Art scene on Staten Island's North Shore is flourishing

Published: Thursday, September 18, 2008, 9:35 AM     Updated: Thursday, September 18, 2008, 9:55 AM




STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. - NEW BRIGHTON Galerie St. George, a new cooperative art gallery, will have its grand opening Saturday at the historic Anson Phelps-Stokes house.

The gallery, housed in the residence of Jamie and Gary Brant, New Brighton, will open at 5 p.m.

The exhibit celebrates the life and work of the late local master sculptor George Pissarro and will also mark a call to Island artists to join the cooperative, which aims to help members produce, market and sell their work.

The Portuguese-born Pissarro, who died last month, just shy of 58, had worked on Staten Island for the last decade of his life, primarily in an outdoor studio in the Brants' yard. His work shifted over time from classical to abstract, Brant said, quoting another observer who said that passing by his smooth, organic, avian and sometimes anatomical forms was "like walking through the human body."

A small and exquisite selection of Pissarro's work will ornament the two-room gallery and the Brants' leafy, meditative garden at 11 Phelps Place.

The opening will also feature live music from local singer-songwriter Jaclyn Shaw.

Joining a crop of new galleries that have recently opened around the North Shore, the Brant house in the St. George-New Brighton landmarked district, will add an historic venue for exhibiting artwork to the surging arts scene.

The Brants' home was originally a 20-room guest house that complemented a gargantuan Gothic manse built for 19th-century industrialist Anson Stokes-Phelps (think Phelps-Dodge). The mother-mansion fell to the wrecking ball in the 1920s, and the Brants, Staten Islanders by way of San Francisco, have been restoring its smaller counterpart since moving there in 1985.

"I felt this was a good time to tie into the neat things that are happening in the arts scene on the North Shore," said Brant, whose wife is an artist and furniture maker. "We feel there's a huge artists' community. Local Staten Island artists can have a venue to have exhibits to promote their work, and a quote-on-quote scene to tie into."

Brant said that new galleries like SHOW in St. George, Gallery 6 in Stapleton, and the success of the inaugural "Art by the Ferry" event proved to him that a burgeoning arts scene is here and ready to showcase.

Galerie St. George already has a board of directors that includes Council on the Arts and Humanities for Staten Island (COAHSI)'s executive director Melanie Cohn, architect Pablo Vengoechea and sculptor Marc Zimetbaum.

The cooperative now is soliciting applications from artists seeking to join. Members will pay dues and help install and organize exhibits to be held in two rooms carved out for the gallery on the home's ground floor.

The gallery will also be available as a performance space for music, dance and theater.

Galerie St. George will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. The Pissarro exhibit will run through Nov. 26. For information on the gallery, contact Brant at 917-378-2525.



«Two artists of our acquaintance whose work is of collector-quality are the sculptor George Pissarro and the pastelist Catherine Nicodemo, both of whom are friends and both of whom reside in New York.

George Pissarro is one of the best carvers of stone today. His works are both technically excellent and extremely sensual.»

St.George Galerie website -





The architecture and grounds of the church provide a quaint setting amid the office buildings of lower midtown Manhattan. During the periods of the most extensive building and renovation, the father founder worked with his masons and craftsmen to realize the design of the church, whose style can be called a free rendition of early-fourteenth-century Gothic.


Facing the church building, one sees on the left the five-story rectory, built in 1854, and, panning to the right, the gabled windows of the Episcopal Actors' Guild above the Chapel of the Holy Family, th en the main (bell) tower, then the tower of the Chapel of St. Joseph of Arimathea, and finally the south transept, on the right.

Two statues adorn the garden. Near the rectory gate, an ancient Italian statue called the Madonna of the Garden, given in memory of Susan Ruth Budd in 1926, and by the St. Joseph Chapel tower, a contemporary statue called Metamorphosis, which is a winged figure by the sculptor George Pissarro.

Often on a sunny day, people come from nearby office buildi ngs to spend their lunch hour in the garden, lining the walkways as they catch the sun and drink in the peace and repose of this unique and blessed place.