How to support yourself, and others, as an artist in Brooklyn

Renaissance man: Artist Paul Catalanotto creates masterpieces as an extension of his vocation, creating fresco-like murals with his colored plasters.
By Steve Solomonson

Starving isn’t an option for these artists — they’ve got mouths to feed.

A legion of unsung Flatbush and Ditmas Park artists have figured out the foolproof way to support themselves and a family in a borough known for its striving young creatives living in converted lofts without heat and water — day jobs.

The community of older artists — many of whom have mortgages — organized under the Flatbush Artists collective, will be hosting its studio tour May 19-20 where they will welcome the public into their homes and studios.

“I was with a commercial gallery in Long Island many years ago but I realized that I couldn’t make a living this way,” said Zane Treimanis, 64, who retired as an art teacher a few years ago to focus on making unique wall-hanging wood constructions. “If you have a family. You just can’t make enough money, it’s just too hard.”

For some in the community, the art they make wouldn’t be possible without their vocations.

“I consider my art just an extension of what I used to do, I’m just taking it to another level,” said Paul Catalanotto, 50, who owned a plastering company for many years and now makes murals as well as paintings out of colored plasters that he sells commercially. “I wouldn’t be able to do it without all the years of experience from using the same tools.”

The struggle to be an artist is often thought of as a young person’s game — but these seasoned artists, many of whom are in their fifties or sixties, say that their outside work has given them more freedom the art they create.

“Many artists have to sell their work and have to create for the marketplace but I don’t care about creating stuff that will sell,” said Eric Pesso, 65, another member of the collective, a computer programmer by day who says he lives for his art — elegant and graceful wood sculptures — but has never sold a piece. “I think of myself as more of an artist than a computer programmer. But you do have to pay the bills!”

The Flatbush Artists Studio Tour will be held in multiple locations in Ditmas Park, May 19-20, noon to 6 pm. Free. For the full map, visit flatbushartists.org

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

Grown in brooklyn: Eric Pesso is a computer programmer by day but says his true passion are wood sculptures, which he makes from discarded wood he scavenges around the city.
Courtesy of Flatbush Artists Studio Tour

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