“Shout Out”… If I had to choose only two words to describe Jessica, these would be it. She must’ve said them at least a dozen times during our short conversation. She was constantly giving credit to the people that have helped her and that she has had an opportunity to collaborate with throughout her journey. And she insisted that I give these people credit. No worries Jessica, I will.
For those that haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Jess, you’ve probably seen her around town. A Rockford native, Jessica graduated from Boylan High School in 2007 and currently works in the marketing department of our own Rockford IceHogs. In between these two points, she focused on her education. Jessica has always had a passion for art. She grew up surrounded by artists, including her grandparents and entire family, who have always been encouraging of her own passion for the arts. Shout out to her mom for being her studio and art-hub, as well as her dad for helping her lug canvases all over God’s green earth.
After graduating High School, Jessica applied and was accepted to the Art Institute of Chicago to pursue a degree in fashion design. Unfortunately the Art Institute wasn’t a cultural fit for her and after a couple of years she returned home to Rockford. Jessica is a firm believer that things happen for a reason. And although the reason for her return wasn’t initially obvious, it soon became clear.
That reason was revealed when she chose to attend Rock Valley College and met her art professor, Cheri Rittenhouse. It was Cheri that encouraged Jessica to bring out her own art style. Through making her own frames and stretching her own canvas, these experiences that Cheri provided gave a depth of appreciation to painting that Jessica hadn’t previously experienced. And it was Cheri’s decision to enroll the class in the 2009 ArtScene that was the catalyst for Jessica’s professional art career.
It was here that Jessica sold some of her first paintings and her eyes were opened to the possibility of being a professional artist. Since then she’s continued to create and show her art, as well as collaborate with as many other local and regional artists as she can. For the month of July (hurry up and go see it) she’s showing her pieces -- "She's a Rainbow" at Karnitz Art Gallery, located in downtown Rockford. (Shout out to Cindy Karnitz!) She’s also been showing outside of Rockford. In January of this year Jessica’s digital work was on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City! SHOUT OUT! The photos in the article were taken by Paul Mannone who came to her studio one day to document the process.
In between Rock Valley and now, Jessica attended and graduated from Loyola University in 2012 with a Marketing Major, and Graphic Design Minor. After graduating she returned to Rockford again and through a series of fortunate events she was connected with the IceHogs and has been working there since 2016.
But it’s Jessica’s future that’s the brightest. On August 17th Jessica will be launching a new project called “Cloth and Canvas”. (Go follow it on Instagram! @clothandcanvas) C&C is an online collaborative for local artists. A place for them to network, collaborate, and inspire each other. On top of the community of artists she’s looking to build, it will allow for the online sales of art to the public, with the goal of making art accessible to any price-point. And if the online project goes well, you can expect Cloth & Canvas to find a store-front space in the near future. A place for artists to have a studio to create, show, and sell their art.
It’s hard to encapsulate Jessica’s journey, passion, and energy in one short article. But she definitely embodies many of the things that makes Rockford great. She has the energy, tenacity, and collaborative spirit that is so much of what is bringing Rockford back. When I asked her what her favorite “Rockford thing” is…. She replied with “the sense of community and the feel of the ‘come up’”. And as Rockford continues to make it’s come-up… Jessica has been, and will continue to be, a piece of our community’s journey. Without a doubt, Jessica is definitely “Rockford”.
Favorite Restaurant: Abreo (Shout out to Anthony for making the best Old Fashions)
Movie: Almost Famous
Book: Psycho by Babe Walker —It’s a riot!
Music: Greta Van Fleet
Follow Jessica on Instagram! @jmaequam & @clothandcanvas