Vito Sisti, a Springs auto mechanic-turned art curator, died unexpectedly at home on Monday of causes that are yet to be determined. He was 51.
The unofficial “mayor” of Springs, Mr. Sisti was an auto mechanic who became known for Vito Sisti Presents art shows at Ashawagh Hall in Springs, which he organized at regular intervals throughout the year for the last two decades. Not only a showcase for the work of local artists, the exhibitions became an occasion for opening, and sometimes closing, parties that were highly anticipated and brought community members together.
Images of Mr. Sisti were used in artworks by several artists who were friends, including a “Vito-lope” mask by Billy Strong and an almost life-size effigy created by Trish Franey, which was occasionally placed in key Springs places like Pussy’s Pond or, eerily, centered in the middle of the exhibition space at Ashawagh Hall during an opening.
Mr. Sisti’s take on life and sense of humor were evident in the stories he wrote during an informal writing workshop he helped found at Ashawagh Hall — quirky and amusing stories with a biographical twist.
In 2001, he was profiled in a New York magazine article called “Fine Arts and Auto Parts,” which highlighted the contrasts between the glitzy Hamptons and the lives of Bonackers.
Born in Brooklyn on Sept. 14, 1961, Mr. Sisti was the son of Francisco Sisti, who died last year, and of Marie Ali Sisti, who survives her son and lives on Staten Island. After attending schools and Wagner College on Staten Island, where he grew up, Mr. Sisti joined the Coast Guard. He served on the U.S.S. Midget, which was stationed in Alameda, Calif., and traveled to Alaska.
Asking for a transfer to the East Coast, Mr. Sisti ended up in Montauk in the mid-’80s, and then settled in Springs.
A member of the Springs Improvement Society board, he spearheaded a renovation of Ashawagh Hall and acted as an organizer of the Fisherman’s Fair in recent years. He also helped with the Springs Food Pantry and wrote a local Springs column for the East Hampton Press until last year. He had been doing post-hurricance cleanup under the town Highway Department since the fall.
Mr. Sisti and Coleen Curtin were married on April 26, 1990. Ms. Curtin survives, as does her son, Nick Stevens of Brooklyn, and her daughter, Janine Maloney of Albuquerque. He is also survived by a brother, James Sisti of Staten Island.
Mr. Sisti’s ashes are to be buried at Calverton National Cemetery at a later date. Memorial donations have been suggested to the Springs Improvement Society, P.O. Box 537, East Hampton 11937, the Springs Library, c/o Springs Historical Society, P.O. Box 1860, East Hampton, or the Springs Food Pantry, c/o Springs Presbyterian Church, 5 Old Stone Highway, East Hampton.
A service will held at the Springs Presbyterian Church at 3 p.m. on Saturday, the Rev. Tony Larson presiding. It will be followed by a reception at Ashawagh Hall.