Tireless tribune of Bronx arts is busy in retirement
By Adam Wisnieski
By Adam Wisnieski
Bill Aguado is the godfather of art in the Bronx, or more affectionately, “Papa.”
But since he retired in 2009 from his “one-year” stint (which lasted 30 years) as executive director of the Bronx Council of the Arts, he’s changed.
To use the fighting analogy he employed often during an interview at his Henry Hudson Parkway apartment on Aug. 30, he’s transformed from a general, fearlessly leading his ground troops through the art world, to a sage.
“Always fighting for the Bronx, fighting for the Bronx artists, fighting for the Bronx communities. I was always defending the Bronx,” the 66-year-old said.
Since his retirement — no more worrying about covering payroll, managing personnel or battling politicians — he’s been able to spend more time creating.
“Ideas. That’s my creative outlet. I share them with people and let them run with it,” he said.
Really, he’s not retired at all. His job was to promote and cultivate artists in the Bronx, especially Latino and black artists, and he’ll be doing that until both of his legs are in the grave (he jokes that one is definitely already there).
Like a heavyset Yoda, he speaks slowly and passionately about projects he’s working on. His words are soft but strong. Occasionally, if he’s making a point, he closes his eyes and turns his head while he talks, like some kind of oracle or, more modernly, Marlon Brando’s Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now.
“It takes a lot here in the Bronx for the artists to get their just due … you have the contemporary art world that goes with friends and the flavor of the month in Manhattan — or as it is now, in Brooklyn — and if you want something edgy or something of color, then they come to the Bronx,” he said.
He said he’s friendly with the people at Bronx Council of the Arts, where he helped create the Longwood Art Gallery, the Bronx Recognizes Its Own grant program, The Bronx Culture Trolley and countless exhibits and programs to help promote music, painting, writing, dancing and photography in the Bronx.