Local Artist Spotlight: Meet Jay & Iris

It’s the middle of the day, and the line at La Columbe on Frankford is out the door.  Suit-clad colleagues chat over lunch,  faces glued to the faces of laptops type away, local Temple students study for finals, mothers with strollers and dog-walkers and construction workers all convene here. Every seat in the melting pot is taken – Including the two across from me: occupied by Jay Coreano and Iris Candelaria, two North Philadelphia-based artists who have big dreams and even bigger talent.

Jay Coreano and Iris Candelaria

I introduced myself to Jay, 23, and Iris, 24, a few weeks back at Sketch Burger around the corner on East Girard when I overheard them telling their waitress about a live painting show Jay had just performed at. We got to talking about Jay’s art and Iris’s poetry and their hopes for their community and my burger was cold before I knew it. I left them my number and we agreed to finish our conversation over coffee this time – which inevitably went cold as well.

Jay is an urban contemporary artist, working with canvas, acrylic paints, woodwork; anything to do with creating or repurposing something to make new again.  Iris is a prolific artist in her own right, specializing in home décor while focusing mostly on her writing. Most of their pieces can be purchased through their Instagram accounts (check his Instagram out here and her’s here).

Here’s a glimpse of their work:

Iris has been living on her own since she was 15.  She found herself always asking ‘why’ in high school and community college classrooms before finally taking the jump and pursuing her passion full time. Though conscious of her community, Iris has developed an enviable sense of identity – which she credits to poetry.

“I was at a spoken word event two years ago, and I got real emotional, it was powerful and it affected me. Then I was like, ‘wait a minute, I can do this,'” said Iris. “So I came back and got up on stage, and it set me free. This environment is raw, it’s therapy, it’s free, it’s not $150 a session.”

Jay comes from a big family – one of six – and always keeps them in mind. He strives for ‘everyone to win,’ adamant that there’s ‘enough to go around.’ As a lifelong doodler, Jay discovered painting in an art class during his senior year of high school and hasn’t looked back since.

“I’m proud of where I’m from; it’s an important part of who we both are,” said Jay. “But when I walk past someone who’s homeless, it motivates me. We both grew up without much, and that motivates me. There’s only two way this could go, and that motivates me.”

In each other, they’ve  found an unwavering support system. The couple coordinate’s their schedule so they have time together to workshop and exchange ideas, relying on one another for honesty and advice; dually each other’s biggest fan and critic.  The confidence they have in themselves – and in each other – resonates in every word they speak, every stroke of the brush. Concurrent to their careers as emerging artists, Jay and Iris hope to host events that sponsor creativity in their community.

“Environments’ like spoken word, like live painting, evoke emotion unlike anything else. Art is obviously a huge part of our lives, but it’s an important part of self-discovery, too. We want to give back to the community, help kids where we’re from connect with one another and find out what they’re passionate about through art and freedom of expression,” says Iris.

Philly Influencer’s Local Artist Spotlight aims to introduce talented and passionate artists who call Philadelphia home. To be considered for a feature or to suggest an artist we should cover, feel free to reach out in the comments or email me at

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