Growing up in the Bronx during the 1970s, Woodlawn Heights resident John Calabro’s passion was graffiti. Calabro, who had given-up graffiti in the mid-1980s, returned to his passion three years ago.
Calabro, whose tag is Comet One, reconnected with his graffiti partners from decades ago and has since started painting pieces in his home and done shows in galleries as far away as France.
On Wednesday, June 29 he did a show at the place he’s worked for the past 18 years – Montefiore Medical Center. Calabro, an electrician, was one of 10 artists who either worked at Montefiore or lived nearby to participate in the hospital’s first-ever art show. The show was held in the east garden of the hospital’s Moses Division.
“It’s an interesting experience,” Calabro said while manning a stand that displayed several of his pieces. “It’s been good. You get to meet people, and you never know, you may sell something.”
The art show was the brainchild of Paul Ammirato, director of engineering for the Moses division. Part of his job is coming up with ways to bring the hospital community together by using its many communal outdoor spaces. He got the inspiration for an art show from by New York City street artists.
“I was down in Soho and I saw a bunch of artists out on the sidewalk, and I thought ‘wow, this would be beautiful at Montefiore,” Ammirato said.
Ammirato organized the entire show in just three weeks. He said the goal, besides giving employees and neighborhood residents a chance to show their talents, was to use art as a anti-stress tool.
“This is like healing through art,” Ammirato said. “It’s a chance to take an hour out of your day, enjoy the art, and go back to work with a relaxed mind.”
The show was so successful in terms of artist turnout and employee feedback, that Montefiore is planning to hold several more this summer.
White Plains Road resident Carl Leach has been working in Montefiore’s security department for the past 11 years. Over the last eight years, he took up portraiture. He would sketch emergency room patients waiting for their names to be called.
“People would stand there waiting for that door to open, and I just drew them,” said Leach, who was once offered a job as a sketch artist for the NYPD. “I would see them going inside the emergency room and holding the pictures so that they wouldn’t get messed up.”
Calabro, meanwhile, gave up art in 1986. He hasn’t picked up a brush or a spray can since, until a personal tragedy inspired him “to go back to what I did in my youth.” Since then he has been prolific, participating in shows around the New York City area, Europe and South America.
“It’s amazing how much this art form has spread all over the world,” he said.
This summer, however, Calabaro and his colleagues are making their workplace their gallery.