Long Island Advance’s Man of the Year: Dave Rogers – A man of the arts and for the community
Dave Rogers’ love for art and the community runs deep.
Not only is he a local artist, volunteer, mentor and leader, but he is also a veteran. Rogers, 47, grew up in Manhattan, left home as a young boy, put himself through high school, began studying criminology at Old Westbury College, then decided to enlist in the United States Army at 21 years old.
“I left home at 15 and lived on the streets; I had no money for college and joining the Army was my only option,” he said. “I knew if I couldn’t finish college I would end up back on the streets.”
For 14 years he traveled the world in the military and served as a sergeant in the first Gulf War, Bosnia and was a first responder at the World Trade Center during 9/11. His service during 9/11 left him a disabled veteran with a broken neck, back and lung issues, walking with canes. Thankfully, due to surgeries he now walks freely.
Roger’s volunteerism began early. In high school he recalled being involved in many activities and sitting on a board of future leaders under the guidance of the former New York City Mayor David Dinkins. In the Army, he raised money for orphanages (including $20,000 for a Korean orphanage), coached the Special Olympics and helped rebuild church pews overseas. “I’ve always seemed to be someone who wants to be a part of helping the community,” he said.
Upon returning home and after receiving a degree in business in the Army, he went back to Old Westbury for visual arts, then moved on to the University of Arts in San Francisco and Long Island University for his master’s degree in fine arts. Though he originally looked to college for criminology, Rogers knew art was his real passion.
“I have always been into art from a very young age … and that was a conflict with my parents,” he said of his mother, a secretary, and father, a NYC policeman.
After his life in the military and in school, Rogers moved to China for a job as an art professor for seven years. Due to health issues and homesickness, he came to Long Island to finish his degree in art. Then, about three years ago, he moved into Artspace in Patchogue, where he continued to thrive as an active member of the community.
“Artspace wasn’t the only thing that drew me to Patchogue, it was the support that the community has for artists,” he said. “And because of that, I have done a lot since moving here.”
Mary Ann Augusta, a friend, nominated Rogers for the Man of the Year award after knowing him for five years and becoming a fan of his artwork. She said as a consultant for a grant writing organization she was introduced to him and soon commissioned him to create a piece of art in honor of her late husband.
“I fell in love with his work. He was so easy to work with and soon we became friends,” she said. “He has developed so much as an artist and since moving to Patchogue has became so active. He is an enlightened, broad-minded supporter and promoter of the arts and veteran affairs, always thinking without a box to limit or inhibit him.”
Around town Rogers is known not only for his creativity and friendship but also for his works of public art. In the past three years he has created the sculpture in the Patchogue Garden Club garden next to Artspace, contributed to the mural in the Roe Walkway and was the creator of the designer Main Street crosswalk.
Despite his noticeably active community engagement, he says none of it would have been possible without the support of the trustees, mayor and Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue).
“Dave is a great guy who has done some really terrific things for our community as a veteran and artist,” said Calarco. “Last year he helped with the first Arts on Terry event, which was a great success, with a lot of opportunity for our local artists and from other parts of the county, state and country. It really just shows as a testament to what Dave has been able to accomplish.”
“Normally, if you think of Artspace you think of the artist; in the case of Dave Rogers there is much more to him than his exceptional art. Yes, he is an exceptional artist, he is also an Army veteran,” added Mayor Paul Pontieri. “He has used his art to better the community and his energy help the veterans in Patchogue and it is for these and many other things that the honor is given and greatly deserved.”
As a full-time Neo-pop and Neo-Surrealist sculptor and painter, Rogers supports local art. He calls his art modernism with some eastern styles influenced by artists such as Andy Warhol.
“I’ve been very lucky with my art and have showed in Hong Kong, Korea, China, Germany, England, Spain, France … all over the world and the United States,” he said.
Recently, he was asked to be a part of a show in Taipei, Taiwan, and is currently showing at a gallery in New Orleans. Each year he creates between 60 to 100 pieces of art and other than spending most of his time in the studio and promoting his work, Rogers finds the time to mentor other artists. Locally, he bounces ideas with Artspace artists, curates exhibits, helps organize artists during Alive After Five® and mentors college students. Abroad, he helps a friend in Switzerland who has no arms or legs and paints with a brush in her mouth. He said he represents her here in New York by booking shows.
“I am constantly looking to promote other artists … because that’s how it works,” he said with no hesitation.
Much of his work in the arts is volunteer, including the very popular breakfast crawl in Patchogue. As the creator of the event, it has been done three times all in support of the arts. So far, he said, about $10,000 was raised and put towards local art events such as the first Arts on Terry event and Patchogue Arts Council festival.
“I wanted to do something different,” he said. “It’s nice to have people donate but I wanted the community to be involved and get something in return.”
Augusta also noted that he has facilitated workshops at the Art League of Long Island, St. Joseph’s College, and the Islip Art Museum and keeps current in his field and by belonging to several professional organizations such as The Guild of American Paper Cutters, the Art and Oil Painting Associations of Jiangmen China, the Huntington and Patchogue arts councils, and Studio Montclair.
From 2013 to the present he has curated exhibits in Artspace Gallery Patchogue, Cradle of Aviation, The Creative Art Studio, and an exchange exhibit with LIU Post and Artspace Patchogue. He completed and installed the sculpture “Reflections in Growth” at the Patchogue Garden Club garden on Terry St., Patchogue, and a sculpture installation “Random Acts of Art, Terra Cottas” on display at St. Joseph’s College. He also participated in the Roy Stabb Environmental project at LIU Post, “Destroyed by Hurricane Sandy,” and installed an interactive exhibit, “The New American Dream,” at LIU Post Sculpture Gallery. Dave also presented a POP-Up 911 Vet Exhibit at Briarcliffe College, and a Solo Exhibit/Artist Residency called “Expressions in Colors” Neo-Surrealism exhibit, at St. Joseph’s College. He also presented “Beards and Bards,” a Sparkboom exhibit at Walt Whitman Birthplace, July-Aug 2014 and “Art in the Hall,” presented by the Islip Art Museum at Islip Town Hall, May 2014.
He has also received numerous awards and grants such as the Artist in Residence award, St. Joseph’s College, October 2014, the O’Malley Grant for Fine Art from Long Island University, 2013, and awarded first place, National Veterans Creative Arts Competition at the Local Level, VA Hospital, and Northport, March 2013.
“Thanks to Rogers, all of the above exciting things are happening on the local front. His philosophy and outlook on life has enabled him to link the Artspace community with the surrounding community,” said Augusta.
And still, for Rogers it’s not enough. He is also a member of the VFW Post 2913 and a volunteer art director for Project9Line. For the past two years he has been an active member of the VFW, who attends all the parades and events and even helps fundraise for a local veterans home. At Project9Line he donates his time to veterans by putting together art shows and workshops.
“I love being involved with an organization that is artistic with veterans because as an artist-veteran, I understand how art can be therapeutic,” he said.
As a Patchogue vet in the VFW, he plans to help organize the mayor’s idea of a “lights on veterans” program that will allow community members to dedicate a light post from Main Street to Village Hall in the name of a vet. In the future, he said he aspires to become a commander at the VFW, continue to raise money for the arts, create public art and possibly become an adjunct art professor at a local college. He also has plans to purchase his own home in the village.
“I am always in the village, it reminds me of growing up in the city,” he said of his habit to visit Main Street. “I am asking for the support of my community and how can I ask for that if I am not supporting them? So, I shop and eat locally.”
A few of his favorites are Reese’s 1900, Bobbique, Village Idiot Pub, PeraBell Food Bar, and Toast. It’s not uncommon to spot Rogers in town during a visit … everyone knows his name.
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