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Roosevelt Island Can Be 'Mini-Chelsea' With New Art Gallery, Founder Says

By Shaye Weaver | September 22, 2016 11:08am
 Paul Calendrillo will bring in new talent to Roosevelt Island starting this month with Nicholas Rispoli, he said.
Paul Calendrillo Opens New Gallery on Roosevelt Island
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ROOSEVELT ISLAND — A Roosevelt Island resident with big dreams for the neighborhood has just opened the island's second art gallery — and he's hoping others in the art world will follow.

Paul Calendrillo, who owns galleries in Chelsea and TriBeCa, envisions Roosevelt Island's Main Street as the next Chelsea, with a vibrant art scene and plenty of restaurants to draw visitors from outside the island. 

He believes his eponymous new gallery at 507 Main St., which opened Sept. 8, will be the start of a slow trickle of new galleries to the strip, especially considering the influx of students from the new Cornell Tech campus expected to open on the island next summer.

"In the art world, people are like, 'Why would anybody want to go to Roosevelt Island?' but [from the Upper East Side] it's easier to get to than the Lower East Side," said Calendrillo, 67.

"It could be like a mini-Chelsea here with restaurants and it could bring a whole bunch of stuff to the island."

Currently, the island has just one dedicated art gallery — the Roosevelt Island Visual Art Association, which regularly shows its members' works and is supported by the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, a state agency overseeing the island.

Calendrillo said his venture, which is launching first as a pop-up space, will the only for-profit gallery bringing artwork from the outside. 

He lives five minutes away from the gallery space on Main Street, so he was familiar with the vacant storefronts along the stretch. When he got in touch with Hudson Related, which was leasing the spaces, he scored a month-to-month lease, he said. 

Main Street has a few small businesses, a library and a school, but lacks restaurants, cafes and cultural institutions.

"A resident of Roosevelt Island, Calendrillo has brought a creative use to the space that complements the growing vibrancy on Roosevelt Island," said Alex Kaplan, a spokeswoman for Hudson Related.

On Thursday, Calendrillo will host a grand opening featuring the work of Nicholas Rispoli. The exhibit, called "Transmutation," will spotlight the artist's collection of paintings of skeletal creatures in warped proportions, meant to symbolize what humans would be if they were stripped of their religion, thoughts and values.

While the gallery will debut as a pop-up, Calendrillo said he's considering making it a long-term tenant.

"It is unusual [what I'm doing]," he said. "I think I'm the pop-up king of New York. There are galleries going out of business because they can't make rent. I go one step at a time so I never worry.

"If I can have one year's worth of rent in the bank, I don't worry about it. If I can get the Upper East Side over here, then it's a good deal."

Calendrillo represents budding artists with skill that need help getting their names out, he said.

"I want to show Roosevelt Island that Paul Calendrillo New York just doesn't hang pretty pictures," he said of Rispoli's work. "This is something that is happening that you won't see much of."

The grand opening of "Transmutation" will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. on Thursday at 507 Main St. and is free to attend.

'Fortuna' by Nicolas RispoliNicholas Rispoli