A Newburgh artist is remembered

By Naomi Kennedy
Posted 3/27/24

Internationally known multi-media, figurative artist Gerardo Castro passed away on Sunday, March 17th, of natural causes at the age of 56. This is a great loss to those in the art community. His life …

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A Newburgh artist is remembered


Internationally known multi-media, figurative artist Gerardo Castro passed away on Sunday, March 17th, of natural causes at the age of 56. This is a great loss to those in the art community. His life partner Michael Gabor hopes to keep his legacy alive.

In July 2008, Michael and Gerado became co-owners of the Newburgh Art Supply Store in Newburgh. Since art supply stores were limited at that time, their incentive was to attract people to come into Newburgh. With diverse backgrounds, including Gerardo’s expertise and knowledge of art supplies, they forged forward.

“We were a huge success,” said Gabor. “Everything we did together flourished. A friend related to me that he had never known a couple to work as well together as the two of us. “

Originally from Ponce, Puerto Rico, Gerardo lived in Newburgh since 2006. As an accomplished artist and teacher, he taught at the Newburgh Performing Arts Academy on Grand Street for 17 years, SUNY Orange, Newburgh, and as an art professor at New Jersey City University since 1998.

Castro’s artistic journey began when he was very young. He was raised in a family of cultural workers, including musicians and carpenters. He fondly remembered that when his mom bought him a set of colored pencils it had changed his whole world. His mother, a seamstress, taught him sewing, which in later years he integrated into his artwork. Primarily an oil painter, Castro also created hand-embroidered fabrics with sequins and beads. Traditions, histories, and philosophies were incorporated into his creations.

Castro obtained an MFA in painting from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn in 1996 and since then has exhibited his artwork in galleries and museums, nationally and internationally.

Artivism represents a powerful blend of creative expression and social change. Gerado was an artivist, a fusion of “artist” and “activist”. The lack of black and Latino artists’ inclusion in his university art history classes affected him deeply and shaped his personal life. His artwork addressed this issue as he dramatically used art forms including: drawing, painting, collage, printmaking, beading, sewing, and fire.

Color played a significant role in his work. Through vibrant hues, Gerardo celebrated the visual texture of his culture and asserted that “his Latino queer identity was a means of empowerment.”

Castro’s career was shaped by his Afro-Caribbean heritage and his passion to explore and challenge societal norms through his powerful artworks. “The core of Gerardo’s artwork was his pride of culture, sexuality, and gender,” said Gabor.

As catalysts for the growing Newburgh Art Scene, Gerardo and Michael conceived and organized the Newburgh Open Studios Tour. This tour introduces visitors to Newburgh’s dynamic arts community with the opening of artists’ studios, gallery spaces, outdoor public art, and pop-up shows. Newburgh Open Studios featured a diverse selection of styles and artistic disciplines, from avant-garde video, photography, sculpture, performance art, printmaking, and oil painting, where visitors have the opportunity to meet and talk with emerging and established artists.

Gerardo and Michael also created the Lightbulb Project, an event held during the Newburgh Illuminated Festival when lightbulbs are exhibited all over the city. It is a means of connecting an important era in the history of Newburgh as well as bringing awareness of how important the arts are to our lives and community.

The City of Newburgh became the second municipality in New York to receive electricity. The power originated from a generating plant established by Thomas Edison. This historic plant is still located in Newburgh and has been visited by many people during the Newburgh Illuminated Festivals.

In the 17 years they were together, as they built a business from scratch and grew an artist community, Michael cheered Gerardo’s successful journey while supporting him. “Loving him was the greatest privilege I’ve ever felt,” said Gabor.

“Our relationship started as a random twist of fate that grew into a team from which all our endeavors emanated and flourished,” said Gabor.

To help keep Gerardo’s legacy alive, Michael has organized two memorial services: Friday, April 5 at Calvary Church (corner of South and Grand Streets) from 6 - 8 p.m. and Saturday, April 6 at Kube Art Center, 211 Fishkill Ave, Beacon. Doors open at 5 p.m., the event starts at 6:30 p.m.