For 48 years, artist Steve “Koz” Koslowski hated kids. Until he lived in a third-world country and came across a hurricane damaged orphanage. He said his whole attitude changed. “Now kids are my life,” he said.
He also confesses he didn’t like his wife, Pamela, either. The two lived on the same street for 25 years and walked to school together on the first day of kindergarten. But then she bought a boat and needed a little help working on it and called on Koz for his expertise. The rest, as they say, was history, and they have been together ever since.
It’s safe to say that Koz is a man of passionate opinions and personal passions who follows his own path. For example, he found his artistic talents only when challenged with a philanthropic need. One day, while living in Jamaica, Koz refurbished a brush he used to clean the slimy steps to the nearby ocean. He painted the handle. When his landlord and gallery owner went for a morning swim and stumbled across the little gem she promptly ordered a supply. “She had me paint two dozen, and 14 sold the first day,” he said. From there, his art spread throughout the Caribbean.
After seeing the orphanage in 2007, exposed from a hurricane from several years prior, he bought anything on the island that had a handle – garden tools, kitchen utensils, plungers — you name it, he painted it. His artwork is bright and colorful with a whimsical feel and includes mermaids, seahorses, reef fish, crabs and palm trees. As the pieces sold, and with the help of other philanthropists, they funded a completely new and safe building, and even eventually added on a kitchen, laundry room and a cafeteria. Now 83 orphans have a safe place to call home.
In Key West, he has made a name for himself by helping with friend Howard Livingston’s project KOA Care Camps, Wesley House, Florida Keys Children’s Shelter, and his personal favorite Boys and Girls Club.
“When people say one person can’t do anything, that’s just not true,” he said. “People create miracles.”
Living in Jamaica had its challenges. He and Pamela decided to move to Key West and open Koz’s Green World Gallery at 712 Duval Street, which is approaching its seventh anniversary in October. “I’m working on my freshwater Conch status,” said the Michigan native.
Koz is nominated for a people’s choice Bubbas award, and was the winner in 2014. “The funny thing, I was in Michigan last year when my phone started blowing up about being nominated for the Bubbas,” he said, adding he was skeptical at first. “It’s a great honor to be nominated for an award alongside Wyland and Maggie Ruley,” he said. He counts Wyland as a personal friend and mentor in the gallery business. And, Maggie and Koz were partners at Seven Artists on the 600 Block before it closed. “It’s very cool to see my name with theirs.”
And the passionate man has found a new love object.
“I love how Key West and the people have accepted me,” he said.