I am an ordained Roman Catholic deacon from the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, USA. In 2009, my wife Jacqueline and I founded The Fra Angelico Institute for Sacred Art. I retired from active parish ministry in 2018. We currently reside out-of-state.
This blog is an on-line “institute” and has as its goal “a brief course of instruction on selected topics related to a specific field” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
The Institute’s field is Roman Catholic catechesis/evangelization and the study and prayerful creation of Latin and Greek sacred art. Permission to proceed with this on-line ministry occurred in 2010 from his Excellency the Most Reverend Thomas J. Tobin D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, USA.
This blog is named in honor of the early Renaissance Italian painter Beato Fra Angelico. He is an extraordinary example of the God given gift for uniting the prayer life of an artist with faith in the Holy Scriptures and the Church’s Sacred Traditions. Fra Angelico’s efforts produced extraordinary sacred art which inspires and catechizes to this day.
I earned a Bachelor’s and two Master’s degrees. One of the M.A.’s is in theological
studies. As a retired public school history and humanities teacher my goal is to teach as well as learn. I paint in the mediums of acrylic and occasionally in egg tempera. I am currently studying watercolor painting.
Every student artist must learn the fundamentals of their art form. Once that is done they are free to express their unique creativity; however, Catholic sacred art has specific boundaries. Please read my post “The Canon of Catholic Sacred Artists” which is found within this blog under the Categories/Subject title tools or Google it directly. That post provides my views and guidance on the creation of Roman Catholic sacred art.
We are grateful for your prayers. Remember: your faith, creativity, and messing around with paints all contribute to your survival in this Redeemed yet sadly decrepit world.
All faiths are welcome and free to comment on anything they read, observe, or are challenged by in this blog.
Copyright © 2009 – 2023, Deacon Paul O. Iacono – All Rights Reserved.
Permission to reprint articles must be obtained from Deacon Iacono through commenting on the specific post. He will correspond with you if you post a message in the “Comments” section for a specific article. Students and interested readers may quote small sections of articles/posts that they think are valuable as long as the proper credit and notation is given. Thank you.
17 thoughts on “About the Founders”
What a great website, and what a terrific, worthy, and timely project! Deacon Greg Kandra’s blog led me here, and your purpose strikes close to home.
Over the past few years I have been lucky enough to have been able to develop “The Nativity Story” with Jane Henson, co-founder with her husband Jim of the Muppets back in the 1950s. The play is performed with table top and rod puppets crafted by the Jim Henson Workshop in New York and bas relief puppets based on medieval paintings by Giotto, as Jane had long wanted to create a show in which the figures in a manger scene came to life. Sacred music is played live in the show by a Renaissance trio and the script uses as its core texts of the ancient Mystery Cycles.
The opening scenes were showcased at the puppetry track of the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Conference in Connecticut, and the entire production premiered at St James Catholic Cathedral in Orlando just before Christmas, 2010. For the Epiphany in 2012 it toured to schools and churches of several denominations, through donations made by Jane and her youngest daughter, Heather (who had produced the full show together as well). Very consciously, we felt we followed in the footsteps of the medieval artisan guilds.
We would like the show to continue to tour and develop, and envision working on similar projects, but have felt until now a little like an island with no other “guilds” with whom we could share, or any way to have the show seen other than by contacting churches in the Orlando area and asking if they’d like a free performance. Also, as it features puppets, it is assumed to be specifically for young children, which it actually is not, as the review linked as our website indicates. Are all members of the Institute in or near Rhode Island? Would you consider “casting the net” for Floridians? (Heather did attend the Rhode Island School of Design!)
Thanks again for starting the Institute– it is a beautiful idea, and should attract many artists who may feel the Spirit moving them, but not be sure in which direction!
Hello and Welcome!
Yes by all means you and your colleagues are welcome to join the Fra Angelico Institute for the Sacred Arts and feel free to spread the blog address to any person or group that you believe would find it interesting and helpful.
Even though we are physically located within the Diocese of Providence – at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Wakefield, RI, in nine months since we have advertised our existence the membership list has grown from artists in RI and MA to other states in the USA. Also, as a result of Facebook, CatholicTV, and WordPress we have “followers and subscribers” from Australia, Europe, Canada, Mexico, and Brazil! Actually, I must admit that I stand in awe of the power of the Holy Spirit to move people to see and act on the idea that you can unite your prayer life with the creative spirit given to each of us by God Himself – so that we may all together share the truth, goodness, and beauty of God through the creation of sacred art.
A tip of the hat to you, Jane, and Heather for the living Nativity performance. We read the Orlando Sentinel article and were very impressed. It, too, is a wonderful idea, promoted by the Holy Spirit, to have people relate – through a creative performance – to the significance of the birth of Christ and the truth that His Mercy and Love is meant for all men and women throughout the world. God Bless you, please keep in touch, and if you like I will email you an application form to become a member of the Institute that you can share with anyone who is interested. Peace in Christ, Deacon Paul and Jackie Iacono
Hello Deacon Paul,
I love this site! Thank you for it…and we have some things in common. I too am an iconographer and have studied for years under Peter Pearson, since 2003 and recently took a class with Marek, Anna and Ksenia in Santa Barbara, CA in May 2012. How blessed to have studied under these amazing and gifted people.
I have begun to teach icon workshops myself and am curious as to what your institute has to offer as per iconography instruction, or is your institute about your writing and blogging as it relates to sacred art?
Good morning Brenda,
Yes, The Fra Angelico Institute for the Sacred Arts is currently offering a workshop in Contemporary Sacred Image Painting. This title reflects the fact that the image will be painted using acrylic paints rather than egg tempera and pigments.
The Institute has a series of “Guilds” (which is discussed in one of my early posts in August 2011) in which people who have become members request to be part of a specific guild within the Institute. We are trying to create a community of artists who share their love for art and express the interest of improving their prayer life through the prayerful creation of sacred art.
The Fra Angelico Institute for the Sacred Arts has the support of the Bishop of our Diocese and works within the organizational structure of the Roman Catholic Church and my particular parish – St. Francis of Assisi in Wakefield, Rhode Island.
Interested adults have become members of the Sacred Images Guild, Needlework, Stained Glass, Literary, Prayer, and Gardening Guilds. The largest Guild is the Sacred Images Guild. It has ten members. As of today, we have 20 charter members, and over 100 internet members – some of whom are in active Guilds and others who just like to participate by attending workshops, subscribing and reading my essays on the Institute’s web site, and or doing one of the most important elements, that is, being part of the Prayer Guild which prays for the artists to create beautiful art for the glory of God.
The sacred image workshop sequence that we started in May of 2012 will come to completion in mid July. I am reviewing the artistic issues slowly and methodically, owing to the fact that adult learners have an entire set of issues that must be addressed – even with that – sometimes I proceed too quickly – and they let me know it!
I have told my fellow students that, “The Process” of painting a sacred image, from my perspective, consists of a three step, continuous, process of: Study (the history and diversity of sacred imagery), Technique (learn and practice the variety of techniques necessary to paint an image), and, the most important: Prayer (daily prayer, and prayer while painting).
You are more than welcome to join the Fra Angelico Institute for the Sacred Arts. If you are interested please email me at email@example.com, and I will be happy to send out a membership form to you. There are no dues!
Please feel free to go all the way back to the start of this blog – in August 2011 – and peruse my essays to see if anything interests you. Please be so kind as to spread the word to your friends and fellow iconographers about the Institute and inform them of membership opportunities, too.
Thanks for all your kind comments and keep us in your prayers – as we will with you.
Deacon Paul and Jackie Iacono
Thank you. This all sounds so wonderful. I will definately tell others about your insititue and blog, especially when I teach my workshops.
Peace to you…Brenda
I am so happy to see someone restore the proper role that art plays in Catholic worship. The minimalist art that now permeates many parishes is the equivalent of paintings of Elvis on Black Velvet compared to the religious art of the past. We need to restore the beauty, the reverence, the symbolism and holiness that true religious art conveys. Now if we can just do the same thing to architecture and music we might have something truly magnificent. Thank you.
Thank you for your generous comments.
I must recommend Vialucispress.wordpress.com.
It is the site of Via Lucis Photography and the two great artists: Dennis Aubrey and PJ McKey.
They travel Europe bringing us the beautiful images of the great medieval cathedrals. It is a tonic for the soul.
Thank you, I will.
Hello, I’d like to send a picture of a communion pall I just finished. The embroidery and construction are fairly simple and accessible for most with basic skills for your embroiderers guild. Just email me if interested. Blessings, Anne
Thank you very much for thinking of us.
Yes, we would enjoy seeing a picture of it, and if you are not already a member of the Fra Angelico Institute for the Sacred Arts (I can’t remember whether you filled out a membership form!) then please prayerfully consider becoming a member.
I am a modern Christian artist. Although I do not use icon images in my work I center my pieces upon an ideal, idea, or Sacred Mystery. I am wondering if this Institute would be open to something a little different but non the less clearly presenting Mystery in an art form. I would be happy to send an example or two if that would help. For several years I was a featured artist at my parish Sacred Art Festival.
Thank you for writing.
Yes, I am always personally interested in seeing how fellow artists visualize their impressions of sacred Mystery and present it in various media.
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and attach your image(s) and a brief explanation of each.
Best wishes for good fortune and the Lord’s blessings for the New Year.
Paul, PJ and I just wanted to wish you the happiest of New Years for 2012. We hope to make the short jaunt to Providence and meet you someday!
Thank you very much Dennis.
Jackie and I wish the same good fortune and the Lord’s blessing for the New Year to you and PJ.
Give us a jingle at email@example.com and we will find a comfortable pub to have a chat.
We look forward to it, Paul.
Deacon Paul, how are you? Think of you often. I do so miss your art Icon classes here at St Francis. I would love to know if you are still giving classes. I’d love to hear from you. I am at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hope you are well in God’s good grace. Many blessings
I am fine, thank you.
I hope that you and your family are well, too!
I am no longer giving classes. I’ve decided on exploring other styles of sacred art.
I have branched off from the Russian icon style and have been painting in the Greek, Coptic, and my own specific style of sacred art which is contemporary, catechetical, and respectful of the sacred art traditions of various cultures.
I have been studying Coptic sacred art and am currently painting in that style, yet, with a personal approach to its delivery. When I finish my first attempt I’ll post the image and discuss the symbolism I have attached to it.
Please convey my best to everyone in the parish.
May the Lord bless you and your family and assist you in your sacred art.