Artist Vincent Grech enjoyed fine arts and music throughout his childhood, but did not take art seriously until his senior year of high school. After graduating from North Hills High School in 1985, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. According to Vincent, “My parents suggested I go to CCAC and major in general studies until I figured out what I wanted.”
Vincent started at North Campus, where he took a ceramics class before switching to Allegheny Campus. While he pursued a degree in graphic communications at CCAC, Vincent worked as an iconographer’s assistant for Robert Gerwing Associates on Pittsburgh’s North Side. In this position, Vincent helped make and assemble a 750-square-foot mosaic for the exterior of a Romanian Orthodox church in Miramar, Florida. He also helped paint icons for the interior of the church. “Not only was I getting paid to do art, but I actually was able to go to Florida to install both the mosaic and the icons,” he says. “This experience made me different from the other students in my classes—I wasn’t just studying art, I was doing it. Robert Gerwing was a tremendous influence. He was my mentor and I learned through him.”
In 1989, Vincent received his A.S. in graphic communications from CCAC and transferred to Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) where he pursued a degree in art education. In 1993, he graduated from IUP and shortly thereafter, he decided to move. “I relocated to Chicago because the city was much more alive in the arts,” he says. “I was more likely to find a job in Chicago than in Pittsburgh.”
Once situated, Vincent began building a reputation as an artist and fine finisher by painting murals, faux finishes, furniture, portraits and paintings, as well as stenciling and wood graining.
In 1999, he opened the Thirteenth Floor Art Gallery, where he displayed his own work and that of other emerging artists. Running the gallery took up most of his spare time, so when another gallery wanted to represent him, Vincent decided to close the gallery so he could, in his words, “have more time to paint.”
When the City of Chicago announced a plan to feature the exhibit Cool Globes: Hot Ideas for a Cooler Planet in 2007, a client of Vincent’s suggested he should apply to the project. The exhibit featured more than 100 five-foot globes that addressed the issue of global warming. “My client forwarded my website to the Globe sponsors,” Vincent says. “In the end, I was the only artist to paint three large globes and two smaller globes for the exhibit.”
The Cool Globes exhibits—similar in scope to Pittsburgh’s dinosaur installation, were placed at various locations throughout the city. Vincent’s first globe focused on the preservation of indigenous cultures with the depiction of biodiversity hotspots—defined as areas that contain the richest and most threatened reservoirs of plant and animal life. His second globe focused on energy conservation methods and was featured at Lollapalooza 2007. Vincent’s third globe featured hybrid animals and plants and was given to Toyota. “It was an amazing experience,” Vincent says of making the globes. “I was exposed to a different world of art.”
In addition to his art, Vincent is also the drummer for Chicago’s I:Scintilla, a band that recently signed with a European record label. “We toured in Germany last year,” he says. “The band has good potential. We hope to play in Pittsburgh this summer.”
Vincent says, jokingly, that he considers both his art and music to be hobbies, especially since he doesn’t make enough money for either to be considered a job. “I wish I was just an artist, but right now I have to survive,” he says. “I do interior finishing, which isn’t very creative, but it pays the bills. I hope to be more established as an artist in the future.”
“I believe going to CCAC was the best decision I could have made because it was there that I decided to pursue art,” he says. “Throughout my entire life, I’ve been told that making it as an artist is hard. CCAC gave me the experience, knowledge and the confidence I needed to pursue life as an artist.”
In the future, Vincent says he would like to use his talents to help paint homes for the disadvantaged. “If I could eliminate my day job, I’d volunteer for a living.” In the meantime, he continues to paint and share his talents with those around him. To view Vincent’s work, visit his website at www.vincentgrech.com.