Sam Kuchwara has exhibited art around Scranton for many years and is a regular First Friday Art Walk participant. His exhibit, “Recent Works in Painting and Mixed Media,” is on display at the Giving Tree Wellness Center on Penn Avenue in the city’s downtown through the end of February, and he will be part of an art exhibit at Adezzo, 515 Center St., Scranton, during March’s First Friday. A graduate of Scranton Preparatory School, Kuchwara studied studio art and psychology at Boston College. The Dickson City resident and avid runner works for Scranton Running Co.
Meet Sam Kuchwara…
Q: Describe your style as an artist.
A: I gravitate toward landscapes. I really like landscapes because you can commemorate a place, not only a place you like, but you think about what you remember from the place while you’re making it. Especially if it’s a sentimental place, painting is a good time to just sit and think about it. I think a big part of my style is incorporating the mixed media. It’s partly just me using what I have and trying to add an extra purpose of practicality. It also brings a lot of texture, color and makes some edges more prominent. I always get told I’m an impressionist. That’s just my tendency. I get into this groove where I just keep my hand moving the whole time. A lot of people say my work has a pattern or rhythm to it.
Q: Much of your work seems inspired by the city of Scranton. What about the city inspires you?
A: It’s partly because I live here and it’s what I see and I’m more attached to it, but I think the architecture here is so beautiful. It’s something special. I’m obsessed with it even without knowing much about it. I grew up two blocks from Nay Aug Park, so it was basically my backyard. If I was going to go outside, it was always there.
Q: You’ve been a longtime First Friday participant. Why do you enjoy the event?
A: I love it. The first one I did was after my freshman year of college. It gave me motivation to draw over the summer. It was exciting and gave me adrenaline wondering who would come. I knew I wanted to keep doing it. For me, especially with bigger paintings that tend to take longer, they might as well be somewhere other than my garage. I also like the involvement with different venues and getting to know the owners and people who come in. It’s become a way to connect with all the new and old places around.
Q: One of your recent projects is a joint effort with NOTE Fragrances creating candles that feature your artwork. How did that come about?
A: It was last fall, and the Christmas holiday market was coming up. I was already doing the Scranton mural prints, and they were popular gifts. I was trying to think of what else I could add (that) wasn’t just art — it was something people could use. One of my friends is friends with the people at NOTE Fragrances and suggested I get my work printed on candles. They helped me pick out some scents and names for them. They let me choose what scents I wanted to go with my artwork. People really liked them, and I liked the process, too, of picking scents. They do an awesome job making them, but I enjoyed curating things and picking a match.
Q: You run Electric City Boogie at the Bog. Tell me about that.
A: It’s a project that I do with my friend Justin Padro. I used to always go to Panked! (dance parties), and they announced they were going to stop doing it after 10 years. One day I asked if they’d let Justin and I pick it up. We wanted to do a continuation of Panked! but make it our own. We did our first one on a weekend in June two years ago, and it was a super fun, and a ton of people came out. We’ve been doing it ever since. It’s a combination of dance music that is popular and everybody knows; sometimes SaturBae plays, and on weeknights we can experiment and do our own thing. Justin does most of the deejaying, and I’ll do more of the dance stuff and promote it. There is a lot of overlap with that and art. I design posters for it, and it’s become a graphic design project for me.
Q: Running is a big hobby of yours. How does it fit into your life?
A: In grade school, I knew I wanted to and should do some sport. I started cross-country. It wasn’t much in grade school, but it was still my thing. I continued into high school. Between cross-country and track, I was with the same kids all year, and we became very close-knit. In college, I didn’t run, but I realized I had a life-long interest in running, and I was in a city that is super running-oriented with the Boston Marathon. It was inspiring to be there. I’m happy I decided to keep running on my own as opposed to running for four years in college and then not knowing what to do with myself when it ended.
Q: Talk about the development of having your Scranton mural featured on the blanket that was given to all of the Scranton Half-Marathon participants.
A: It made me really happy. It didn’t happen all at once. I was working at Scranton Running Co. My boss said we needed the logo done, so I painted the logo at the store. Later, he wanted something on the wall and asked if I could do a view of Scranton. It was a long process of working on and off on it when the store was slow. I looked on Google Earth and at satellite images to make a map of Scranton on the wall. It didn’t look like much until the very end (when) it all came together. A while later someone suggested we should get prints made. At the half approached, someone asked if it could be used on the blanket, and that was awesome. Sometimes running and art work apart, and sometimes they work together and sync up. Running sometimes gets me into the mood to paint.
Q: Have you had a moment or time in your life that helped shape the person you are today?
A: There are two things I’ve discovered through art. Art is something that can make me feel good. I know when I’m getting too far away from it. I know that I’m going to be really happy when I’m doing art. Also with the big projects, it’s taught me that I need to make a commitment to it. There will be days that I need to just show up when I don’t feel like it and start doing it. I know I’ll be reminded all over again of why I do art. This is a part of what I do now. It’s more than just a hobby, and there are layers of interest to it. Sometimes it’s fun to work just a little, but if I do more and work harder, I’m going to feel a lot better. It’s not 100 percent my job, but I’m learning more and more to treat it as a job and enjoy it at the same time.
Q: The final word is yours.
A: Coming back home and doing more shows, most of my friends are connected in some way. Some of them aren’t artists, but so many of my close friends are somehow connected. Through these shows, I’ve met so many awesome people and made so many close friends, and that’s been inspiring and so supportive. Even just seeing some of my friends’ work makes me want to paint.
Photos by Emma Black, taken at The Giving Tree Wellness Center on Penn Avenue in Scranton, and submitted photos by Sam Kuchwara.