Born near Hot Coffee, Mississippi, the son of an Army officer, John Runnels had a nomadic childhood wandering the world as
a playground. In 1975 he obtained his B.F.A. from the University of Southern Mississippi and in 1979 he was awarded a Ford
Foundation Scholarship to study painting in Cortona, Italy with the University of Georgia.
Runnels has received grants from the Cultural Arts Council of Houston and Harris County (CACHH), National Parks Service
and the Buffalo Bayou Partnership for his work which integrates the written language with painting and sculpture. He has
exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions all over the United States.
In 1985 Runnels co-founded Mother Dog Studios, an expansive alternative studio and exhibition space in downtown Houston,
Texas. As Co-Director of the Buffalo Bayou ARTPARK for 10 years, an artist-run, non-profit organization dedicated to placing
temporary art in city parks, he worked with the University of Houston Sculpture Department and CACHH to establish an international
In 1999, Runnels served as Creative Consultant for the Book: "The Art of Texas Childrens' Hospital," an internationally
recognized hospital in Houston that has created a unique aesthetic atmosphere of healing.
In 2000, as part of an invited delegation from Seattle, Washington, Runnels traveled and participated in an art and cultural
exchange with the People's Republic of China. He has been invited by the Chinese government to return and lead a delegation
in public art from Houston in 2003.
Currently, he has been commissioned by the City of Houston to design public artworks which will be installed at entry
points along Buffalo Bayou as part of the city's renovation and enhancement of the downtown district. In October, he will
be artist-in-residence at Saint Ursula Villa School in Cincinnati, Ohio. He lives in Houston.