Stephen Galiczynski, a New York artist who grew up in Philadelphia’s Ludlow neighborhood, has landed a huge win: His 8-by-5-foot flag design, “More Modern Madonnas,” was selected from more than 1,000 entries to fly on one of the 193 flagpoles that surround New York’s Rink at Rockefeller Center until Aug. 16.
“I skate there every winter,” Galiczynski said upon hearing the news last week, “and now I’m in some way a part of this iconic landmark.”
Usually, those flags represent the 193 member countries of the United Nations. They are only replaced for certain holidays and celebrations, such as Christmas, Fourth of July, and Pride.
In May, as the city was struggling with the coronavirus pandemic, Rockefeller Center announced the design challenge, inviting New Yorkers to submit work showing their love for the city and celebrating its diversity and resilience.
There are 180 winning designs from the public, and 13 flags by invited artists, including Faith Ringgold, Carmen Herrera, Jeff Koons, Laurie Anderson, Hank Willis Thomas, Shantell Martin, and KAWS.
Galiczynski’s winning design shows four abstract Madonnas with child, each a different color represented as triangles and circles.
Although his art is diverse and uses different styles, he said abstract is his favorite, having been most influenced by Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock.
‘The Art Museum was the destination'
Galiczynski may be a New Yorker now, but as a boy he lived on Fourth Street between Jefferson and Master Streets, the fifth of seven children.
His father, William, was a truck driver for Acme supermarkets. His mother, Connie, who just turned 88, painted portraits and started a nonprofit that created housing for senior citizens.
Galiczynski and his older brother W.P. Galiczynski, also an artist, were influenced by their mother, who always had art materials around the house.
The two often rode their bicycles to Kelly and Martin Luther King Drives — then East and West River Drives — riding around the river, then popping in to spend time at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
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“The Art Museum was the destination,” he said.
They also frequented the Rodin Museum and the old Norman Rockwell Museum, at 601 Walnut St., which no longer exists.
After North Catholic High, Galiczynski earned a degree in Russian studies at La Salle University.
During his junior year studying in Switzerland, he backpacked with a Eurail pass to visit major museums around Europe: the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, and the Prado were just a few.
After La Salle, he studied in St. Petersburg, Russia, for a summer, to hone his language skills. There, he lived close enough to walk to the renowned Hermitage Museum almost daily.
After working in Washington,, as a Russian translator, he moved to New York in the 1980s to study acting.
There was a five-year stint on the soap opera One Life to Live, and he’s been seen as a courtroom sketch artist on Law & Order. He also had a speaking role in the Adam Sandler movie Big Daddy.
Another acting gig included being a stand-in for both Jack McBrayer and Jane Krakowski on the set of 30 Rock. Now his flag design will have its turn.