YOUNGSTOWN -- Jenamarie Filaccio graduated from Youngstown State University in 1975 with a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice and never dreamed she'd wind up studying decoration in Italy.
Filaccio, a Liberty Township native, lives and works in one of Europe's premiere spots for artists. Residing in La Spezia, a large city on the Ligurian Sea, she is a sculptor whose works in marble and other mediums have been featured in museums in Milan, Rome and Youngstown.
Though she says "art was just a hobby in high school," she began to expand her knowledge and experiences by studying design at the Marble School in Carrara, Italy, where her career as a professional sculptor took form.
Filaccio chose Italy because her grandparents were Italian. She said she was alwaysfascinated by her origins, adding, "The country and the culture really interested me."
Further education: She furthered her studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, also in Carrara, where she focused her attention on sculpture and etching. At first, Filaccio said, her biggest challenge was the language, but after taking several classes for foreigners at a university she began to break through the barrier.
"The language cannot be fully learned and comprehended until at least 10 years of speaking it," she said during a recent visit home.
She said her art style was "a hit and miss kind of thing" at the beginning of her career, but Italy gave her the chance to absorb different time periods in art history, and it took her about five years to fully develop herself as an artist and to find her niche.
Combines styles: Filaccio believes that because of the country's history and high standards people are unwilling to take chances, but she says the American in her allows her to combine classic and modern styles.
She maintains that because she started her career late, no artists inspired her visually, but several artists "had a philosophical impact." She takes interest in not only the romantic and gothic eras but also in Native American cultures, specifically the Hopewell Indians.
Botanical scenes are also of interest to her, inspiring her to donate two marble sculptures to Fellows Riverside Gardens in Mill Creek Park. She adds that her works in stone, clay, papier-m & acirc;ch & eacute; and other mixed media are often motivated by obscure things or whatever inspires her "at the moment."
Nice place to live: Filaccio says that she is not treated differently from any native Italian artist and that although it is hard being away from her family and country, "everybody in Italy is very nice. They are very inviting and they all want to be your friend."
She continues to concentrate on her artwork with a recent 2001 display titled "Ligurian Line" featured at the St. George Castle in her town of residence.
Hobbies such as cycling and cooking also catch her interest. Filaccio is also giving back to the Italian community by teaching kids in Italian the English language and art education.