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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Riccardo Iamucci, First School of Industrial Art and Design

by Delia Champlin

Of late there has been much discussion of the proposed School of Industrial Arts, which it is hope soon will be established in Grand Rapids. Probably few people realize that for about thirty years the city has had a school of the Industrial arts that has given training to some of the leading designers of its furniture factories and by its very existence proved that what Dr. James Parton Haney referred to as “the crying need of Grand Rapids” is a real necessity and not an imaginary want.

The Grand Rapids School of Industrial Art is tucked modestly away at 220½ Pearl St. NW, and it is only after some searching that one notices the attractive little gilt sign that marks the entrance.

On the second floor, in two small rooms, Riccardo Iamucci carries on the school that he established here so many years ago and which was at one time such a flourishing institution that it occupied several large rooms in the building on Pearl St.

The story of Mr. Iamucci’s immigration is similar to that of countless foreigners who came to America in 1880. He was one of ten skilled workmen (carvers) who came to Grand Rapids through the American Consul at Milan under contract to work for one of the Grand Rapids furniture factories. When they arrived, however, they were not wanted, and were left to shift for themselves. Iamucci went to New York where he worked for two years before returning to establish his school here, about thirty years ago.

As he is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Milan he found no difficulty in attracting large classes. His elementary course, which was much the same as the one he teaches at present, included thorough training in outline, shading, castwork, modeling and composition. Many of the leading furniture designers of the city owe much of their training to him, and men are frequently sent from the furniture and brass work factories to take a course of lessons in the practical side of designing. At present most of his pupils are men who study after working hours.

Thoroughness in elementary work is a point upon which Mr. Iamucci lays great stress. To him the characteristics of the American boy who wishes to paint pictures before he has gained his fundamental training is most deplorable. In any country but the United States, the real service that he has done for the city’s industry would have been better appreciated.

Article by Della Champlin, Grand Rapids Press, 5/24/1915, page 12



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