Authors Posts by Melissa Arnold

Melissa Arnold

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A sensory-friendly screening of Beetlejuice was held at the library in September. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

By Melissa Arnold

Enjoying a movie can be a great way for the entire family to spend some quality time together. But for people who are especially sensitive to light or sound, the experience can be difficult to handle, if not impossible.

At Comsewogue Public Library in Port Jefferson Station, the staff wants to ensure no one is excluded from its programs because of a lack of accessibility. Thanks to a suggestion from a visitor, the library now offers sensory-friendly movie opportunities once a month that are open to all. 

“We’ve always tried to really listen to the community about the needs that they have, and this was something we’d been looking to do for a while,” said Lori Holtz, head of adult services for the Comsewogue Public Library. “We see very regular attendance for this program, which shows us that people are really enjoying the experience.”

Earlier this year, an employee from a local group home for adults approached the library suggesting they try offering sensory-friendly movie screenings, said adult services librarian Christine Parker-Morales, who added that the program has been well-received and is continuing to expand.

According to the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD), at least 1 in 20 adults in the general population may be affected by SPD. For people with these disorders, any kind of sensory stimuli — bright lights or darkness, loud sounds, intense smells, certain clothing textures — can be overwhelming, confusing or disturbing.

Setting up a sensory-friendly movie is a simple process, said Danielle Minard, the library’s outreach librarian. All that’s needed is a bit of extra planning by leaving the lights on, lowering the sound, adding captions and providing advance information about the movie’s storyline and elements. “We try to show films that are fairly current,” Minard added. 

“We began the program this past March with Inside Out and since then, we’ve shown Mary Poppins Returns, Guardians of the Galaxy, Singin’ in the Rain and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” she said. In anticipation of Halloween, Tim Burton’s classic Beetlejuice was screened in September.

There are no special requirements, fees or advance registration required to see the sensory- friendly movies — all are welcome to attend.

“Libraries exist for everyone and we’re here to serve people of every age, regardless of their needs,” said Comsewogue Library Director Debra Engelhardt. “Everyone deserves quality services, and we’re continuing to learn how we can deliver those services better. I’m very proud of everyone’s hard work. I would encourage any community member to bring their interests and needs to their local library. It may take a while to get something started, but it’s our job to make good things happen for everyone who lives in the area.”

Sensory-friendly film screenings are held monthly on Saturday mornings at 10:30 a.m. in the Community Room at the Comsewogue Public Library, 170 Terryville Road, Port Jefferson Station. Upcoming screenings will be held Oct. 25 and Nov. 29. The films are not chosen ahead of time, but are appropriate for all ages. For more information, including additional sensory-friendly library programs, call 631-928-1212.

Stephanie Carsten portrays Maria Smith Williamson at last year’s event. Photo courtesy of TVHS

By Melissa Arnold

Ah, October. The perfect time of year to grab a light jacket, sip a hot drink, and go for a casual walk through a cemetery.

For a quarter of a century, the Three Village Historical Society has invited visitors from far and wide to explore the lives of some of our area’s greatest contributors, both famous and little known at its annual Spirits Tour.

The interesting twist is that the event brings guests on a walking tour through two of Setauket’s historic cemeteries — Caroline Church of Brookhaven Cemetery and the Setauket Presbyterian Church Cemetery — to meet each deceased community member and hear his or her story firsthand.

It’s a unique, fascinating and engaging way to learn more about the area’s rich history, and none of it is scary or Halloween-themed. They promise.

The long-running event, held this year on Oct. 19, is primarily the work of historical society board member Frank Turano who creates detailed scripts for each character and has written more than 400 pages over the past 25 years.

The historical society works hard to ensure that the tour is different each year, with some familiar faces as well as new people to meet. This year’s theme, The Unforgotten, focuses on names you might not know from history class but who still made a significant impact on the area.

“There were a number of people I knew about that never got any sort of notoriety,” said Turano. “So I decided to go about the process of finding interesting but obscure characters. It took several months to write the scripts.”

Volunteers from around the community, many of whom are involved with local theater productions, suit up for the evening in period attire from Nan’s Antique Costume & Props Rental in Port Jefferson for a true-to-life experience.

The cast

Greeter

(Tim Adams)

Richard Floyd 

(Michael Freed)

Anna Kopriva 

(Karen Overin)

Myra Lyons 

(Stephanie Carsten)

Edward Pheiffer 

(Tommy Ranieri)

Justice Carl Rhuland

(Steve Healy)

John Scott 

(Mort Rosen)

Gen. Francis Spinola

(George Overin)

Caroline Strong 

(Karin Lynch)

Hilma Wilson 

(Tara Ebrahimian)

Sarah Young 

(Theresa Travers)

Henrietta Shipman

(Cathleen Shannon)

Marjorie Cutler Bishop

(Stephanie Sakson)

“I live in the area, and it feels great to be connected to the place where I live,” said Janet McCauley, a board member of the historical society who’s also served as co-chair for the tour for more than 10 years. “It’s so much fun watching the actors portray these different figures in our history, and to see people from the community come back year after year.”

The 90-minute guided tour will include a dozen historical figures, among them Brookhaven town founder Richard Floyd, World War I nurse Caroline Strong, and Sarah Young, a woman with a curious story and shocking devotion to the man she loved. For the first time ever, this year’s tour features more women than men, a difficult feat considering the majority of historical records were written about and by men, Turano said. 

Even Three Village Historical Society President Steve Healy is getting in on the action with a portrayal of Justice Carl Rhuland, a local businessman and justice of the peace.

“The Spirits Tour is one of the longest-running events of its kind and it’s close to my heart,” Healy said. “You can go on this tour every year and learn something new. Everyone is so passionate about bringing these stories to life, from the costumes to casting to script writing and the fine details. Frank has incredible attention to detail and this time of year provides the perfect atmosphere for the tour.”

McCauley urges all tour goers to arrive early, dress for extended time outdoors and to wear comfortable walking shoes. And of course, help yourself to apple cider and donuts donated from local supermarkets and Ann Marie’s Farmstand in Setauket. An exhibit with additional information will be on display at Setauket Presbyterian Church throughout the night.

The 25th Annual Spirits Tour will be held on Saturday, Oct. 19 (rain date Oct. 26). Tours, which are approximately 90 minutes long, leave from the Setauket Presbyterian Church, 5 Caroline Ave., Setauket every 15 minutes starting at 5 p.m. Each tour lasts approximately 1½ to 2 hours. The last tour departs at 7:45 p.m. 

Tickets in advance at www.tvhs.org are $25 adults, $15 members; $10 children under 12, $8 members. Tickets on the night of the event, if available, are $30 adults, $20 members; $12 children under 12, $10 members. For more information, call 631-751-3730. 

Keynote speaker Erika Swyler will discuss her writing process at the event at 2:30 p.m. Photo by Photo by Nina Subin

By Melissa Arnold

From its bustling theater scene to scores of local artists, photographers and writers, Long Island has always been a hot spot for creative types. Book reviews and interviews with local authors are a regular part of our Arts & Lifestyles coverage, and many of the Island’s libraries are proud to offer a collection of stories written by people from the area.

At the Port Jefferson Free Library, the annual Local Author Fair allows writers of all genres to meet readers, share their work and even make some new friends. This year’s fair, held Saturday, Oct. 5, will welcome more than 20 authors for an afternoon of reading and conversation.

Now in its 5th year, the fair began as a response to the large number of local writers approaching the library looking to publicize their books.

“The library hosted author panels in the past for writers to talk about the writing and publication process together,” explained Salvatore Filosa, marketing and outreach librarian at the Port Jefferson Free Library. “We’re constantly given books to add to our collection of local authors. In fact, area writers approached the library so frequently we thought it would be a good idea to have an event where people not only come to see an author they know, but to meet other authors whose work they might not be familiar with.”

Each author that appears at the fair has their own dedicated space to promote and sell their work. While book signings may leave an author rushing to get to each person on line, the fair provides ample opportunity for authors to take questions, chat and browse other tables.

This year’s keynote speaker, Erika Swyler, is a native Long Islander whose nationally best-selling work has earned acclaim from Buzzfeed to the New York Times.

“I try not to get myself tied down to one particular genre,” said Swyler, author of The Book of Speculation. “I’m a very curious person and I’m interested in a lot of different things.”

Swyler’s writing career blossomed from her time in acting school, where she emerged as a playwright. It was a natural progression, said the author, who yearned for the chance to dig deeper into a character’s thoughts and feelings. Two novels later, she credits her success to dogged perseverance and a thick skin when it comes to rejection.

At the fair, Swyler will discuss her writing process and read an excerpt from her newest release, Light From Other Stars, which blends sci-fi with literary fiction and shades of horror in a coming-of-age tale.

“Long Island has its own unique and powerful culture that sets it apart. I love meeting other people in the area who are pursuing creativity,” Swyler said. “Living a creative life is difficult, and it’s important to develop a sense of community to remember that we’re all in this together.”

Stephanie Kepke of Plainview has been a part of the fair since its second year and enjoys returning annually to make new connections.

“I love this event because it’s a great way to meet readers, and it’s always wonderful to get to   hear from wonderful keynote speakers as well,” she said. “I find that often people will come to meet a specific author and then discover others in the process.”

Kepke was an English major before beginning a lengthy career in journalism and public relations. She dabbled in fiction all the while and began sharing stories with the world in 2015. Her work, which she describes as “women’s fiction with heart, humor and a dash of spice,” includes two novellas — A New Life and You and Me — and a novel titled Goddess of Suburbia.

“I’m so grateful to get my words out into the world, and it means so much when people come up and talk about how much our work has impacted them. The fair is an unparalleled way to come out and really talk to authors. We all want to meet everyone who comes to see us, and for me it doesn’t even matter if you buy my books. It’s about making connections,” she said.

In addition to the keynote from Swyler, a few of the authors will also have the chance to give 5-minute “lightning talks.” Visitors should be sure to visit as many tables as possible, collecting signatures from authors as they go. The more signatures you get, the more chances you’ll have to enter the day’s raffle. Winners will receive a bag of Port Jefferson Free Library merchandise and a signed copy of Swyler’s latest book.

“It’s very easy today for people to search for a book online and buy it, but getting to read something written by a local author who you get to meet and talk to gives you the chance to make a more personal investment in their work,” Filosa said. “It’s always a joy to watch people discover new authors and new books from this event.”

Participating authors:

Erika Swyler
Mindy Kronenberg
L L  Cartin
Ralph Brady
Joseph E. Vitolo
Lorraine Stacy
Mike Virgintino
Liz  Macchio
Celeste Williams
Lisa Scuderi-Burkimsher
Stephanie Kepke
Larry McCoy
Peter Busacca
Marilyn London
Oswaldo Jimenez
Erick Alayon
Jack  Batcher
TRACI Wendler
Marianne  Schwartz
Roland Allnach
Catherine Asaro

Sponsored by the Friends of the Port Jefferson Free Library, the 5th annual Local Author Fair will be held on Saturday, Oct. 5 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Port Jefferson Free Library, 100 Thompson St., Port Jefferson. Admission is free. For further information, call 631-473-0022.

Image courtesy of the WMHO

By Melissa Arnold

Picture this: It’s August of 1776, the air is thick with humidity, and the road we now call Route 25A is made of dirt, not asphalt. Americans secretly loyal to the Patriot cause are traveling on horseback from Setauket to New York City, where Gen. George Washington is stationed. These brave men are on a mission to deliver critical information to help win the Revolutionary War, some of it written in invisible ink.

Image courtesy of the WMHO

We know these stories and many like them from historical literature, but can you recall many stories about the brave women who supported the war effort? On Saturday, Sept. 28, the Ward Melville Heritage Organization invites the community to take a trip back in time to see what it was like to live on Long Island during that time period and explore local treasures with a unique living history event titled Courageous Women of the Revolutionary War.

In the summer of 1776, the British forces were able to take control of the area, radically affecting the lives of local families, especially those Patriots who supported American independence. Many husbands and young men were arrested and enslaved on prison boats in New York Harbor, and boys were forced into service for the British Army. Meanwhile, wives, mothers and daughters were left to protect their children and property alone.

In the Three Villages, four historic properties purchased and lovingly restored by philanthropist Ward Melville will become the center of the action for the Courageous Women living history performances. Guests will travel to each site by trolley and hear stories of struggle, hope and patriotism directly from the women who lived at that time.

The event is the first of its kind in our area and is a labor of love for the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year.

“This was a group effort that started at a staff meeting more than a year ago,” said Gloria Rocchio, president of the WMHO. “We felt that women weren’t really focused on in explanations of the Revolutionary War, and since next year is the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, we felt it was time to bring [the female perspective] out of the shadows.”

The tour’s mission, made possible by a grant from the Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation, is to inspire and educate the public about the contributions of these valiant women while fostering an appreciation of the Three Village region and its cultural heritage.

Using historical literature and oral histories from the Three Village area as a guide, the WMHO has worked to create realistic stories of four women who lived during the war. The organization also relied on the expertise of the Anna Smith Strong Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a lineage-based service organization for women whose ancestors lived during that era.

Tour guests will be greeted by an actor in period dress at each of the historic properties, which are listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places. At the Thompson House (circa 1709) in Setauket, visitors will meet Phoebe Thompson, a chronically ill woman and wife of 18th-century physician Dr. Samuel Thompson.

The tour will also feature the oldest house in the Town of Brookhaven, the Brewster House (circa 1665), also in Setauket, which operated as a tavern and general store during the war. Rebecca Brewster, wife of Joseph Brewster whose cousin Caleb Brewster was a member of the Culper Spy Ring, will greet visitors. Rebecca helped to run the tavern, which was frequented by British soldiers.

In Stony Brook, the Hawkins Mount House (circa 1725) will host Ruth Mills, wife of Culper spy Jonas Hawkins. Ruth witnessed firsthand the stresses and danger of opposing the British. At the Stony Brook Grist Mill (circa 1751), participants will meet Katie, an indentured servant from Ireland who is working to pay off a debt her family owed to the British government as a Grist Mill “Dusty.”

“We wanted to create an event that was more than just fun and entertaining,” said Gabrielle Lindau, director of development at the WMHO. “How many people realize that the Culper Spy Ring was right in their backyard? It was easy to go back into the historical records and learn a bit more about these women.”

To ensure historical accuracy and high-quality talent, the WMHO hired professional actresses from St. George Living History Productions, a Medford-based living history troupe.

WMHO education director Deborah Boudreau said that the organization believes this event captures the spirit of Ward Melville’s dream to help the community engage with local history in a personal way.

“Ward Melville spoke of history as something that you live with and lives with you,” Boudreau explained. “Visually, the properties bring you back to the 18th century. They give you a sense of what Long Island would have looked like at that time. I’m excited for people to learn about these stories, and for the opportunity we’ve had to imagine what such a defining moment in our country would have meant through the eyes of women. The Revolutionary War planted a seed for the Women’s Rights Movement. It brought visibility to what women are capable of.”

Courageous Women of the Revolutionary War will be held on Sept. 28 (rain date Sept. 29) with trolley tours departing from the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Each tour lasts approximately 90 minutes. Tickets are $40 per person and reservations are required. For further information, please call 631-751-2244.

The Slambovian Circus of Dreams. Photo by Tom Moore

By Melissa Arnold

At Benner’s Farm in East Setauket, there’s a sense of going back in time. The 15 acres that make up the private family farm have been cared for by local families since the 1700s, and current owners Bob and Jean Benner have worked hard to maintain that historic atmosphere. Along with growing organic produce and hosting a variety of educational events, the farm is also well-known for its seasonal festivals held throughout the year.

Quarter Horse

This weekend, Benner’s Farm will tune up for the 8th annual Fiddle & Folk Festival, offering guests a chance to experience traditional folk and bluegrass tunes along with modern spins on the genre. Emceed by Bob Westcott, the program includes performances by the Slambovian Circus of Dreams, Quarter Horse, Eastbound Freight Bluegrass Band, Taylor Ackley and the Deep Roots Ensemble.

The festival is a revival of a similar event held for many years at The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, said farm owner Bob Benner.

“I used to play violin when I was a kid, and my wife and I were involved with the Long Island Traditional Music Association for a long time,” said Benner. “The farm has been around since 1751, and back then, people made their own music and danced in barns for socialization and entertainment. We try to keep that same ambiance today by offering opportunities to come out and hear live music of all kinds.”

Taylor Ackley and the Deep Roots Ensemble

The event barn’s Backporch Stage will serve as the main stage for the festival, while the Shady Grove Stage will offer workshops and Q&A opportunities with headlining musicians, allowing audiences to get to know them on a deeper level. In addition, the Jam Junction Stage will play host to musicians of any skill level who want to take a turn on the platform alone or with friends.

“The Fiddle & Folk Festival is one of the nicest ways you can spend a Sunday on Long Island, and you get to hear an entire day of music you might not otherwise experience,” said Amy Tuttle, program director of the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, which sponsors the event along with Homestead Arts, WUSB and Times Beacon Record News Media. “We have a broad reach, and use our contacts to bring in nationally-known performers and people in the community to entertain,” she added.

Taylor Ackley and the Deep Roots Ensemble from Stony Brook bring together classical musicians from the area to play old-time mountain music with unique instrumentation, Tuttle said. Ever heard bluegrass played on a French horn? Now’s your chance.

Eastbound Freight Bluegrass Band

The Eastbound Freight Bluegrass Band is the longest-running bluegrass ensemble on Long Island with all of its founding members still performing. The close-knit group has played together for more than 20 years, and it’s evident in their sound, Tuttle said. “They have a tightness in their music that can only come from being together for such a long time.”

Eastbound Freight will offer a fiddle workshop during the afternoon for anyone interested in learning more about the instrument and playing in the folk genre.

Quarter Horse, a local six-man ensemble, blends traditional folk sounds with elements of rock, alternative, blues, jazz and country music. The band, which formed five years ago, offers a younger take on folk music, Benner said.

The Slambovian Circus of Dreams

Known as pioneers of Americana, the Slambovian Circus of Dreams has been recognized in publications around the globe for its unique sound and showmanship. The whimsical group from Sleepy Hollow is known for its classic rock influences and varied instrumentation, from mandolin to cello and theremin. Benner said that they’ll be working Eastern European music and yodeling into their set this year. “They’re a fantastic group and so much fun to watch,” he said.

Children will enjoy the event as well as the festival offers a Kids Corner with storytelling and music, a chance to feed the farm animals and a ride on the Big Swing.

As the day draws to a close, stick around for a traditional barn dance with live music and a caller and bring home some organic produce.

“People don’t want to leave because it’s such a peaceful and fun atmosphere. You can forget about the rest of the world for a day, get out in nature and let your stress go,” said Tuttle.

The 8th annual Fiddle & Folk Festival will be held at Benner’s Farm, 56 Gnarled Hollow Road, E. Setauket on Sept. 15 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets in advance are $15 adults, $13 seniors and children; tickets at the door are $18 adults, $15 seniors and children. There is no rain date. Bring seating. For more information, call 631-689-8172 or visit www.fiddleandfolk.com.

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Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Barbara Lynn Greif

Barbara Lynn Greif has spent her whole life creating art in varying forms and used her skills to launch an award-winning advertising agency here on Long Island. Greif also earned accolades in 2012 when she wrote and illustrated her first children’s book, “Born From the Heart,” about her journey to adopt her first daughter, Victoria, from China. Since then, the Huntington resident has adopted a second daughter, Gianna, whose kind spirit inspired Greif to write “Gianna’s Magical Bows,” an imaginative and sweet rhyming story about helping others.

Were you always artistic?

Yes, my father, who also had artistic talent, taught me how to paint at age 6, and we discovered that I had a real gift for it. From that point on, all that I could think about was painting and drawing, and I was empowered to excel as an artist.

You have a background in fine art. What did you hope to do for a career?

I had a childhood dream of becoming a cartoonist and painter. I even created my own cartoon strips, which I envisioned would someday appear in newspapers across the country.

I carried all of these artistic aspirations from elementary school through high school. It led me to go to one of the best design colleges in the country, the renowned Parsons School of Design in New York City. At Parsons, I was able to explore all of my options for a career in art and design. I chose to study communication design and earned a bachelor’s of fine arts degree.

I had to face the reality that painting would not be a lucrative career direction to take. My studies in communication design helped me to refine my skills and become a graphic designer in the advertising field.

After graduating college, I had a variety of jobs in Manhattan — a graphic designer, a product and package designer, a toy designer and an art director. After gaining all of this experience, I was ready to pursue my dream of opening my own full-service advertising agency on Long Island, which I called The Sketching Pad.

How did writing fit into your life?

Writing played a big role for me working in advertising. I was the copywriter for all of the ads created for my clients at my agency — I wrote the text for all of the print ads and television commercials.

What inspired you to write for children?

I dabbled in the effort to write a children’s book during my time running The Sketching Pad, but I didn’t actually pursue it until after my husband and I adopted our first child, Victoria, from China in 2003. The experience of traveling back and forth to China and the whole adoption process was so heartwarming, and it inspired me to write and illustrate “Born From the Heart.” The process of telling Victoria’s story created a new passion in me for creating children’s books.

When did you decide to write this book?

I decided to write and illustrate “Gianna’s Magical Bows” a few years after my husband and I adopted our second child, Gianna, from China. We adopted her at age 3 in 2012. When Gianna saw that I wrote and illustrated a book for my older daughter, Victoria, she told me that she wanted me to write and illustrate a book about her, too.

Gianna is a very caring and giving person who loves to wear a bow in her hair every day. She loves to help people in need — her kindhearted nature is magical. I wanted to base the story on Gianna’s desire to help people out of the goodness of her heart. If she had magical powers, I know she would help everyone in the world.

What is your creative process like?

First I write the story, then I illustrate the pictures. “Gianna’s Magical Bows” took me three months to write and two years to illustrate. When writing a children’s book, I only write in rhyme. It comes very naturally to me, and once I start the writing process it seems to flow very easily. When I’m done with writing the story, I picture in my mind what illustrations would look best for each page, then do rough drawings before working on the final illustrations. I like my illustrations to be bold and colorful.

What message do you hope to pass on to the reader?

I hope children who read “Gianna’s Magical Bows” will strive to be helpful to others and to get along with people, no matter what race, color or religion that they may be.

Is there an ideal age for this book?

The book is meant for ages 6 and up, but I hope that adult readers will enjoy it, too.

Do you hope to continue writing?

Yes, I hope to continue writing and illustrating children’s books. It is one of my passions. I look forward to getting started on my next book soon.

Where can this book be purchased?

The book can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Xlibris Publishers. It is available in print and as an e-book.

By Melissa Arnold

Did you ever have an imaginary friend or enjoy playing dress-up as a child? If so, then you’ve likely had an alter ego – another side to your personality or self-perception. Some people with alter egos share them openly with the world through socializing, music or writing, while others keep that “other self” a closely guarded secret.

Allison Cruz, executive director of the Mills Pond Gallery in St. James, is constantly dreaming up unique and fresh ideas for exhibitions.

“My personal belief is the gallery is here to serve the art-going public, and my goal is to grow the art-going public. We do a wide variety of exhibits to give people a chance to connect with something of their interest,” she said in a recent interview. “This is a new generation of young artists, and how people view and access art is changing.”

The idea for Cruz’s latest exhibit, Transformations: Figures of Our Other Selves, came as she contemplated how young people today have embraced the concept of an alter ego, from multiple Instagram accounts for different facets of their lives to different personas in music and media. The subject intrigued the director, who said alter egos can be seen as dark and hidden or common and ordinary.

Around 10 exhibits are showcased at Mills Pond each year, roughly half of which are juried. Juried exhibits are curated by a guest juror who examines each entry for its artistry and how well it fits the chosen theme, ultimately selecting his or her favorites for exhibition.

“We all think about ourselves in different ways and sometimes consider what we’d rather be like,” said Transformations juror Carol Fabricatore, who lives in Westchester County. “A lot of us have an image of that perfect self or other self. It’s so fascinating to see how artists see themselves.”

Transformations marks Fabricatore’s first time serving as a juror, but she brings with her a lifetime of experience in creating art and spotting artists with great potential.

A graduate of the School of Visual Arts, Fabricatore has spent the past 25 years on the Visual Essay faculty of her alma mater, where she also assists with admissions decisions. All the while, she has produced fine art and illustrations for newspapers, magazines, advertising firms and more. Her work has appeared in solo and group exhibitions across the country, including at Mills Pond, where she met Cruz in 2017.

“One of my favorite places to draw is Coney Island, and so I was a part of a Coney Island-themed exhibit Allison had curated,” Fabricatore explained. “She was so easy to talk to, genuinely curious and enthusiastic about my work. She asked right away if I would consider coming back sometime to jury for her. I took great care with my selections, but the process was so much fun.”

Fabricatore pored over digital images of artists’ submissions for the exhibit for more than a week before narrowing the field to 34 artists and a total of 47 pieces created with a variety of media. Each artist portrayed transformation in their own unique way, including representations of animals, masks, transgender people and angels, among others.

Cruz said she was initially apprehensive to pursue the theme but was thrilled with Fabricatore’s selections.

“I know this topic is out of the ordinary for a lot of artists. But I’ve been amazed with what I’ve seen,” she said. “We have reflections of how these artists see themselves at a deeper level. They have a lot to say, and as I read the artists’ statements and learn more about them, I’ve been so impressed with their willingness to share a different part of their personality.”

Northport artist Margaret Minardi is no stranger to alter egos. In fact, she’s seen her own alter ego every day in the face of her identical twin sister, Ellen.

One of Minardi’s submissions, titled “Twins Lost II,” is a colored pencil drawing of two sisters quietly sitting next to each other on a wooded path, their poses mirror images.

“For me, my sister has always excelled in the places where I struggle. We fill in each other’s gaps,” said Minardi, a retired high school art teacher. “[Ellen is] literally my other self. It was an easy subject for me to explore.”

As juror, Fabricatore still has one more job to do. She’ll choose first-, second- and third-place winners to receive awards at the exhibit’s opening reception on Aug. 17.

“As a whole, this is a really strong exhibit because there are so many different takes on the theme, and people are represented from all ages and all over the country. It’s a powerful, deeply personal show and it’s going to be fascinating to see the work all hung together,” she said.

Transformations artists include:

Bill Brunken (PA), D Brian Burns II (Brooklyn), Sarah Cameron (WA), Lisa L. Cangemi (Mineola), Nan Cao (NYC), Maureen Ginipro (Smithtown), Donna Grossman (FL), Alley Horn (Brooklyn), David Jaycox Jr. (Northport), Melanie Kambhampati (Whitesboro), Kathee Shaff Kelson (Stony Brook), Devin P. Kish (MA), Bruce Laird (Port Washington), AnnMarie LeBlanc (PA), Yuke Li (Brooklyn), Linda Louis (S. Huntington), Maria Gabriella Messina (NYC), Sarah Miller (VA), Margaret Minardi (Northport), Roni Murillo (Valley Stream), Anne Darby Parker (SC), Sean Pollock (Stony Brook), Adelyne Rizzo (PA), Jennifer Scuro (New Rochelle), Tod Seitz (OH), Eileen Shaloum (Long Beach), Scott Sherman (NYC), Steven Sherrill (PA), Michael Spencer (Manhasset), Matina Marki Tillman (CT), Yuta Uchida (MN), Nicholas Valentino (North Babylon), Dominique Vargo (MD) and Holden Willard (ME).

Transformations: Figures of Our Other Selves will be on view at the Mills Pond Gallery, 660 Route 25A, St. James, from Aug. 17 to Sept. 14. An opening reception, featuring many of the artists, an awards ceremony and light refreshments will be held on Aug. 17 from 2 to 4 p.m. The gallery is open to the public Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. For further information, visit www.millspondgallery.org or call 631-862-6575.

The cover of Kim Marino's first book.

Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Above, a little girl enjoys reading ‘Sloths Are Slow.’

As a mother of four busy children and a full-time speech pathologist, Kimberly Marino of Miller Place is constantly thinking about kids. In particular, she’s passionate about engaging children in conversation, interaction and learning. In May, she published her first children’s book, “Sloths Are Slow.” 

Marino has crafted an entertaining and accessible rhyming story about a sloth named Lento (which means “slow” in Spanish) and his rain forest friends. Along the way, readers will learn some interesting facts about sloths while practicing counting, gestures, following directions and more. 

The book is visually stunning as well, featuring artwork by Mariya Stoyanova. It is the perfect pick for sneaking some developmental skills into story time.

Were you a creative child? Did you always want to be a writer?

I never really thought much about writing as a kid, but I was always creative. I liked to draw. My mind is always working and I’m always coming up with ideas. My friend and I actually invented a language game for kids that we were able to sell, so there is definitely a creative spark inside of me.

What did you study in college, and where did you end up working?

I went to school for elementary education at a small school in Pennsylvania called Lock Haven University, and then I got a master’s in speech from Hofstra. I now provide speech services through a company called Metro Therapy. I also work with children from birth through age 3 through Suffolk County Early Intervention.

The cover of Kim Marino’s first book.

What inspired you to write a children’s book?

I’ve had the idea in the back of my head for a long time. Being a speech pathologist means I’m always thinking about language and helping kids develop their language acquisition skills. When my kids were little, they loved a Sesame Street book called “There’s a Monster at the End of This Book.” The main character was [the furry blue Muppet] Grover, and it was very interactive. I knew I wanted to do something like that, to teach parents how to read a book with their kids in an interactive, engaging way. You can learn to be interactive not just with this book, but with any book. There really aren’t a lot of tools out there that teach those skills. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from parents who tell me their kids are more excited about listening to the story because of its interactive features.

Did you have any reservations about writing the book?

Honestly, no. Once the idea was in my head, I said to myself, “I’m going to do this.” And that was it.

Why sloths?

My daughter, Katie, has always had a deep passion for all creatures, down to the tiniest bugs. She’s really into sloths, and is always sharing random facts about sloths with me. I thought it was interesting and would make for a fun story.

What was the publishing process like for you?

I started by hiring an illustrator to create the pictures that would go along with the text. My sister-in-law is a graphic artist and editor, basically a jack of all trades, so she was able to help me get the book published on Amazon. It was an easy process for me, but only because I had her help — I wouldn’t have known where to start without her! Getting the first copy was super exciting. I couldn’t believe it. When I started to write the story, I didn’t know what Lento would look like. To see him and the story brought to life in such a beautiful way was amazing to me.

What is the target age for this book?

I would encourage parents to introduce the book when their child is 1 year old by reading it to them and performing the interactive parts themselves. That’s how they learn — by watching you model behavior. But the target audience is for kids ages 3 to 6. 

What is GiGi’s Playhouse of Long Island, and what is your connection to the organization? 

Working as a speech pathologist has put me in touch with a lot of people that have Down syndrome, and you’ll often hear their families refer to themselves as “the lucky few.” There’s nothing down about having Down syndrome, and I wanted to be able to support and give back to the local Down syndrome community with this book. 

A few local moms are in the process of forming a Long Island chapter of GiGi’s Playhouse, a free center that provides speech, language, arts and life skills classes to help people with Down syndrome achieve their goals and function as typically as possible. The centers are run by volunteers who are passionate about the Down’s community, and a portion of the proceeds from “Sloths Are Slow” will go to the national GiGi’s Playhouse organization to support the upcoming Long Island center. They’re looking to open in the spring of 2020.

You dedicate this book to Thomas Scully. Tell us about him.

My friend, Debbie Scully, unfortunately, lost her son Thomas to brain cancer several years ago. I never met him, but the Miller Place community has worked so hard to honor his memory and legacy. Mentioning Thomas and the foundation in the back of the book is just my small way of showing my support for the family. You can learn more about Thomas and the foundation at www.thomasscullyfoundation.org.

What’s next for you? 

I actually have another book in the works called “Cows Don’t Belong in Houses,” inspired by a funny conversation with one of my young clients named Jackson. In his honor, I would want proceeds from that book to benefit cleft palate organizations. I’m also thinking about writing stories based on the other characters you meet in “Sloths Are Slow.”

Mark Freeley with Storm
Facebook video reaches over 20 million worldwide

By Melissa Arnold

Two years ago, a peaceful walk down by the water in Port Jefferson brought 15 seconds of fame to injury attorney Mark Freeley and his English golden retriever, Storm.

You might have read an article about Freeley and Storm in the New York Times or People magazine, or maybe you’re one of more than 20 million people who saw the pair’s dramatic viral video online.

Storm made a splash in 2017 when he spotted a fawn struggling to stay afloat in the waters of Port Jefferson Harbor. 

Freeley, who lives in Stony Brook, walks at least five miles each day with the retriever and his younger adopted “sister,” Sarah, a mixed breed. On a steamy July morning, they headed to Harborfront Park and Centennial Park in Port Jefferson where they spent time walking along the shore and then started heading to Pirate’s Cove. Suddenly, Storm, who was off-leash, made a beeline into the water. 

Storm is well-disciplined and rarely takes off so suddenly, said Freeley, 55. He recalled being puzzled by his dog’s behavior at the time. 

“Storm never brings anything back to me, not even a tennis ball. So it was weird to see him run off into the water,” he joked. “I grabbed my camera and wanted to see what he was doing, and then I noticed an animal’s head bobbing in and out of the water. Storm hesitated for a minute and looked back at me like, ‘What do I do now, Dad?’ I tried to encourage him and keep him calm.”

Storm swam roughly 100 feet from shore and tenderly grabbed the fawn by the scruff of its neck before bringing it back to dry land. Freeley’s video captures the stunning rescue as he continually cheers, “Good boy, Storm! Bring it in!”

Frank Floridia carries the deer out of the water on July 16

When he reached the shore, Storm nervously let go of the fawn, which ran only a few paces before collapsing with apparent exhaustion. The video ends as Storm gently paws and nudges the animal with his nose in an attempt to revive it.

Many people are unaware of what happened next: Freeley took a close-up video of the male deer and attempted to send it to Frank Floridia at Strong Island Animal Rescue League in Port Jefferson Station, but spotty cell service hindered the call for help. Freeley had no choice but to leave the exhausted animal behind and head back toward the village.

Once Freeley picked up a cell signal, he was able to send the video to Floridia. Together with co-owner Erica Kutzing, Strong Island responds to calls involving injured and abused animals in emergency situations. They’ve rescued dogs, cats, possums, deer and a variety of other animals, sometimes performing several rescues in a day.

Floridia met Freeley in the village, and the pair headed back toward the cove. The trip takes around 20 minutes on foot and is full of slippery, rocky terrain. Kutzing drove to nearby Belle Terre, which provides faster access to the cove.

It wouldn’t be an easy task.

“We went back to the spot where the deer was left, but he got spooked when he heard us coming and actually ran back into the water again,” Floridia said. “We tried to get Storm to retrieve him a second time, but he wouldn’t go, and the deer became distressed — he was probably 100 feet out at least. I knew we either had to go get him or he was going to die.”

Floridia and Freeley waded out into the water, flanking the deer on each side. They attempted to reach for him, but he continued to avoid them. Finally, he grew tired and Floridia was able to secure the fawn with a rope, bringing it to shore. 

Their initial assessment found that the fawn had cuts and scrapes, was infested with ticks and severely dehydrated. Kutzing took the animal to STAR Foundation in Middle Island, where he was promptly named Water and underwent rehabilitation for several months. He was ultimately released back into the wild with a clean bill of health.

Erica Kutzing prepares to transport the deer to the STAR Foundation in Middle Island

“We think he must have come down the cliff in that area, and there was really nowhere else for him to go. He had no choice but to swim,” Floridia explained. “Deer are good swimmers, but this fawn was only a few weeks old. He was so exhausted that he didn’t even put up a fight.”

Storm’s brave rescue graced local and national headlines for several weeks. But Freeley wasn’t ready for their story to end.

In his spare time, Freeley and his family volunteer with Last Chance Animal Rescue based in Southampton. The 501(c)3 charitable organization rescues animals from high-kill shelters in the Carolinas and Georgia on a weekly basis. Upon arrival on Long Island, the animals spend a week with volunteer foster families before being adopted by their new owners. 

“Mark came to us as a volunteer leading adoption events and also offering us pro bono legal support. Once Storm had a following, people would come out to events just to see him and take pictures with him,” said Judith Langmaid, director of adoption for Last Chance Animal Rescue. 

“We couldn’t believe it when the video blew up. We thought it was crazy, but it was so exciting. As it got traction, Mark wanted to do anything he could to promote Last Chance and animal rescue in general. He said, ‘If I can use this for good, I want to do it.’ He’s genuine and dependable. We’re so grateful to have him,” she added.

Freeley began to use Storm’s Facebook page, called Good Boy Storm, to promote Last Chance events and animals in need of adoption. “I saw this as an opportunity to raise awareness for other animals fighting for their lives in kill shelters,” he said. The page has helped connect many animals with forever homes.

“There are very few things in life that you can watch make an immediate difference like this. To see a family come in and adopt an animal that would have been euthanized is a great feeling,” Freeley said.

To learn more about Mark Freeley and Storm, search for Good Boy Storm on Facebook. To learn more about animal rescue efforts in our area or to adopt, visit www.lcarescue.org or call 631-478-6844. Strong Island Animal Rescue League can be reached at 631-403-0598.

Photos from Mark Freeley and Frank Floridia

Feeding Frenzy, ink, bamboo brush and pastel on canvas, by Diane Lundegaard
Diane Lundegaard reflects on life through art in latest exhibit

By Melissa Arnold

When Diane Lundegaard set off for college in the 1960s, she took business classes, dreamed of going to France and hoped to build a stable career. Those dreams would ultimately come true, but not in the way she expected. 

Diane Lundegaard

As Lundegaard marks her 70th birthday, the lifelong artist is looking back on her journey from student to teacher, environmental activist to educator at the Cold Spring Harbor Fish Hatchery & Aquarium. To celebrate, she’s put together a stunning exhibit from nearly every chapter of her life so far, on display at the Cold Spring Harbor Library now through Sept. 11.

“I had an interest in drawing from the time I was very young. It seemed like a reprieve, and a beautiful thing to enter into,” said the Dix Hills resident. “My mother loved to paint, and with eight children at home, she only truly relaxed when she was painting. That inspired me.”

As a teen, Lundegaard would wander around her Deer Park neighborhood and the surrounding areas with a sketchbook, drawing houses and horses with a ballpoint pen, and the marshes of Babylon in charcoal. She went on to pursue a business degree at Staten Island College, and in 1967 she had the opportunity of a lifetime: a school trip to Paris.

“I didn’t have the money to travel all of France with my friends, so instead I stayed in Paris for the entire trip,” Lundegaard said. “I spent a lot of the time sketching the cathedrals and statues I could see from the room where I was staying.”

It was also in Paris where she had a chance meeting with a young man from Denmark named Hans who would capture her heart. The pair exchanged letters for several years before marrying in Copenhagen when Lundegaard was just 20. 

‘Near the Tidal Raceway’

Later, Lundegaard studied art history, education and social studies at Stony Brook University, where she received both a bachelor’s of fine arts and a master’s degree. She launched a successful writing career covering art as a freelancer in publications including Sunstorm Art Magazine, Newsday and the New York Times, ultimately becoming an art teacher at the East Woods School in Oyster Bay.

Along the way, the educator studied under the new realist painter Bill Beckman and later had the opportunity to study Asian techniques with May Wong Moy, a distinguished brush painter. 

Outside of the classroom, she continued to draw and paint but admitted she struggled to find her own personal style of artistic expression. 

In 2005, a sudden layoff forced Lundegaard to search for a new career. She found renewed fulfillment in pursuing her other great passion: helping the environment. 

Lundegaard first developed an interest in environmental activism when, as a young mother, she grew concerned with plans to build a massive, multitown resource recovery plant adjacent to the former Pilgrim State Hospital. She later became involved with local civic and environmental efforts, including a federal water study. 

In 1982, she received the Coastal Barrier Resources Act Commendation from the National Wildlife Federation.  

Her commitment to the environment and love of teaching made for a natural fit at the hatchery, where she started working as an educational assistant in 2005.

The artist with artwork from the exhibit

The hatchery would also provide Lundegaard with the artistic inspiration and unique voice she’d always longed for.

“Working at the hatchery, I got to study pond life up close on a daily basis, and learned to draw and paint what I was seeing,” she said. “I feel that undersea art hasn’t been tapped into fully in the fine art world simply because people don’t often get to see what’s under there, if at all. But the hatchery allows me to visualize aquatic habitats and creatures from a perspective that most people don’t have regularly.”

The Asian technique of painting with a bamboo brush on rice paper works especially well for underwater scenes, the artist said. Her experience with the perils affecting the local environment made painting aquatic life deeply personal and meaningful.

“One of my goals for creating art is to share a concern for protecting aquatic environments. Painting expresses the beauty of nature so well,” she said. “I also hope to touch people’s hearts and make them want to become proactive in helping the environment, even if it’s in small ways. It’s a terrible thing to see people and animals that are suffering because of harm to the environment, and beauty is a wonderful way to open people’s eyes.”

Titled Looking Back, Looking Ahead, A Retrospective of Paintings, the exhibit will feature 39 pieces of Lundegaard’s artwork, from childhood scribbles to the cathedrals in Paris and contemporary work from the hatchery.

The Cold Spring Harbor Library has hosted Lundegaard’s work in previous solo and group exhibits, and it is glad to welcome her back, said adult program director Kathy Olsen.

“We like to promote environmental awareness here at the library, so Diane’s exhibit fits well with that goal,” Olsen said. “I took my children to the hatchery many times when they were small. It’s a very interesting place, and we’re pleased that Diane is calling attention to their work. From simple line drawings to colorful, impressionistic paintings, there’s a little something for everyone to enjoy.”

A portion of the sales from Lundegaard’s exhibit will benefit the hatchery’s new Turtle Pond area, said hatchery director Steve DeSimone.

“Diane has been such an asset to us here at the hatchery. We are excited to celebrate her and her artwork,” DeSimone said. “ It has been a pleasure to watch how the fish hatchery and aquarium environments have taken on new interpretations through Diane’s beautiful work.”  

See Diane Lundegaard’s retrospective exhibit now through Sept. 11 at the Cold Spring Harbor Library, 95 Harbor Road, Cold Spring Harbor. For hours and information, call 631- 692-6820, ext. 202 or visit www.cshlibrary.org. View more of Lundegaard’s artwork at www.lakeartstudiopaintings.com. For information about the hatchery, visit www.cshfishhatchery.org. 

All photos courtesy of Diane Lundegaard