West Scranton community organizer lends creative talents to many events
By Patrice Wilding (The Times Tribune)
Jess Meoni isn’t spooked by a challenge, because hard work never scared the West Scranton resident.
At 26, Ms. Meoni’s long list of credits in community organizing prove she is skilled as a champion of local arts, culture and talent.
Most recently, she facilitated the punk and metal music and arts festival Hallowfest in Nay Aug Park for a second year and volunteered to make the inaugural NEPA Horror Film Festival at Ale Mary’s a success.
A West Scranton High School graduate, Ms. Meoni spent a lot of time on her own immersed in music and art, and she knew she wanted to do something creative for a living one day. She earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design with minors in art and world histories from Marywood University, and she went on to teach design classes at ITT Technical Institute in Dunmore.
A believer in continuing education, Ms. Meoni applied for, and won, an assistanceship in the marketing and communications office at Marywood, eventually landing a full-time position as a graphic designer there.
Her work includes making wrap cards for anything on campus, from student plays and sporting events to admissions materials and projects for various school departments. She also provided graphics and web design for the Radical Book Fair at Marywood.
“I like that we have to follow certain guidelines to stay consistent, but create distinctions (between projects),” Ms. Meoni said. “I use my creativity to figure that out.”
Outside of work, her personal designs tend to focus on bands, including music groups’ stickers, patches and promotional posters. Ms. Meoni manages the doom metal group Earthmouth and, as a drummer, has played with various outfits in the area.
Her passion for performance extends to other mediums as well. Ms. Meoni coordinated the Grrrls Night Open Mic, which invites female artists to share their talent before audiences at Ale Mary’s, the site of the last half-dozen events.
“That stemmed from not seeing enough women up on stage,” Ms. Meoni explained. “I didn’t want to make it sexist and girls-only. I’m just calling them out so they will go to other, regular open mics and share their work, everything from music, comedy, poetry or skits.”
She occasionally deejays and also started the Polaroid Project, which captures Scranton life and people through the instant photos that then get posted online.
Her volunteer work includes lending a hand to events such as ScrantonMade’s Holiday Market; acting as local ambassador for the Art Directors Club, which screens independent films throughout the world; and serving as a board member and vice president of education for the American Advertising Federation. Ms. Meoni also is a member of the newly formed NEPA Design Collective, which seeks to bond artists who wish to uplift each other.
Ms. Meoni’s largest projects, however, have been the ones she initiated and organized from the ground up. The first was Zine Fest, an event held every second Saturday of June since 2011, when the longtime zine-maker and admirer sought to bring the collective-style festival to Scranton.
Having attended and been a vendor at similar events in Philadelphia, Ms. Meoni felt she could put together her own affair to make participants feel more appreciated.
“Going to Philly’s Zine Fest, I found it wasn’t personal enough. I tabled there and felt like a number,” Ms. Meoni said. “I wanted to make everybody feel special.”
As the Scranton Zine Fest grew over the years, she added readings and bands. Next year, she plans to incorporate it into a First Friday event through a partnership with AFA Gallery.
“My goal is for people to find inspiration to make zines,” she said. “Anybody can do it on any topic.”
The other pet project Ms. Meoni successfully handled was the Scranton TEDx talks, which give a voice to local speakers.
“I was the licenseholder for that, and it was one of the biggest things I ever did,” Ms. Meoni said. “I pushed myself to see what my boundaries are.”
The common thread that weaves all of her endeavors together is a love for her hometown and her conviction that its citizens have a lot to say that’s worth hearing.
“If I travel anywhere, I always really like seeing the Scranton sign on the side of the highway when I’m coming home,” Ms. Meoni said.
“People overlook the young people who want to better the community, but there’s a lot of us.”
Meet Jess Meoni
At home: A West Scranton resident, she is the daughter of Josephine Leo and Raymond Meoni and has a younger brother, Ray.
At work: She is a graphic designer in the marketing and communications department at Marywood University.
Inspiration: Naysayers in Scranton
Aspirations: To work in arts administration, play drums in a band and open a performing venue/donut shop called Cavity
Diversions: Making zines, cooking vegan food, poetry, letterpress and collecting records
Aversion: When people don’t weigh both sides of the equation to form their own opinions
Quotes: “How should I complete the wall?” — Pink Floyd; “If not you, who? If not now, when?”; “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” — President John F. Kennedy