BRAVO! Trace Chiodo
Trace Chiodo (key-o’-doe), RAG’s beloved graphic designer and webmaster, is an interesting guy. He was born in Kenosha, WI but soon moved to Waterford where he grew up. He is married to Susan, a silversmith, and has two girls, Olivia (19) and Sophia (17). Trace, along with his wife and daughters, has been on quite a faith-based journey.
Trace’s education had its ups and downs by his own admission. He attended Waterford Graded Schools and graduated from Waterford High School. His earliest art memory is the poster contest with the theme “From Sea to Shining Sea” that he won as a Kindergartner. This poster work was a harbinger of the many posters he would create in his graphic design work as an adult. In middle school, he encountered a teacher who recognized his talent but tried to push him by giving him a higher standard of excellence than the other kids in the class. She eventually told him his art would never amount to anything. Instead of motivating, this discouraged him so much that he gave up and never wanted to do art again. However, in high school, his advisor gave him two choices for his electives: health or art. Trace reluctantly chose art - rekindling his interest again. He was talented but distracted and he began hanging with the “wrong” crowd. Even though he had successes in his art classes, these friendships didn’t help his grade-point average, however, his love for golf was still strong and growing.
Trace had three passions as a child: art, golf, and fishing. At the age of five, his grandpa encouraged his parents to get golf lessons for him. His family lived near Rivermoor Golf Course where he practiced every day and received lessons from all the pros. He was tutored by Joyce Ziske Malison who had played on the LPGA tour and was the first woman inducted into the Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame. He played tournament golf as a youth and was impressively first man on varsity as a freshman. His gift for golf didn’t go unnoticed and he was offered a golf scholarship from Carthage College.
Sadly, when Trace went to speak with the academic counselor there, he found he missed the grade-point cutoff for a scholarship by one hundredth of a percent. Trace’s less than stellar academic success in high school came back to bite him. He fit in with all of the cliques at school but he hung mostly with the social crowd. His grades suffered. Carthage told him he could go to junior college to pick up his GPA, but there was no guarantee the scholarship would still be there. Trace said no thanks to that. “I just wasn’t ready,” he lamented. Even though he still loved art and golf, he decided to go work after graduation and not go
Out of school, he worked at Robins Electric were he was promoted to an electrical estimator and office manager in just three years. His dad encouraged him to pursue his love of golf. So he went to work at Geneva National Golf Course in the maintenance department. In a short period of time, he was promoted to lead fairway mower where his job was to mow precision line patterns in the turfgrass. He realized that this was art on grass instead of canvas and would appreciate his work from the tee box, noticing how beautiful it was. This creative excellence was recognized and Trace was soon promoted to assistant superintendant. Even with the promotion and pay raise, it wasn’t enough to support his future wife. Therefore he went back to Robin’s Electric where he was encouraged to join the union and get an apprenticeship. The union told him that he had to go back to school to raise an old algebra grade. While at Gateway, Trace was laid off from Robins Electric. This circumstance ended up providing him with free education as a “dislocated worker.” Now married, his wife, Susan, encouraged him to take more classes…maybe an art class. Gateway had just started a graphic design program. Trace aced every class earning two graphic design certificates in1994. He was hired at TMS Lithography in Racine where Trace headed up the graphic design department from 1994 until he pursued his own business in 1999. Trace has been a self-employed graphic designer for 18 years. He currently has his studio in the Racine Business Center on Sixteenth Street here in town.
Trace and his family have had an adventurous, spirit-led nomadic lifestyle. First they moved to Waupaca, WI and lived there for 5 years. Then, in 2005, they moved to Fort Mill, South Carolina to attend MorningStar Church, known for cultivating the creative spirit and the creative connection to life and the world. There Trace developed a close friendship with and was inspired by two internationally known artists. Trace did graphic design work for them for many years in exchange for their paintings. Collaboratingwith them reignited a passion for working in the arts. The Chiodo’s came back to Racine in 2013 to care for their families.
Presently, Trace is working in what we’ve coined “fine-digital art.” This is his preferred medium today although he is still interested in getting back to painting. Look for Trace’s unique and gorgeous fish prints which represent his third passion, obviously, fishing. He’s inspired by the memories of fishing with his friends and his grandpa. His other body of work is creating vintage style travel posters which was inspired by the relationships he built in Waupaca.
Ironically, Trace was encouraged to come to Art Guild by Thom Petersen, who, years before, was asked by Trace’s father-in-law to talk to him about the graphic design field because he was worried Trace was trying to turn a hobby into a career. Thom was all for it and gave Trace encouragement in that direction.
What are the challenges? Financial challenges always loom large for a self-employed artist, but with those challenges comes grace. “There are the rewards of seeing people appreciate the work you’ve done and further rewards in collaborating with and promoting those artists you’ve met along the way,” he maintains. With a chuckle, Trace said he wishes his art fairy would send him more patrons. He seriously wishes she would push him a little to become immersed in the fine arts as well as the graphic arts. He sees this shift in his future.