All week long, Brittany Wait is profiling people around Farmingdale, from community leaders to residents she bumps into around town.
The Paul Gatto Gallery, established in 1967, is on Main Street in Farmingdale. The art gallery is home to Paul Gatto’s original art and copies, along with custom picture framing. Upstairs, Gatto opens his studio to the community, holding art classes on Wednesdays.
Paul A. Gatto, 82, of Massapequa
How long has your studio been open?
We’ve been here for about 45 years, but we’re closing soon. We have an opportunity to expand the gallery [elsewhere]. The studio upstairs will still be open though. People are going to be unhappy, we’re sort of a landmark here in Farmingdale. I had one lady come in who threatened me after she heard we were closing.
What did the studio look like in the past and how has it changed?
It was a gallery where we showed all paintings from all different artists, phasing them in and out, but now mine are only displayed. The originals hang from the walls. The copies, which are very faithful to the originals, are displayed in the center of the studio. I show all different types of paintings. I’ve painted everything you can imagine.
When did you start painting?
I’ve been painting since I was a kid, but when I turned 30 I started selling my art. You can learn the craft of painting, but the artistic part is what you’re born with.
Your business has been here for decades. Can you tell me how Main Street has changed throughout the years?
Years ago, I talked the merchants into putting out orange umbrellas in front of their stores to attract business. You would see a flood of orange up and down Main Street. As things got better, they got rid of their umbrellas. I wish they hadn’t. I liked it. Now, there’s a lot of Internet buying and less retail. At the light here [at Conklin Street and Main Street], you used to see 10 to 12 people standing there, waiting to cross, but you don’t see that anymore. The traffic is gone [for retail] and now there’s mostly restaurants. There has been tremendous change. There used to be a lot more camaraderie among merchants, but it’s not that way anymore. A lot of people have businesses here, but live somewhere else. Of course, the recession didn’t help.
How has your business been doing?
The expression I hear is, ‘We love passing by your gallery,’ but that’s the trouble. People feel it’s like going into a funeral home, they just don’t feel right about going in. But over the years, the people that come by come with so many stories and it has been quite the adventure.
What are some of your influences?
Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. Their work is just as good as the work done today. It’s really good to understand all art, no matter what period it’s in.
For your information: Paul A. Gatto performs with his band on Thursdays at 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Farmingdale Public Library.