Meet ‘Billy The Artist’

Photo/Christopher Fragapane Photography Billy the Artist was once an actor, but has since embraced a painting career. His solo exhibit at the Art League is set to open next month.

Photo/Christopher Fragapane Photography
Billy the Artist was once an actor, but has since embraced a painting career. His solo exhibit at the Art League is set to open next month.

By Sean Austin
saustin@longislandergroup.com

Billy the Artist recalls the days when he always drawing something in his notebook.

“Since I can remember, I’ve always had a sketch pad,” he said. “I always drew and painted.”

But Billy, who will soon have an exhibit on display at the Art League in Dix Hills, didn’t immediately embrace the world of art. He originally made a living as an actor. And while that didn’t quite work out, it was the stage that led him to pursue a career as an artist.

After graduating from the University of Cincinnati – College-Conservatory of Music, he moved to New York with hopes of furthering his acting career.

“I came straight to New York with $250 in my pocket and a place to stay for a month,” he said. He was soon cast in Broadway show “Down to Earth.”

But his dreams of acting were shortly dashed as, due to unforeseen circumstances, the show never opened.

Instead, Billy’s art career began in 1990, when he moved to the East Village.

“I was so inspired by the street art and the vibe of the East Village that I started to paint these murals in my apartment,” he said, adding that he still lives there today.

When next door neighbor Lynn Marrapodi stopped by one day, she noticed the murals and was shocked.

 “Oh, are you an artist?” she asked.

Billy replied, “Well, of sorts. I make my living as an actor.”

Marrapodi, who encouraged Billy to continue painting, brought over four canvases, paints and brushes and told him, “Let people see who you are through your art.”

That’s “one of the most important things anyone ever said to me,” Billy said.

In between auditions he became a street artist, selling his work on the SoHo.

His first big break came when college friend Kevin McCollum, a Broadway producer, took Billy to see a show he wanted to produce.

“Nobody wanted to touch this show,” Billy said. “It was a show about East Village artists and people dying of aids. And it had a big rock ‘n’ roll score.

Soon, Billy was tasked with painting scenery for the show, which turned out to be “Rent.”

I painted “60 feet of these black and white ceiling murals in the theatre,” he said. “That experience completely changed my life and, from that day on, I’ve been making my living as an artist.”

His exhibit will at the Art League (107 E Deer Park Road, Dix Hills) opens June 10 and will run through July 7.

“I am excited and honored to have my first solo show at the Art League,” Billy said. “I hope people come out and we can all celebrate with some good wine and cool art, and enjoy life together.”