Joe Sagolla

March 12, 2015 2:02 pm0 commentsViews: 355
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736F62XjLui1D269.medArtist of Bristol

On a pleasant day in Bristol, you may see a cheerful, broad chested man riding a bike along the streets or along the river, stopping occasionally to sketch a tree or a person or a boat that has caught his eye. Those who know him only as a local mason and general contractor may wonder what he is doing.

But those who know Joe Sagolla more intimately know that they are seeing an accomplished artist at work. The town is rich with his artistic expressions, from the historic monuments which he restored to the colored concrete tiles along the Delaware which he built from scratch, to the large painted mural depicting the historic waterfront which adorns the First Service Bank on Radcliffe Street.

“I am a true Bristolian,” he says with pride. “I grew up in the Borough and still live here.” His parents owned Sagolla’s Deli at Wood and Lafayette, and Joe helped out there as a youngster. “Bristol was the center of the universe. I recall the hustle and bustle along Mill Street on the weekends.”

Mr.Sagolla, now 64, still cherishes childhood memories of his hometown. “We used to swim in the river, behind the Grundy mansion. I remember all the boats along the water, all the traffic from U.S. Steel.”

His interest in art began in earnest during his Bristol High School years, under the tutelage of instructor Bill Bagley. During that same period, his summer jobs were in construction. “There was a strong Italian-American presence in Bristol in those days,” he says. “The town was full of masons. Everyone knew how to mix concrete.”

These early influences set the course of his life, and made Joe Sagolla the uncommon hybrid he is today—artist and mason. “It’s an odd combination, but it works for me,” he says. “After sitting at an easel for hours working on a painting, it’s refreshing sometimes to pick up a sledgehammer and break up some concrete.”

Bristol remains his unending source of inspiration. He looks forward to many more years of painting its river, its houses, its people. “In masonry, you lose something as your body ages,” he says. “That 100 pound bag of concrete starts to feel like 500 pounds. But art is something you can keep getting better at as you get older.”

More of Joe’s paintings may be seen at He can be contacted at


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