GGG Artist Interview: Tom Ferraro

Introducing Tom Ferraro:

Adapted from an article created for GGG by Joel Hess in a PSU Behrend course, Spring 2021

Tom Ferraro is an artist, painter, teacher and public art advocate. He is an art teacher and has served on the board trustee for Erie Arts and Culture from 2014 thru 2020. “In his studio, located in Erie, Pa, Tom primarily works in oil on canvas creating paintings that often blur the lines between abstraction and representational imagery. He uses color, atmosphere, shape and text to heighten emotion and ambiguity.”

He seeks identity between the personal influences of his inner self with the complexities of contemporary society.

Recently, Tom’s work has been influenced by his involvement in various community based public art projects. In 2012, Tom teamed up with artist, Edward Grout, to create “The Looking Glass Art Project,” a program designed to engage various community groups with visual stories and experiences from their lives that lead to the development of public art projects. As a result of this work, his paintings have taken on broader themes related to the discourse surrounding issues such as global warming, racial and economic inequalities, gun violence and more. Often times his paintings create a nostalgic, almost playful mood that contrast to darker undertones permeating throughout the work. 

The Looking Glass Art Project has been involved in over 20 public art projects since 2012. The work of the Looking Glass Art Project can be seen in public buildings and outdoor spaces throughout Northwestern Pennsylvania. 

Tom’s educational background includes a BFA in Painting from the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla in 1977. He has further studied at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, The Art Students League of NY, The Erie Art Museum and Edinboro University. 

Tom has exhibited extensively throughout the region and his work can be found in several public, corporate, university and private collections throughout the United States. Highlights of his exhibition record include several one and two person exhibits. In 2020-2021 Tom’s solo exhibition “Safety Zone” was featured in a one-person exhibition at the Erie Art Museum. He has exhibited in several AAP exhibitions including annuals at the Carnegie Museum of Art, the Society for Contemporary Craft, and the Westmoreland Museum of American Art. Among other notable group shows, he has exhibited at the Erie Art Museum, The Hoyt Centre for the Arts, the Butler Museum of American Art, Mercyhurst University, Three Rivers Arts Festival and the New Gallery in New York City.   

Tom has won many awards for his work in various competitions. In 2012, Tom received the inaugural Bruce Morton Wright Artist of the Year award at the annual Fall for the Arts Awards presented by Erie Arts and Culture. In 2016, Tom was honored at the Erie School District annual Partnership for Public Education as a “PEPS Star” for his contribution to art education in the Erie district.



Q: What originally got you hooked on art and creating it?

A: “I was hooked on art after taking an elective drawing class while attending the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida. I was in my sophomore year as a business major and immediately after the semester, I changed majors to art and received a BFA in painting in 1976.”

Q: Has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted you in regards to art?

A: “Art is influenced by life’s experiences. The pandemic has been one of the most life altering experiences in the past 100 years.  The pandemic has heightened my awareness of just about everything.  It has forced us inward to reexamine our own identity in ways that we may have never considered.”  

Q: What influences your art the most?

A: “My art is influenced by the people and events of my life.”

Q: Is there any specific message you want people to get from your art?

A: “Most of my work includes figures and representational imagery which tends to create a narrative, but I don’t see my art as delivering any one specific message. On the contrary, it is my hope that my art delivers multiple messages based on the viewer's point of view.” 

Q: What is your favorite work of art?

A: “Tough question. I have too many favorites. Right now, my screensaver on my laptop is an image of William DeKoonig’s “Excavation”, so I’ll say that is my favorite of the day.”

Q: Any specific favorite type of art and why i.e., sculpture, painting, glass, photography, others?

A: “I have always been drawn to painting, mostly because that is what I do. I do appreciate all art forms and have worked in a variety of media.” 

Q: Any advice for an aspiring artist?

A: “There are no shortcuts to an art career.  It will not be easy.  It will require sacrifice in time, in money, in relationships.  It will also be the most rewarding thing that you can do.  The most important thing that you could do is do the work and do it well.  Stay focused and you can succeed. “

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