Provincetown Art News and Information

Sal Del Deo on living, working and painting in Provincetown since 1954

Published: Sun August 20, 2006
By: Straight Dope in Art > Paintings
Tools: Tell-a-Friend | Email this author | This is | Add to Yahoo! MyWeb | By Rebecca M. Alvin

Salvatore Del Deo is not willing to lay it all out on the table when I ask him about the content of his upcoming talk entitled “My Life in Provincetown as an Artist, 1946-2006” this Wednesday at the Payomet Performing Art Center’s tent at the Highlands Center in North Truro.

He is willing to say a lot has changed in the 60 years since he arrived there to study with Henry Hensche in the Cape Cod School of Art.
“(Provincetown) was a place you could nourish your young talent, get mentors and live cheaply,” he says. “I think that’s gone for now.”

It will come as no surprise to hear that Del Deo, who has lived year-round in Provincetown since 1954, is displeased with the change of culture in Provincetown, which he says came about with the influx of the very wealthy, at the expense of working artists, many of whom left when the struggle for economic survival proved too perilous.
“The biggest difference today is the lack of available space for young artists,” Del Deo says. He explains the situation in Provincetown with a baseball metaphor. “Provincetown was like the farm team for painters,” he says. Now, Del Deo sees artists going directly from their creative infancy into the “big leagues” without ever having a chance to hone their skills, develop their eyes, or discover what’s really inside them as artists.

That’s not the only way sports and the art world are linked, according to Del Deo, who says that the competitive spirit seems to have overcome the creative spirit.
“It appears there’s more consciousness of marketability than there is of helping others,” he says mournfully.
In addition to the artists themselves and the real estate obstacles, Del Deo is also critical of the business end of the art world—galleries and museums.
One visible sign of the change in Provincetown is the recently renovated Provincetown Art Association and Museum, an institution with which Del Deo has been closely associated for many years.

“I served in ever capacity there, except president,” Del Deo says. “In fact, when I was a kid, I was the maintenance man there ... it afforded me an opportunity to be in the environment of art.’

While there were changes to the building that Del Deo applauds, such as the vault in the basement, which he says was badly needed and the addition of three new galleries, he is not too happy with it. He was a vocal opponent of some key design decisions, attending planning meetings early on to voice his concerns about it.
“I said ’you’re ignoring all of the landscape around you, not taking into account the motif of Provincetown… and you’re giving me a building that you could find outside of Lincoln or Concord or anywhere else in New England, or in the country. (The architect) said ’we know that, but we want to make a statement’. Well, they made their statement.”

A major bone of contention is the decision to put a school over a gallery, which Del Deo says is unheard of. He also is dismayed at the sacrificing of natural light, which he says, “people go out of their way to have new museums and new galleries with natural light.”

Although he will miss the old museum, he admits that over time the new one will blend in and he’ll get used to it.
In addition to studying with Hensche, Del Deo also attended Rhode Island School of Design, the Vesper George School of Art in Boston, and the Art Students League in New York. His work has been exhibited in New York, Boston, and elsewhere and some of his paintings are held in collections at the Smithsonian, Harvard University, and of course, the Provincetown Art Association and Museum.

Del Deo is not only a very successful painter, he also opened one of Provincetown’s best restaurants, Ciro & Sal’s, with co-owner Ciro Cozzi way back in 1951, as a coffee shop and late-night hangout for bohemian types. The restaurant evolved into an excellent Italian restaurant that is still well liked in the community. But its culinary origins were far simpler.

“We got together and very modestly started making Italian sandwiches,” he recalls. Pretty soon, the little coffee shop Cozzi and Del Deo set up so they could support their families and lives as painters, turned into one of the most popular restaurants on the Cape.

Sal “gracefully bowed out” of Ciro & Sal’s back in 1959, to spend more time painting. In 1963, he opened his own restaurant on the west end of Commercial Street, Sal’s Place, but he left the business in 1989 to focus entirely on painting, something he says he now commits most of his days to, just about every day of the week.
He advises young painters to “stop looking for galleries, just paint.”

He assures me there is a lot more he will speak about in his talk on Aug. 23 at Payomet. Something tells me, we’ve barely scratched the surface of it in our brief interview.
If you go:
What:Salvatore Del Deo: My Life in Provincetown as An Artist”
When:8 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 23.
Whererasberryayomet Performing Arts Center tent at Highlands Center, North Truro.
How much:$10; $5 for kids to 12.
Information:508-487-5400 or

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