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Steve Argento

He's served his country. Suffered from cocaine addiction. Survived cancer.

There are a lot of past lives packed into this guy. And some of them haven't been pretty. But today, Steve happily continues his family's long history in the art world, as owner of SC Fine Art Gallery.

Steve's new 1,400-square-foot gallery space at the Hungerford Complex is part of a former industrial facility.The nephew of the late painter Ramon Santiago, Steve has never put brush to canvas. But he knows the business of art—and the art of business. His gallery, recently relocated to the Hungerford complex, is filled with prints of his famous uncle's work.

It's been a long road to the Hungerford.

Steve served in the military from 1987 to 1990, and came away with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Once back home, he went into business for himself, later going to work for his uncle's studio. He eventually became Ramon's agent and manager, and ran his gallery.

After Ramon died in 2001, Steve acquired his uncle's estate, created SC Fine Art, and began representing other international artists.

SteveBut in 2005, a series of setbacks brought him to his knees.

“Things started getting chaotic. I spread myself too thin,” he says. “I was going through a divorce. I had all the trappings of success—cars, money, country club membership. I was used to success and I felt like everything I touched had to be a home run.”

He turned to cocaine. By the time he was arrested on drug charges, he was a full-blown addict—and everything he'd worked for was slipping away. Along with his life.

“In the back of my mind, I knew this was gonna kill me,” he says.

He went through the Veterans Court and landed in rehab at the Canandaigua VA Medical Center.

A recent exhibition at the gallery included Rochester artists Christine Knoblauch and Paul Knoblauch, an accomplished husband and wife who are each sculptors in their own right.“They saved my life twice,” he says.

The second came last year—but this time, it wasn't drugs.

Steve was well into his recovery from addiction and thinking about opening a new gallery. He'd moved in with his ex-wife while getting his plans together. But in May 2011, there came another blow.

“I got hit with stage-three prostate cancer,” Steve says.

He fought back. Came through treatment a survivor. And by the fall of last year, his gallery was born.

Artists. Veterans. Movers and shakers. Misfits and addicts. Steve brings their worlds together. Inspires them. Energizes them. Makes them laugh.

Because they know he keeps it real.

“I stopped faking shit a long time ago,” Steve says. “What you see is what you get.”

A fine signature.


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* * *

While Ramon Santiago may be best known for his sensual women and whimsical clowns, one of his most important pieces holds a different kind of significance.

Titled “Never Again,” the piece is a tribute veterans, and includes the caption, “Never again should one generation of veterans forget another.”

Ramon—a Viet Nam vet—created the painting in 1985 after being approached by the Veterans Outreach Center in Rochester. Prints of the painting were sold to raise money for the center.

Steve, who belongs to the Rochester Regional Veterans Council, is developing a similar program. He aims to help veterans hospitals nationwide through a website where people will be able to purchase prints and cards of “Never Again” and designate which facility will receive a donation on their behalf.

No launch date has been set.



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