I was born and raised in Newark N.J. and started out like many others in the city. I lived in a housing project, came from a large family, (one of six) and from a fatherless home. I remember struggling by the challenges of my surroundings and coming home to my project building each day and night. Arriving there I would first, from the courtyard below, look up to my eighth floor apartment to see if there were any lights on from one of the windows. A light would mean that mom was home and I could get in. I had no key. Seeing that building each day and night with a different back drop of light and ambiance helped shape me into the artist that I am today. Seen in many of my cityscapes are those early impressions.
Back then, school was no safe haven for me either. I was kicked out of high school during my 10th year. However, I later returned to education fueled from a seed that a Newark elementary art teacher planted in me many years earlier. She saw something in me and encouraged me to go to Arts High School on Saturdays. It must have been some kind of special program that was offered back then. Anyway, Arts High was downtown and miles from my housing project. I walked once and found that all the other kids were much older than me. Having no money for transportation, I never went back. But I did take with me much more that day than they thought they were offering. I had one positive message that I stashed deep within me for many years. Now, after teaching art in Newark Public Schools, achieving a Masters in Art from MSU, I look back and know that art was the vehicle for my success. Art saved me and if that art teacher ever reads this I would like to say, “Thank you.”
John Piccoli – firstname.lastname@example.org