Artist Opens Gallery with Premiere of Pandemic-Inspired Paintings

By Amy Nicole Tangel

Long Island Artist and Live Event Producer Steven Calapai faced the same reality as many others in the industry when the entertainment world essentially shutdown in early 2020 due to the world-wide Pandemic, but with determination to be resilient and with a lifelong passion for art, he said he has taken his creativity to levels he never dreamed of with the recent opening of his new gallery.

Park South Gallery opened its doors this past March in Amity Harbor, N.Y., filled wall-to-wall with Steven’s paintings that are now being recognized across the country for not only their artistry, but for the inspiration behind the color.  Steven said he always loved to paint, sculpt, and design, but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit, when he was looking for an outlet to deal with the sudden halt to life, that he began painting every day.  A little more than a year later, Steven has painted approximately four hundred paintings to date and has no plans to stop.

“Life’s hard, life’s tough, and if I could make every minute of life worth living even more moving forward, I am going to do it,” he said.

Steven said he releases all his emotions in his paintings and whether it is sadness, anger, loss, new beginnings or happiness, his art is the window to his soul.  He said looking at the walls of the gallery people will see the paintings are filled with expressions of everything he is, and he said his diversity and how it has been touching other people is what he takes most pride in.

With a self-proclaimed philosophy to “keep moving forward” along with having a career in film and television spanning over 20 years working for companies like Paramount Pictures and Atlantic Records, Steven said those experiences gave him great drive and memories to hold on to, so when everything shut down, he simply woke-up one morning and decided he was not going down with it.  When Covid hit, Steven said his live event and commercial real estate business instantly became non-existent.

“As soon as Covid hit, it was over and it was over in like 24 hours, so I woke up and I had to reinvent myself,” he said.

Born and raised on Long Island, Steven said his life was saved at the age of 10 when he turned to music and art to deal with his parent’s difficult divorce.  He became an actor and print model as a teenager, and in between it all he became an avid drummer.  Times were tough financially, and as a young and eager musician, Steven said his first drum kit was an old Ludwig he found when someone else’s trash became his treasure; recalling it as ‘a moment of never giving up.’

“I found an old Ludwig set in the trash. It was champagne pearl, not an extremely popular color with teenagers. I remember finding sandpaper and black and white house paint in our garage. I worked so hard sanding all the pearl paint off and painted the set black and white stripes,” he said.

From that moment on, Steven began playing in garage bands and creating flyers for bands.  Not realizing it while it was happening, he tapped into not only his artistry, but his future in public relations.  Following his acting and modeling career Steven dove into the music industry as a producer, session drummer, Grammy member and studio owner.  During his time working with musicians, he most notably managed the late R&B singer, Freddie Scott, and worked with artists such as Bette Midler, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, and Van Morrison.

As Steven’s recognition grew, he turned his focus to managing actors and worked in press and public relations with executive producers such as Mark Lipsky. Working alongside Lipsky, who is well-known for producing films such as, The Nutty Professor and Coming to America, Steven has provided management services for celebrities and even worked closely with Greg Martin, son of Beatles Producer George Martin.

All the while, he said his passion for art grew rapidly having had the privilege of personally knowing and learning from iconic artists such as Andy Warhol and David Bowie, and spending influential nights with them in conversations at Studio 54.  Steven said his artwork has also been heavily influenced by his time exploring different neighborhoods and cultures, but early on some of his greatest inspirations came from other artists such as Blondie and Iggy Pop as he witnessed the beginning of the pop art movement.

“The imagery of Hollywood is forever tattooed in my memory and can be seen throughout my work,” he said.

In his 30’s, Steven suffered the tragic loss of a child, and just as he has recently worked to turn the pandemic into a positive through his artwork, he carried the same mindset to help carry him through his grief some years ago when he began contributing to charities and sharing support to others in need.

While Steven is humble in his philanthropy, he said he has made it one of his life’s missions to always donate his art and his time.  The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, American Cancer Society and Mandate for Humanity are organizations that Steve said he holds most near to his heart.

“All the charities I work with are all good people and I want to help,” he said.

This past November, Steven was diagnosed with Covid and thankfully experienced no symptoms, but it was his time in quarantine when he said he “went nuts” and painted almost around the clock.  He said he would go to sleep at eight o’clock and wake-up at 3 a.m. and start all over again.

When he started painting during the pandemic, Steven said he just wanted to create and share some things with people to make them feel more positive about Covid.  Some of his favorite expressions are painting trees with blossoms and seascapes, and for Steven, he said his new paintings have just simply been so much fun and so positive.

“They are peaceful, so I put a little different twist (on each one), and I add new colors to them,” he said.

Park South Gallery is considered home to Steven, but he said he is currently working on opening a gallery in Boca Raton, FL, and Las Vegas.  Word has been rapidly spreading of Steven’s work, and this past January his art was featured in Livein-Style Magazine as well as Modern Luxury Magazine/Vegas-The Art Issue.  Steven is currently working on getting his art in hotels in major cities across the country and he said there is no stopping him as he shoots for the stars with the dream of seeing his paintings in the world’s first space hotel on the moon. 

At the end or the root of it all, depending on a person’s outlook, Steven said he just wants to share his experiences, his emotions, and his imagination through his paintings with other people to inspire people to never give up.

“This is all based on failure; all of it.  If you don’t fail, then you never learn how to succeed,” he said.

Steven will be premiering his spring collection Saturday, April 10 at Park South Gallery in his true fashion with a private VIP event and is using his space to additionally support other artists such as an upcoming exhibition show with tv personality and Ink Master Artist “Gentle Jay” Blondel on May 8.

To learn more about Steven and his paintings, you can visit www.stevencalapai.net and www.parksouthgallery.net.

Feature Photo Credit: Kate Fox

Photo Gallery: Amy Nicole Tangel

Best of LI Beauty Salon Expands in New Location

By Amy Nicole Tangel

As the perseverance of local businesses continues to grow, a sign of better times ahead can be seen  in the recent expansion of one Long Island beauty salon, and for the creator behind it all, it has been 25 years in the making.

Best of LI 2021 winner for best hair salon two years in a row, Tresses & Colours, has recently moved to a new location for the first time since they opened their doors 24 years ago on Carleton Avenue in East Islip, N.Y.  Now approaching their 25th anniversary August 1, they have re-located on Montauk Highway in Oakdale, N.Y., and owner Louise Polite, said she couldn’t be happier with the growth in business in spite of the times.

“It has been good.  It has been really good.  We have lots of new customers from the area, and we also get quite a few from Best of LI,” she said.

Louise said the recent move has also been an expansion of not only Tresses & Colours, but her handmade skin care company, Sonny & Dew is also growing.  Just a few months in from her recent grand opening, Louise has already launched a new facial line with Sonny & Dew, brought in new artists, and added more chairs.

The new all-natural facial line includes appropriately named products such as “Bye Bye Puffy Eye” and “Liquid Lift,” along with moisturizers and serums to help skin look and feel healthy.  In addition, Louise said the oatmeal scrub cleanser she created is phenomenal and one of her most underrated products. 

Sonny & Dew’s Day at the Beach Collection is still “hands down her number one seller,” but she said she is also excited about her new hand lotion line that is bakery inspired.  As for hair products, Louise creates those as well, and one of her best sellers is her handmade, Tea Tree Scalp Scrub.  In Louise’s experience and with her expertise, she said some of the mass-produced tea tree products that you see are too diluted. She said she believes the good stuff is very hard to get, so she decided to make her own. 

“If you have a dry scalp, it is excellent.  You take a little bit before you wet your hair in the shower, you take maybe the size of a quarter and you exfoliate your scalp,” she said.

Across Long Island, the work of Tresses & Colours and Sonny & Dew continues to be recognized.  In addition to being Best of LI winners, Louise and her companies were recently highlighted in an interview on LI radio station WALK 97.5 with The Anna & Raven Show and were featured in a box-opening video of Sonny & Dew products by Barstool Sports founder, Dave Portnoy.  Louise said having Dave do a video opening one of her boxes was a very exciting moment, and she continues to get orders from that plug to this day.

Amidst all the growth, Louise said she continues to be focused on balancing her business by being committed to paying it forward, and to supporting others in her community.  When Covid hit, she said she wanted to give back to the nurses who were on the front lines, so she started sending hand lotions as a thank you to nurses at hospitals.  Nurses from Syosset, the former Southside now South Shore University Hospital, North Shore University Hospital, and NYU Winthrop Hospital received packages from Louise.

Most recently, Louise gave back to the nurses at Stony Brook University Hospital with Day at the Beach hand lotions and free haircuts.  In response, Louise has received countless pictures and posts from nurses all over who have shared their appreciation for the thoughts and care.  Louise said her goal is to continue to pay forward to the nurses and first responders any chance she can.  She said even though things seem to be getting better, the nurses are still there helping others and should not be forgotten once the dust settles.

“It seems to me like everybody has forgotten about them at this point,” she said.

As part of her recent relocation and expansion, Louise has brought on outside artists to provide services such as facials, permanent makeup, microblading, lifts and tints, and brow lamination.  Clients can book an appointment with a fully licensed esthetician and a permanent makeup artist to receive any of these services.  Despite the pandemic, Louise said she never stopped working and moving forward with her salon, but there is still a lot of work she wants to do.

One of those goals is being able to return to fairs with her products.  In the beginning of the shutdown, Louise said she enjoyed the break of the weekly grind, but now she is deeply missing the in-person connection with her customers.

“Once they pick-up, I will be at the fairs again.  Without a doubt, either I will be there, or one of my girls will be there, but Sonny & Dew will be back at the fairs,” she said.

A big worry for Louise, she said, is the fear that people have developed a habit of going onto Amazon and having everything the next day; and she said she worries that those customers won’t come back.  Especially for the crafters and handmade people like her, Louise said those artists really need people to come back.

“I am hoping that people are not so in tune to buying online now that they don’t come out to support,” she said.

Setting worries aside, Louise said she is grateful to her customers wherever they come from.  While new customers have been a breath of fresh air to the business, Louise said it is her repeat customers who have been the most rewarding.  Louise takes pride in being there for her client’s needs and if there ever is a question, she said all someone has to do is call her, and she will gladly help any client find just the right product for their individual needs.  For her returning customers, she said they know her products by heart now.

“I don’t have to show them anything anymore.  They just walk-in and pick out what they find,” she said.

To learn more about Tresses & Colours and the services they provide, you can visit www.tressesncolours.com.  Sonny & Dew is located inside Tresses & Colours at 1227 Montauk Highway in Oakdale where you can shop in-person, or online at www.sonnyndew.com.  To book an appointment for hair styling or any other service, call 631-581-9369.