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Verona Graffiti


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Carmelo Sigona’s first Verona mural commission was for Canine Designs, the three animals on the wall along Rockland Terrace. His newest commissions are on the side and back walls of the Verona Inn and they give a slight hint of how much his artistry has evolved. Sigona, who graduated Verona High School with the class of 1986, has developed his early, often renegade, street art into a successful graffiti art career that now includes album covers, stage backdrops, corporate murals and even private commissions. Everything, including the finely detailed pieces for the Verona Inn, is done only with paint from a spray can.

“My art was my first and longest lasting passion,” says Sigona.

Sigona’s graffiti tag–his signature–is “Snow,” which he owes to his childhood in Paterson, where he was often the only white person among his fellow street artists. He did his first two years of high school at Montclair Kimberly Academy and when he transferred into VHS as a junior, had already taken all of the art classes that Verona offered. Pat Austin, then head of the VHS art department, created a special art program just for Sigona, giving him access to the art room during all of his free periods. “She gave me a chance to develop my abilities,” he says.

That kept Sigona out of some, but not all, of the trouble that graffiti artists often get into for spraying surfaces that are not their own. “I caused the town a lot of heartache when I was a teenager,” Sigona admits. A Paterson police officer gave him a chance to turn things around with an official art gig. “I got my slap on the hand and I went legit,” he says. 

Sigona became part of the creative team at McFarlane Toys, creator of the Spawn action figures, where he learned set design, model making and fabrication. He also pursued his graffiti work, which came to resonate with hip-hop and rap musicians like Wu-Tang Clan, Mobb Deep, Gangstarr, Lil Kim and Will Smith, who hired him for art to accompany their music and to decorate their homes with graffiti. In 2009 he co-founded Fly Dragon Studio to expand corporate use of urban art and counts Gold’s Gym and Holiday Inn among his clients. He also teaches mural painting at the duCret School of Art in Plainfield. Sigona chronicled his career in “Snowstorm: The Art and Life of Carmelo ‘Snow’ Sigona.”

When the Verona Inn opened in 2012, Sigona did the logo mural that faces Gould Street. He stayed in touch with the VI’s general manager and when the restaurant expanded outdoor eating because of the pandemic, it called on Sigona to decorate the back patio and alley wall. In the alley, he created a piece that incorporates Verona history into a selfie-friendly mural. The “R” in Verona is a shout-out to Rose Jewelers, which once stood on the site of the new VI, and the “A” pays tribute to Annin Flag because the original VI stood in its shadow. Other letters evoke Verona Park and a butcher shop that operated here when Sigona was growing up.

The patio piece takes its inspiration from the wings of a phoenix, a mythological creature that has come to symbolize rebirth and renewal. “In these times we need all the inspiration we can get,” says Sigona. “We need to regain our composure and spirit.”

Sigona says he hopes that today’s VHS artists will also have a teacher who believes in them, and that they believe they can work from their imagination. “Your imagination is your superpower,” he says. “No one can take it from you.”

And above all, be authentic, he counsels. “I bow to the spirit of the art,” Sigona says, “and the spirit bows back to me by blessing me with opportunities.”

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]


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