Nick Golebiewski Captures the Spirit of New York in Bronx Little Italy, Chinatown and More

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Nick Golbieweski holds up his partial drawing preceding his painting of the storefront. (Courtesy of Instagram)

Sara Tsugranis, Culture Editor

New York City is often presented as homogenous — bright lights and excitement throughout. And though you can be sure to find these things and more captivating features of the city, New York is an amalgamation of various neighborhoods and areas with distinctive charms. Artist Nick Golebiewski has captured the unique allure of various New York City neighborhoods since his arrival in New York in 2003. 

I spoke with Golebiewski about finding his way in the art world as a New York transplant. After graduating from the University at Buffalo with a BFA in painting, Golebiewski asked himself, “What do I do next?” In answer, a friend from school asked Golebiewski to join him in moving to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Golebiewski excitedly agreed, first living with artists in a small apartment. After years of trying to find his footing in the art world, exploring New York through Super 8 film, working a day job as a telephone operator at the Guggenheim and putting on shadow puppet performances with friends, Golebiewski finally settled in a studio in DUMBO. He established himself as a painter, asking himself, “What is quintessentially New York?”

“It’s an exciting, vibrant place with strong community and culture,” Golebiewski says, “and it just looks cool, visually.” Golebiewski began to paint large-scale and super-detailed gouache paintings of Chinatown to capture the iconic energy of the famed neighborhood. However, these paintings could take months to finish. Golebiewski set his New Year’s resolution for 2014 to make one drawing every day, which pushed him to move his projects along and explore more places in the city. 

Golebiewski lives in the West Village now, where most of his most recent drawings have been. His goal was to seek out the history of the buildings and places he was drawing. The Village in its heyday was a bohemian mecca with historical literary spots. Golebiewski was particularly interested in the Emma Lazarus house on West 10 street where she wrote her poem “The New Colossus,” Mark Twain’s residence, Edna St. Vincent Millay’s residence and more. Golebiewski followed historical plaques and began to draw from there.

Golebiewski also started a Coney Island series covering the summer season. The Wonder Wheel, aquarium and other attractions are presented in pen and ink, watercolor and gouache. Golebiewski described his paintings from the Coney Island series as acidic, presenting as comic book-esque. Meanwhile, the Chinatown series had an active feel — as if you were right there. Golebiewski attempted to create a homey feel for his newest series, right by Fordham: Bronx Little Italy. The different neighborhoods he covers in various fashions are what he describes as “pieces of the puzzle that fit together to make the story of New York City.” Golebiewski says, “it’s like creating historical documents, but it’s something that isn’t because it’s full of life.”

Golebiewski presents his Bronx Little Italy series as soft watercolor paintings of Arthur Avenue storefronts. He first found the neighborhood through Groupon, luckily finding one for Borgatti’s Ravioli and Noodle. Golebiewski went with his wife, and they fell in love with the ravioli. This prompted more stops by Arthur Avenue when taking their kids to the Bronx Zoo. They fell in love with what he describes as “a community based around food.” So far in his Arthur Avenue series Golebiewski has painted Borgatti’s Ravioli Egg and Noodles, Egidio Pastry Shop, Casa Della Mozzarella, Teitel Brothers and Addeo and Sons Bakery. 

It has been especially difficult for these businesses during the pandemic, and Golebiewski wants to be a cheerleader for these places that he loves. During Golebiewski’s interactions with these businesses, he appreciates bringing out the reaction, “you think we are worth painting?” Golebiewski’s paintings go beyond photography and capture the quaint, familial charm of Arthur Avenue and its businesses. The way Bronx Little Italy stays alive is through its businesses. Besides capturing the current history of the oldest Italian market, Golebiewski is bringing awareness to a wider audience to support Arthur Avenue businesses. 

Golebiewski has a studio based out of the Brooklyn Navy Yard and, on April 30, will release an episode teaching line drawing. Golebiewski also gives walking and drawing tours of New York  (currently online), where he teaches about the city’s history and gives drawing advice.

Be sure to checkout Golebiewski’s Instagram @nickgolebiewski and “Nick’s Lunchbox Service” for Golebiewski’s daily drawings. Golebiewski’s various works can be viewed on his website and prints can be purchased on Etsy.