As Spirit of Sports launches this week, Modenus talked to its founder John Pagnucco.
John Pagnucco is an enthusiast. We talked to him as he raised a glass to the launch of Spirit of Sports, a state of the art e-commerce site that in his words is “bringing the world of sports to art and the art of sports to the world”. It is a project that has been in John’s mind for many years. In the 1990’s John opened a sports art gallery in an upmarket shopping mall in Minneapolis. The gallery did well at first but art isn’t fashion and customers seemed surprised that the work on display didn’t change with the seasons. The gallery was open for four years and when it closed John’s vision continued. Around four years ago he recognized that on-line shopping was beginning to mature and it was time to think about moving his vision onto the web.
As John is quick to point out, the links between art and sport are strong and ancient. Some of the earliest art was pictures of games on the walls of caves. At the very first recorded Olympics, back in around 776 BC, medals were given for art.
It comes as no surprise that John is a keen sportsman himself. He rowed at Cornell where he was also the assistant manager of the football team. He has played baseball, tennis and golf. And when he isn’t opening digital art galleries he can be found working out at the local athletic club.
I compliment John on the appearance and functionality of his web site. The front page features Spirit of Sports artwork in rooms created by a selection of interior designers. Our lead illustration is a room by Jenn Brouwer. This was one of the outcomes of John’s work with social media pro Leslie Carothers and her company, The Kaleidoscope Partnership. “It’s an introduction to the site,” says John, “it sets the tone and elevates the whole idea of sport and art.”
There are pictures, sculptures and a range of gifts representing 35 sports on the site with many more to come. John wants to represent all sports, including those which are not that well known in the USA, or, for that mater, elsewhere. We talk about cricket, something of a minority interest in the US and John tells me that he has owned a couple of cricket ties for a good many years.
There are very few recognizable personalities on the site, and no team colors. “We wanted to do something different.” says John, “This is an opportunity for people to look inward in themselves into the sports that are important to them, and their family, a reason to think about sports that they did, or do play.”
We talk a little about John’s favorite artists and he is reluctant to single out any one in particular. He tells me about Michael Bryan an artist he had just returned from meeting wit at his home in Laguna Beach, California. “His work has a sense of being alive, of personality”, he says, “if you are involved in a sport you get a sense that he really understands it”. John tells me he seeks out, artists who “reflect energy and emotion, who show that physical tension and strain”. Linda Hartough is another artist we discuss. A landscape artist, who, John says, he admires for the way in which she captures the beauty of golf courses.
John is a man of impressive energy and vision. We talk briefly about a long term project to in involve local youth, currently engaged in graffiti, providing materials and a space to use their talents on a more positive subject – yes, sport. But that’s something for the future. We return to Spirit of Sports.
As John says, “this is high quality work that you can put in any room”. “Sport is high on the list of common denominators yet sport art is not well known”. John is giving people the chance to see what is available and we wish him well.