On a recent snowy January day, I dressed in one of my favorite capes and visited the Staten Island Museum to attend the opening of’ Staten Island, Remember When? with paintings by Fred Sklenar. The exhibition is located in Snug Harbor, Staten Island in Building H. I recognized a picture of a local store on the post card invitation for the opening, and decided I better check it out.
“Step back in time with stunning Staten Island scenes by watercolor painter, Fred Sklenar.”
I went to the opening and met Mr Sklenar, a native New Yorker and son of a renowned painter and art teacher. Mr Sklenar received his formal art training at New York’s famed Pratt Institute. He also studied for several years with Edgar Whitney, AWS, one of the 20th Century’s most renowned watercolorists.
Using his acumen and experience gained as a student and intern with several professionals, Mr Sklenar began his career as a designer for a publisher and newspaper syndicate drawing and inking four nationally syndicated newspaper features.
His paintings at the History Center show scenes of Historic Staten Island, including the downtown storefronts of Port Richmond where the original Hey Viv store was located.
In this photograph Fred and I are both pointing at a postcard from the 30’s, and I’m showing Mr. Sklenar the Kroll Building which housed Madame Kroll’s Millinery from the 20’s to the 30’s and my store in the 80’s to the 90’s.
It was entertaining to navigate through the gallery and rediscover the buildings and stores that I recognized. One of the paintings showed Nat’s Men’s Store which has been in business for over 75 years.
Mr. Sklenar’s paintings show detailed scenes with a slightly softened nostalgic feel (or that may just be my misty eyed perspective, as I gaze upon the lost scenes of Staten Island’s past).
Mr. Sklenar was both very charming and informative as we enjoyed the tour. As the group walked around the gallery he talked about local stores and restaurants, and pointed out a painting with his father’s studio sign – his father was a painter as well. Mr. Sklenar also mentioned the history of all the places he painted, and their influence on his art.
I mingled with a fellow local islanders at the show – I think they were just as curious as I to take a nostalgic step back in time and enjoy Mr Sklenar’s Staten Island scenes.