Co-founder of Coney Island arts organization passes away

Costa Mantis, the co-founder of Coney Island USA, passes away and is remembered by friends and family.
Costa Mantis, co-founder of popular Coney Island arts program, is remembered for his happy, care-free spirit.
Photo courtesy of Dick Zigun

Southern Brooklyn is mourning the loss of Costa Mantis, the beloved co-founder of the arts organization Coney Island USA. 

Mantis’ passing sparked an outpouring of support by loved ones, who remembered his work with the non-profit as someone with great talents and inspirational leadership.

“With great sadness, we mark the passing of Costa Mantis, Coney Island USA co-founder,” a spokesperson for Coney Island USA said online. “He was a storyteller, filmmaker, photographer, itinerant bohemian, and tireless advocate for the homeless.”

Mantis represented the best of the art scene and cultural hub that has come to define Coney Island, and helped welcome dozens of artists to the area with his infectious personality and love of the neighborhood. 

“Costa was the #happywarriorman, following his own path until the end and touching many hearts along the way. We’ll miss his indomitable spirit and will continue to honor his many contributions to Coney Island USA.”

The Reading, Pennsylvania native grew up dabbling in the art of writing novels, short films and independent documentaries. His second film, a feature-length documentary about his hometown, was spotlighted on PBS and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

By 1980, Mantis teamed up with Dick Zigun, the ‘unofficial mayor of Coney,’ and Jane Savitt to create Coney Island USA, the Mermaid Parade and Sideshows by the Seashore. 

He remained in the area to co-organize many of the earlier Mermaid Parades and served as the organization’s original chairman of the board.

Mantis and his daugther in the 1970s
Mantis and his daugther in the 1970s as the creative was flourishing in his career.Photo courtesy of Dick Zigun

According to Zigun, longtime friend and business partner of Mantis, the ‘happy warrior’ legacy of peacefulness and positivity lives on through his works and lasting friendships.

“Costa was a visionary but for others around him he was the Shaman, the spiritual advisor,” Zigun told Brooklyn Paper. “He excelled at talking you into doing the things you secretly wanted to do but were scared of trying.” 

For more coverage of Coney Island, head to BrooklynPaper.com.