The Gargiulo Art Foundation has supported local arts for more than 20 years. Gargiulo also was well known during his career in Connecticut before moving to Palm Coast in 1994.
Tom Gargiulo, an artist whose work was featured in more than 150 solo shows in galleries around the world and who recognized and uplifted Flagler County artists through the Gargiulo Art Foundation, died of a heart attack Feb. 13, in Palm Coast, Florida. He was 83.
“Tom was someone you had in your corner,” said J.J. Graham, owner of the Salvo Art Project, in Bunnell. Gargiulo had "done it all" as an artist, Graham said, and yet, “He was very good at leaving his ego aside."
Much of the art in public spaces in Palm Coast is due to Gargiulo’s passion: the panther near the Hammock Dunes Bridge, the burro in Town Center, the birds at Waterfront Park, the sculptures and paintings at the Flagler County Public Library, the art collection at Daytona State College.
"He was a major influence in establishing public art, as well as bringing attention to and promoting individual artists," artist Jan Jackson said. "He was tireless in his desire to put Palm Coast on the creative map."
“He’s just been a force,” Graham said. “He’s an art father. He’s propelled artists and art in our community.”
Gargiulo is survived by his longtime partner Arlene Volpe, who was also his partner with the foundation.
A memorial event, featuring his art, will be planned for a future date.
Gargiulo began his career as an oil painter, but he transitioned to printmaking, which was his principal medium while living in Palm Coast.
“A lot of my work involves chance, spontaneity,” he said in a 2012 interview with the Palm Coast Observer. “A lot of painters already have a preconceived idea of what they want to do, and they just aim for that. I don’t have any preconceived idea. I have no idea what is going to happen.”
He led a printmaking workshop in 2012 for the Flagler County Art League, teaching participants to use Styrofoam, water-soluble paints and recycled material — things that would be easy to find if they wanted to keep making art in the future. That mentality, of inspiring beginners, may have been indicative of his early years as an artist: He began as a middle school and high school art teacher.
Gargiulo was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, in 1938. He earned art degrees, including a masters in fine art education, and went on to win national awards in both art and in art education. Solo art shows took place around New England, as well as New York City, Florida and Europe.
In 1994, Gargiulo and Volpe moved to Palm Coast. They started the Gargiulo Art Foundation and purchased art for universities. They also filled the walls of their home with art by Gargiulo and other artists, sometimes opening their home for shows. They highlighted the work of local artists by choosing an artist of the year each year, including Peter Cerreta, Linda Solomon, Weldon Ryan and this year's artist, Dex Westphal.
Gargiulo was a believer in supporting the community. In an interview to announce the selection of Westphal, he said, "It's not enough that you're a good artist. All of the nominees are actively involved in the community.
Graham had just launched Hollingsworth Gallery in 2008 when he met Gargiulo for the first time. After seeing his paintings and understanding his ambition for the gallery, Gargiulo became one of Graham's most important supporters and advisers.
"Tom just kind of adopted me," Graham recalled. "In those formative years at Hollingsworth, Tom was crucial. He had my back a lot of months where I could have easily went under. He became like family."