Syracuse painter ditched alcohol for art, finishes 3-story mural on Northside (video) –

Artist Jacqueline Colello’s painting style is bold, colorful and most of all, big.
She’s best known for her large canvas paintings of glamorous women and blooming florals. But in the last few years, Colello has graduated to massive mural work at multiple restaurants and salons in Central New York.
She completed her latest piece on Sept. 13: a three-story portrait of a woman swinging in a purple dress, surrounded by doves and roses. Anyone can see it while walking or driving toward downtown on North Salina Street.
The mural honors Francesca Angeloro, the beloved grandmother who inspired the popular Italian restaurant Francesca’s Cucina.
The restaurant’s owner George Angeloro had wanted a mural on his building for some time, but hadn’t pursued an artist until Colello reached out to him directly with her ideas.
“I gave Jackie some photographs of my grandmother when she was young, but she had total creative freedom,” said Angeloro. “[The mural] turned out very cool. I hope it brings happiness and joy to people who see it.”
Artist Jacqueline Colello painted this mural on the North Salina Street building that houses Francesca's Cucina. Sept. 10, 2021. Katrina Tulloch |
The mural took about two months to complete, with delays due to thunderstorms, scissor lift availability and the need for a public art permit.
But Colello continued her work on it, both in pouring rain and on blazing hot days. She befriended the families who live on the building’s upper floors and even took time to wash their windows. In return, they passed meals to her out their window.
The mural pays tribute to Francesca Angeloro’s favorite color (purple), her famous rose garden and the restaurant’s popular garden patio. Colello added doves to honor her Christian faith.
“I love public art because it’s transforming a space that’s blank, that could go any direction,” said Colello. “I really connect with that because it reminds me how I transformed my life.”
Colello has painted nine murals in the Syracuse area. This is her 10th and largest one to date.
“When people walk around this corner, and their reaction is just “Wow…” Colello said. “That is the goodness of sobriety and what God has done in my life.”
Artist Jacqueline Colello paints three-story mural for Francesca's Cucina
From addiction and alcohol to art
A decade ago, Colello couldn’t have imagined the growth and ubiquity of her art in CNY. Back then, she had a different mission: to kick her addiction and get sober.
Colello attended Liverpool schools until 7th grade, and graduated from Fayetteville-Manlius High School. She first encountered alcohol and cocaine in her first year of college in Rochester.
“I went to college with emotional baggage, and I didn’t know how to work through it,” Collelo said. “When I got introduced to drugs and alcohol, that was my quick fix.”
When her relationship with alcohol and drugs went from bad to worse, she went home to get clean at Tully Hill Treatment & Recovery at age 20. She later moved to Florida to continue rehab and enroll in the University of South Florida. That’s where she took her first painting class as an elective.
Artist Jacqueline Colello s­tands in front of the mural she painted at Eva's European Sweets in Solvay, N.Y. Katrina Tulloch |
She stayed sober for her first year, then started drinking again and got her first DWI at age 21.
“Everyone’s getting college degrees, buying houses, getting married and here I am just collecting these DWIs,” Colello said, of the time.
She was 27 when she got her third DWI in Florida, which came six months after her second one. But this time she landed in the hospital, with a broken jaw and a totaled car.
“We thought she had died,” said Colello’s mother, Phoebe Cannon. “It was awful. We were so scared.”
That’s when Colello’s older brother Robert stepped in to help. He flew her out to California to enroll in Teen Challenge, which provides Christian faith-based, residential care to young people who struggle with addiction.
During that program, she started painting with watercolors as an escape.
Artist Jacqueline Colello painted this floral mural in Evan Michaels Salon on North Salina Street. Katrina Tulloch |
After completing the program, Colello came back home to live with her mother. She found a box of her mom’s paints in the basement and started painting at home. She remembers smearing purple paint all over a canvas, and feeling freedom and joy.
“I was like a little kid discovering life again; that’s what it really felt like,” she said. “I was like, ‘This is what I used to feel when I’d drink, but I’m OK right now.’ And it wasn’t destructive. It’s a gift you share with people.”
Soon, Colello started putting her work up for sale on Facebook.
“Her friends would come buy art from her out of my kitchen,” Cannon said. “She wasn’t a painter before she got sober. I think the drugs and alcohol suppressed a lot of her personality. Her work just feels alive, and she keeps getting better and better.”
Cannon used to display a lot of her daughter’s art all around her house, but lately, she said it’s all sold.
“Her art has flown off my walls,” Cannon said. “The sky is truly the limit.”
Colello saved her money from a cafe job to get an apartment and a studio at the Delavan Center.
She will be sober for 10 years this November.
Artist Jacqueline Colello adds details to her mural on the North Salina Street building that houses Francesca's Cucina. Sept. 10, 2021. Katrina Tulloch |
After creating large canvas paintings for several years, Colello decided to pursue mural work.
One of her first murals was a portrait of Laura Serway, the owner of Laci’s Tapas Bar, on the back of the Hawley Avenue building. She did that one as a thank you to Serway for buying so much of her art.
“Laura supported my work from the very beginning,” Colello said. “She believed in me before I believed in myself at one point.”
She went on to do two more murals for Eva Zaczynski on the back of her popular Polish restaurant, Eva’s European Sweets, in Solvay. From there, business kept snowballing her way. She received commissions from several shops and salons.
“I love to celebrate women and feminine glamour in my work,” she said. “My style is a good fit for beauty salons.”
Colello’s next big project is a mural for a boudoir photo studio. Her art has also been displayed at The Gem Diner, The Preserve 405 and Canal Side Cafe & Bistro in Baldwinsville.
She developed a strong following on social media where she documents her artistic process. She also uses her growing platform to discuss causes, like bringing Afghan families to the United States after the Taliban seized control in Kabul.
“To have them see [in this mural] a woman we’re celebrating, and empowering, that’s the opposite of what’s happening [in Afghanistan],” Colello said. “I want everyone who sees this mural to feel freedom, to know they are welcome here.”
To contact Colello about mural commissions, email
Katrina Tulloch shoots videos and writes culture stories for and The Post-Standard. Contact her: Email | Twitter | Facebook
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Artist Jacqueline Colello s­tands in front of the mural she painted at Eva's European Sweets in Solvay, N.Y. Katrina Tulloch |
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