Graphic designer, visual artist, muralist

Current hometown: Albany

Current project: A series of commissioned house portraits

Collaborative Media’s Maker of the Week is made possible by KeyBank.

Three years ago, Angela Cuozzo (pronounced KOO-zoh) left a graphic design career in the corporate world to start her own business. Her online portfolio is a deep dive into bright colors and geometrically inspired forms that find their way onto numerous media; as she puts it, “You pick the canvas, and Cuozzo Creative will enhance it.”

Who is Angela Cuozzo as an artist?

It shifts. My entire career as an adult was spent doing corporate graphic design and marketing… now, I think I just sort of embrace any kind of new conceptual challenge that somebody might throw at me. A lot of the work that you see (on my website) is because somebody has asked, “Hey, can you do this?” and I may not have ever chosen that medium. And then I do it, and I end up finding a new joy. It’s kind of fun to explore different environments for your art.

I’m just popping around your site… you really do work on a number of different canvases.

Maybe I’m just trying to get my feet wet because since 2017, I’ve been on my own. Now is my time to give something a shot. If I don’t like it, then I know I don’t like it, but at least I can say I tried.

You mentioned something to the effect that I’m kind of bouncing around, and I am. I always thought that that was probably one of my biggest shortcomings in terms of my talent. I envy artists who just have “that one thing” — this is all they do, because they seem to be at such an expert level with it. I often say, “Maybe I should put this stuff on the back burner and try to hone in on something that I can really perfect and grow with, instead of being teased by all these other little nuggets of different types of art that I could maybe get my hands into.” But that’s half the joy of my life, too.

When I went off on my own, I took the Chamber of Commerce’s Entrepreneur Boot Camp to try to understand how to run my own business. One of the things they suggest is to get a website. I’m like, “What am I going to put on my website? I don’t have anything to show.” When I did launch my website, I had like two photos… and I think it was old work, that I may have done in college or something. Just a couple of weeks ago, I literally had to go into my website and revamp the whole thing because I had so much work.

I hadn’t really thought about it until I went to do that, and I’m like, “You know what? You should be proud of yourself because there was a time when you didn’t have enough photos to even begin a website.”

How has the pandemic affected you as an artist?

When it hit us in March, I had a pretty steady flow of sub (teaching) jobs… when I wasn’t there, it allowed me time to work on my own jobs. I could generate a fairly even income week to week. The pandemic comes, they don’t need teachers… I wasn’t subbing throughout the summer. The summer camp that I had taught the year before was canceled, so I couldn’t do that. All those things add up.

When the kids went back to school in the fall, I just felt a little unsure about what was going on. I know a couple schools are already going all virtual because they’re getting more confirmed cases. For me to sleep at night, I have to know I’m going to make X amount of dollars monthly to keep myself going. I was teaching in a lot of senior living facilities; I was doing art with them. I couldn’t get in there anymore. I couldn’t teach at the Albany Art Room — that shut down.

It did cut me. Just like it did everybody else.

Some people mention a silver lining, like it’s given you time to work on something you hadn’t thought about working on before.

Too much time!

Quite honestly, I’m not one to sit around; I’m super hyper-productive, I like to be doing something. If I’m going to be doing art, it needs to generate some kind of an income. That’s who I am, and maybe a lot of people would argue “Then you’re not a real artist.” That’s OK; I don’t mind that. That’s just how I’m wired.

What’s a piece of work you’re particularly proud of?

The hopscotch piece that I did in front of the Arts Center in Troy. It was probably my first paying gig… it was super-challenging, the surface and the environment. I think it was late July that summer, and it was super-hot.

I learned so much from that job, and I found it to be very fulfilling. As simplistic as it may have been, the experience was amazing. It’s interesting for me because it was a piece of public art to interact with the public while you’re doing your work. That’s a first for me.

If I were to say to you, “I don’t think the visual arts are very important,” what might you say to me to convince me to reconsider?

Well, I’m not so sure it’s important that you do need to reconsider it.

I don’t think sports are that important, but I have an immense amount of appreciation for the skill and the talent of an athlete. Does it bring me joy to watch a live football game? Nah, not so much. But that’s who you are… I think it’s important to be an individual.

Maybe, if you’ve never been exposed to it, that’s why you don’t have an appreciation for it… visually maybe (people) do appreciate art, but they don’t even know what “art” is. There’s got to be something that they see that brings a smile to their face. They might not think that’s art. It could be architecture, an amazing building… when they travel and they stay in this spectacular hotel, or they go to some amazing office building for a big meeting somewhere.

To me, that’s art. 

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