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.
Feature Photo Credit: Kate Fox
Photo Gallery: Amy Nicole Tangel