presentation of a selection of other works in a narrated slide presentation. That is followed by a Q&A about the work. There is always a raffle of posters with Artful Runner images on them with proceeds dispersed to charities selected for each event. At the first night, all of the images were from the TWOTB collection, as the event was the debut of that work. The second event raffle will include other The Artful Runner images.
When I came up with the idea of the Artful Runner, part of what I wanted to do was to use my work to help others. That could mean creating a drawing or painting for a child or adult suffering from illness or as a fundraising tool for worthy causes.
The money raised at Kildare’s was split between three groups – MANNA, NICK SMILES ON THE FINE ARTS FOUNDATION, and The IANNACCI SCHOLARSHIP FOR THE ARTS at Ridley HS.
The 2nd Art Night will benefit The IANNACCI SCHOLARSHIP and RIDLEY BABE RUTH BABSEBALL.
CS: How much do you charge for your artwork?
I try to keep my work affordable to working class people like my parents always were. It is disappointing to me that fine art is the privilege of the wealthy in this country. Art galleries charge ridiculous commissions for work and look down upon people of lesser means when they walk through the door. That is not what art should be about. My digital prints range from $5 – $20, posters are $20-$45, original water colors $25-$100, and larger acrylic or oils range from $200 on up. Digital prints are always buy 2, get one half price and I offer a 10 prints for $100 special as well.
CS: How do you bridge the gap of the business side of designing your art work?
The business side of Art is frustrating, to be honest. But, I try to make my work available to as many people as possible by creating images that can be made into digital copies and offered at a reasonable price point.
CS: What’s the best and worst thing about being an artist?
The best thing about being an artist is having the ability to create things that don’t actually exist or recreate moments that have passed. The worst thing, not sure there is a worst thing. I guess it would be the business side of the work.
CS: From a purely artistic perspective, where do you see yourself 5-10 years from now?
My goal for 5-10 years from now would be to have a gallery/cafe called The Artful Runner to display and sell art work and show other artists’ work as well. It would be a breakfast & lunch spot with an eclectic menu of sandwiches, inspired by my dad’s love of sandwiches. We would sponsor a team of runners to complete in road and trail races and continue our Art Nights as well.
CS: Lastly, any words of advice for aspiring artists?
To young aspiring artists, I say this; simply…follow your dream. Even if you are side-tracked by the real world and finding an actual job to support yourself, continue to find time to create. Use social media to promote your work to friends, family, others. You never know where that may lead. A year ago, I was teaching elementary school art and my students and colleagues encouraged me to get my work out there for all to see. In the words of a Springsteen song, “it takes a leap of faith to get things going…”
About Frank Iacono
Frank Iacono is a highly skilled results-oriented Strategic Marketing Professional with proven critical thinking, problem solving, and project management skills, developed through more than 20 years of experience concentrated in integrated marketing strategies. Frank brings a thorough, hands-on understanding of marketing strategies and technological platforms as related to applications available for web design, content development, email marketing, site and campaign analytics, search marketing and optimization, service and product marketing, lead and demand generation, social media, and customer retention.
Frank has a BA degree in English/Communications and Marketing from Cabrini College, and he received his Webmaster Certification from Penn State Great Valley.