Jess Meoni is a creative and artist based out of Scranton who has actually been a guest blogger on this blog in the past when she was an adjunct here at Marywood. I thought it’d be interesting to dive a little deeper into the artists of NEPA, and who better than a girl who is not only a friend of mine but also attended Marywood?
I’m Jess Meoni and I attended Marywood University from 2008-2012, earning my Bachelors in Fine Art, and from 2012-2015 for my Masters. During my undergrad years, I pursued a major in graphic design, but also two minors – one in history, and one in art history. I was fascinated by the advancement of any art process, but also historical events that incited reactions and revolutions invoking society to create art as a means of justice, propaganda, or simply, documentation. I loved graphic design because it was all about communicating creatively – giving information an identity, a purpose, and presenting it in an aesthetically-pleasing way. Also, I already had credits carried over from high school
AP classes so completing two minors in addition to my major made sense to me. I always had an interest in curation, museum studies, and organizing, and I thought gaining some insight into history would be a good idea for my career. During my time at Marywood, I was president of the CMYKlub for a few years, stayed involved in the Zeta Omicron Kappi Pi Art Honor Society, the Marywood Print Guild, service work, and a variety of other ventures. I enjoyed my time as an undergraduate and made many professional relationships and friendships with professors I still sustain today. It’s important to keep those lines of communication open. Many have graciously vouched for me as references on job applications, recommended opportunities to me, or just gave out experiential advice that helped me along the way. Plus, they’re just inspirational people to know, overall.
Right out of undergrad, I was hired as a adjunct instructor at a nearby trade school. I was able to teach the skills and applications of graphic design. At the same time, I still felt unsure about what I really wanted to do with my life and also believed I could use more in-depth training, so I decided to enroll in Marywood’s Master with the Masters program,as well as pursue a graduate assistantship in the Marketing & Communications Department there. This particular Masters program is low-residency, meaning we would meet as a class at specific times of the year for intensive class work or study tours in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, or Washington D.C., but much of the work was completed independently. Simultaneously, I was able to get hands-on experience in the Marketing & Communications Department, working alongside a team of art directors, writers, public relations professionals, social media gurus, and more, plus concentrate on my Masters program. It was a real stepping stone for me professionally and personally. I really believe the people I worked with during those years made a big impact on my life as a young person trying to make it in the world.
Scranton Zine Fest
The Scranton Zine Festderived from my exploration of zines in high school and also a trip to the Philly Zine Fest. I was first interested in zines when I was getting into punk rock around age 14. I read that zines were a way youth created publications for things they were fans of – hence, “fanzine.” Some of the first zines were comprised of science fiction stories as early as the 1930s, for example. They really made their boom in the 1960s-1970s with the beginning of punk subculture, however. After creating Ladyfest in the summer of 2009, my very first organized event (right before my sophomore year at Marywood), I contemplated if I wanted to do another one the following summer. That fall, I tabled at the Philly Zine Fest with my own zine, Ruthless. I was inspired to revamp a zine culture in Scranton and soon, that turned into the idea of establishing the Scranton Zine Fest – the first of its kind in the Electric City. Ask some of the older crowd in Scranton and they’ll tell you of a time here when zine culture was alive and well, especially at places like Prufrock’s on Adams Avenue – one of the United States’ first Internet cafes. The festival is exciting because it includes artists from all over the US tabling with printed matter. In addition to zines, we love including other print artists that utilize screen printing, letterpress, and more. It’s a fun day to explore tangible arts.
Why do you think zines are good for Scranton? After all, you started a festival for it in a town with mixed emotions on art.
Zines are not only good for Scranton, they’re good for anywhere and anyone with something to say. We share a lot on social media, but it sometime surprises someone when they’re handed something handmade. It also creates a community for the underground artists of our town, a place where otherwise they may not feel acceptance. It strips away the gilded attitudes of fine high-brow art and gives a platform for anyone to create with whatever skill level at hand. That’s why I enjoy it. I’ve seen some zines pressed at print shops on expensive stock, and I’ve seen some zines created in five minutes on computer paper and placed on a Xerox machine. It all depends on the aesthetic you’re going for. I like to think the Scranton Zine Fest has inspired people to take chances and get their message out, using whatever means they choose.
Lastly, how did your degree help you with Second Banana Co., Zine Fest, NAPRFM, and all your other creative endeavors?
My Bachelors degree honed in on the technical skills of graphic design and cultivated my initial thoughts on what I could do further, how I can make more of an impact with these skills. I’m not going to lie, graduating college with an art degree doesn’t mean you’ll be handed a job with a beautiful office, numerous benefits, and interesting projects. Most of time, you have to pay your dues and work your way up, but the hard work usually is worth it and helps you make your way, depending on what you desire to do. During my time in my Masters program, I wanted to take my graphic design skills and use it has acatalyst for social change by branding my extracurricular ventures. I began organizing a variety of eventsin addition to the Scranton Zine Fest that gave others a voice. I realized that if I wanted to be happy, I needed to take what I learned in school, apply it, and make it real for me. It was about making opportunities for myself instead of waiting for them to come along. This included starting Second Banana Co, an art collective consisting of screen printed patches, buttons, stickers, prints, and more. Alongside Victoria Wright, my business partner and former Marywood
classmate, we wanted to create designs for flair that we would actually wear when we weren’t seeing them anywhere else. Quirky, a little dark and sarcastic – our products answer a certain niche, for sure. Now we get sales from all over the country and table at a variety of events in different states. This also prompted me to start the Not Another Punk Rock Flea Market, an event that occurred multiple times this year as a successful way to bring together a music scene, artistry, and good vintage finds. It’s fun to make new friends through these events and seek out likeminded people. I believe it energizes the community and gives people something to look forward to.
Words of wisdom for art students.
Overall, I think it’s important to use your degree as a means to do more. Don’t limit yourself to one particular instance, track, and or job. Truthfully, you have to be multifaceted today in some regard, but it’s also really rewarding to look through different lenses by applying your skills in ways you may not have thought of. Do you paint? Make patterns and apply them to a product. Do you work with fabric? Create a public installation. Do you draw or sculpt? Start a workshop or teach an online class through YoutTube or Skillshare. The opportunities are absolutely limitless if you try. After all, no one’s going to know who you are if your craft stays hidden.
Note from Brooke:
Some of you know who Jess is, some may not. The importance here is that it is people like this who help the arts thrive in Scranton. Jess provides an outlet for hundreds of people to express themselves, including myself. Follow her event’s pages for more information on how to get involved with being a vendor or participating. Becoming a vendor allows you to showcase your artwork and get your name out there, and Jess allows artists to do that with very low booth fees. She also hosts Grrrls Night, which is an event open to the public that includes women of all different types showcasing themselves through poetry, music, and other forms of art.