“Cult artist,” Quinn Stilletto represents perhaps the last of a vanishing breed of vagabond, renaissance artists. His work has surfaced and resurfaced throughout art circles in the Cleveland area for the past 30 years.
Born in London, England, Stilletto, with his family, immigrated to America in the 1950’s. He still gets tears in his eyes each time he sees the Statue of Liberty. Residing briefly in New York, they settled in Cleveland’s inner city toward the end of the decade.
Stilletto was educated in the Cleveland Public School System and began his secondary education in pursuit of the priesthood. Following a series of unilateral decisions (none his own), Stilletto was redirected to liberal arts programs with an emphasis on religion and theology.
During and after an extended academic career, Stilletto, as one of the founding fathers of the Cleveland Free Clinic, worked in several aspects of public health.
Following his return from New York in 1980, Stilletto’s life was consumed by his passion for art, not only his own but, “The Big Art,” as he defines it. In his own words, “Art is a language unto itself and every artist speaks it. It interrupts normal thought from hidden crevices of one’s consciousness and continues to do so until acknowledged.”
Throughout his career in the arts, Stilletto has enjoyed the numerous and diverse adventures associated with a life less ordinary. He served on the Board of Directors of the Coventry Art Gallery and, in 1982, was design assistant for Giancarlo Menotti’s production of Amal and the Night Visitors.
In 1993, with the cooperation of David Martin, former director of St. Augustine Manor, Stilletto created the Cleveland AIDS Memorial, also known as the Caritas Memorial Collection, in remembrance of members of the arts community who succumbed to the first wave of the epidemic. The permanent exhibit now contains more than 100 works of art donated by Cleveland artists as well as some nationally known individuals. A former substance abuser himself, Stilletto’s curatorial role was somewhat more than personal, “the arts community has been decimated by the tragedy of AIDS. I have sustained personal losses. I hope those of us who have escaped will continue to work on behalf of those still afflicted. AIDS is still ultimately a fatal disease.” Stilletto continues to serve as the collection’s curator.
Stilletto’s more commercial endeavors include a term as staff designer for Retex International Corporation where he designed textile surfaces. As an associate photographer at Crowther Photography, he specialized in fashion photography and product presentation. Late in 1980, the design firm of Concept by Stilletto was established. Over the years, Concept has undertaken a wide array of projects ranging from designing ladies active wear to developing floor plans used in the construction of a product showroom in Miami, Florida.