Authors Posts by Melissa Arnold

Melissa Arnold

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Evy McIntosh. Photo by Bryce Buell

By Melissa Arnold

A natural performer, Evy McIntosh is happiest when she’s on stage or in front of a camera.

The 16-year-old Ward Melville High School junior has already built an impressive resume in the entertainment world, appearing in several shows on the Investigation Discovery channel and Netflix, as well as in supporting roles in films. Beyond that, she’s been in a host of different theatrical plays both in and out of school.

For most teens, that’s where the story would end. But the Setauket resident has big dreams and a heart for others that she wants to share with the world.

Evy McIntosh. Photo by Bryce Buell

Beginning Jan. 17, Evy will join approximately 80 other girls from across the Empire State at Purchase College, where they will compete for the title of Miss New York Teen 2020. It’s the opportunity she always hoped for, but didn’t exactly expect.

“I was always singing when I was little, even if it wasn’t good. Then one day, I can remember watching TV and wondering, ‘How do they do that? How do they get there?’” she recalled. “I told my mom that was what I wanted to do.”

Mom Francine responded as most parents would: We’ll see.

“It was one of those things that just developed over time. Evy started acting when she was around 8 years old, and she became a part of the Performing Arts Studio in Port Jefferson, where she would do acting and voice lessons,” said her mother. “Eventually that led to acting work in Manhattan, and then this opportunity for Miss New York Teen USA fell into our world.”

With years of experience already under her belt and a blossoming professional career in the works, Evy said she was eager to try out modeling work. She thought that the pageant would be a great way to develop skills in that area while getting her name out to talent scouts, who are frequent attendees at pageants.

“I’ve really enjoyed getting to learn more about the pageant process, having my hair and makeup done, and picking out dresses. It’s a great way to meet people in the modeling industry,” she said, adding that she already attended an orientation for nearly 80 Miss New York Teen USA participants to learn the ins and outs of pageantry.

The process of narrowing the field to one outstanding teen actually takes three days. First, there’s a private, closed-door interview that allows the judges to get to know each girl in a relaxed, conversational environment. Girls wear professional outfits of their own choosing and talk about why they’re competing.

“You have to prove to the judges that you really deserve the crown. There is a time limit, and I know I’ll need to practice a lot with that because I can ramble sometimes,” Evy joked.

On the second day, all the girls are taught a dance routine and spend time rehearsing. It’s also when they’ll show off their activewear − the teen competition does not include swimsuits − and eveningwear. 

Then, on Jan. 19, approximately 15 semifinalists are revealed onstage during the crowning ceremony. One last walk in activewear and eveningwear will narrow the field to five finalists, who will answer interview questions. The winner will represent the state as Miss New York Teen USA for 2020 and receive a scholarship package.

Each girl has her own unique focus for the pageant that would become her platform if chosen as Miss New York Teen USA. For Evy, her mission is to create “One Community for All.”

“I have two older brothers, Francis and John Paul, who both have severe autism. I’ve also volunteered with the Dew Drop Inn in Patchogue, a place where kids with special needs can get together and have fun. I wanted to use my platform to stand up for everyone who feels different or insecure and give them a voice.”

Jackie Schiffer, founder of pageant consulting firm Commit to the Crown Coaching, has worked with hundreds of clients seeking to hone their pageant skills. Evy connected with Schiffer through an acting teacher in New York City.

“I’m so impressed by the presence that Evy has. Sometimes, teens can struggle with their confidence, but she has great poise, maturity and openness,” Schiffer said. 

With appearances in countless pageants, including top five finishes, Miss Congeniality awards and multiple titles, Schiffer has seen firsthand how participating in a pageant can benefit a young woman.

“Being in a pageant gives you the chance to get to know yourself and figure out how you want to present yourself to the world,” she said. “And goal setting is a big piece as well. It’s great if winning is one of the goals, but it’s also about individual, personal growth. It might be about becoming a better communicator, feeling more confident, developing body positivity or promoting a cause you really care about.”

Schiffer added that she’s excited to see how Evy will make an impact in the future.

“We need role models for young women. Women can sometimes be socialized to believe their voice matters less than others, and Evy wants to help give a voice to others. She’s a great role model for other girls.”

If you would like to support Evy, she is seeking business, professional and personal sponsors to help achieve her goal. Sponsors will be acknowledged in the Miss New York/Miss Teen New York USA 2020 program book. Visit www.gofundme.com/f/evy-mcintosh-miss-new-york-teen-usa-2020 or email fjpe3@yahoo.com for further information.

Above, Phyllis March and Antoine Jones in a scene from Theatre Three’s ‘Driving Miss Daisy.' Photo courtesy of Theatre Three Productions Inc.

By Melissa Arnold

For many people, it can be challenging to get to know someone of a different culture or background. This was especially true in the decades leading up to the civil rights movement, when expected social roles, biases and assumptions were commonplace. Playwright Alfred Uhry presented this struggle in his classic drama, “Driving Miss Daisy.” The show begins in 1948 in Georgia and chronicles more than 20 years in the life of Hoke Coleburn, a genteel and optimistic black chauffeur, and his client, a standoffish Southern Jewish woman named Daisy Werthan.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning play is set to open at Theatre Three on Jan. 11. Directed by Linda May, it co-stars Phyllis March as Daisy, Steve Ayle as Daisy’s son Boolie and Antoine Jones as Hoke, a role his father Al Jones played on the same stage 25 years ago.

The 41-year-old actor has enjoyed a successful career in professional theater, following in the footsteps of his siblings and his late father. Since returning to Long Island a few years ago, the Setauket resident has become a familiar presence onstage at the Port Jefferson theater.

When did you first get involved with Theatre Three?

I did my first show for Theatre Three when I was a child -− it was a production of “The Pied Piper” and then when I was a teenager I was in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” 

Did you ever aspire to play Hoke?

Evelyne Lune and Al Jones a scene from ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ in 1995. Photo courtesy of Theatre Three Productions Inc.

I never saw that for myself, no. I am about 20 years too young for the role, and that was a concern. Beyond that, I saw my father perform in this role for two separate productions, and during rehearsals there were moments where I had to stop and consider if I was acting or simply recreating what my father had presented. He was effortless. The character and this part of history were both very special to him as a man that was born in the late 1920s. He knew personally and deeply what “Driving Miss Daisy” was trying to accomplish. To stand on the stage he stood on 25 years later is a singular experience. 

Was it intimidating to step into the role knowing your father also played Hoke?

It would be one thing if this was just a role that my father played, and I waxed and waned between missing him and being sad that I don’t get to see him perform again. But I also have a broad background in African American studies, both from college and just in life, and the continuing relevance of “Driving Miss Daisy” is something I don’t take lightly. And I’m working with two other people that also understand their role. Legendary actors that most people are familiar with have played the role of Hoke, and there is an expectation that you better be able to do it.

How do you like working with the rest of the cast? 

Phyllis March and Steve Ayle both have a long history at Theatre Three. They’ve been there for many years and are really part of the theater’s legacy. We are not the type of people who do theater just to make these sporadic connections that come and go. These are very earnest people with busy lives and jobs − Steve runs his own business. They came to do these roles because it means something to them to commit, do hard work, and give people something they can walk away with that’s more than just entertainment. It’s a gift to work with such hardworking people.

What do you enjoy most about the play?

We’ve spent a lot of time in rehearsals talking about who the characters are and where they’ve come from and how they got here. One of the greatest aspects of the play is that you don’t get the low-hanging fruit. 

Alfred Uhry has written a play that presents complicated people. It reveals a racism that isn’t mean-spirited or easy to identify. These are essentially good people who, whether through nurture, nature or a lack of exposure, are forced to realize that maybe they aren’t quite where they need to be. I think that’s where most of us are, and I think that’s the brilliance of the play. 

Daisy Werthan isn’t a racist, but as far as Hoke is concerned, she’s got a long way to go. Even Hoke himself is a product of structural racism, and he talks about it. He doesn’t like the Creole people because he feels like they don’t strive for education or to move off their land, but he doesn’t understand that they’re just as much victims of racism and the lasting effects of slavery as he is. We talk a lot about that, and the gift is that we get to expose that nuance.

Do you have a favorite scene?

My favorite scene for Hoke is when Daisy learns that her synagogue is bombed. To sympathize with her, Hoke reveals something deeply personal that affected him in a profound way. It’s meaningful because it gives a clue about how Hoke got to where he is now, He’s had a lot of profound experiences that he needs to keep close to the vest, but that isn’t something Daisy has experienced.

Do you identify at all with Hoke’s personality or experiences?

I don’t know that I can identify. One of my problems is that Hoke can’t simply turn around and say, “This is a problem that I’m having, and I want to address what’s going on so I can feel like I’m in a more productive, positive place in the future.” He doesn’t have the words or the power. He isn’t even allowed to be frustrated. The humanity of the play constantly keeps us in check.

What of yourself have you brought to the role?

I don’t know how to answer that, but the director, Linda May, has a very unique perspective because she’s also an actor. She’s able to move us along in a way that is actor logic. She’s put some difficult observations in front of us. One of mine was that my voice would tend to rise in pitch, and she would tell me to bring it down because it didn’t sound grounded. It was like I was a slave-type character with no spine. I have to work very hard in my own mind to not think, “This feels too simple.” Not everything is Shakespeare or has that kind of depth. If you want to see bits of my personality, maybe you’ll find them if you see the show, I don’t know.  

Why do you think ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ has been so successful over the years?

I think part of why Daisy Werthan and Hoke Coleburn are so lovable as characters is because when the show begins, they couldn’t do anything about the circumstances they were in and had been born into. But by the end of the show, both of them have made a tremendous arc that many people in their situations wouldn’t have accomplished. Many Jewish women had black hired help and there was no evolution to their relationships. And someone like Hoke would have never had an opportunity to develop friendships with the people they worked for. 

Daisy and Hoke have a spirit within them − Daisy being hard and inflexible, Hoke being this bundle of positivity that wants to get along − and they managed to change when so much in their world was terrible. They were able to see great things in each other, and sometimes that’s the hardest thing to do. We label each other and put them in categories and we don’t have to think about them again … but through sheer force of will, they overcome.

Why should people come see this show?

Alfred Uhry has written a timeless, celebrated and well-performed 90-minute slice of history. It’s a great writing that shows people don’t have to be perfect as long as they keep trying, and it’s when we stop listening to one another that things get messy. It shows that people are at their best when they listen. 

“Driving Miss Daisy” will run from Jan. 11 through Feb. 1 at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson. Tickets range from $20 to $35. To learn more or to purchase tickets, visit www.theatrethree.com or call 631-928-9100.

From left, Eileen Striese, Linda MacDonald and Pam Green. Photo by Heidi Sutton

In 1969, the Kent Animal Shelter opened its doors in Calverton to Long Island animals with nowhere to call home. From their first day of operation, Kent was a no-kill shelter, providing a safe space for healthy animals to find homes and treatable sick or injured animals a place to recover.

The private, nonprofit shelter was founded by a small group of humanitarians with a deep compassion for animals. The shelter was small and not well known outside the local community, and for several decades they struggled to avoid financial problems. The animal population was minimal and the staff didn’t have an executive director, either. In 1985, they hired Pamela Green for the job in a last-ditch effort to rejuvenate.

“I love being a part of the work we do, which ultimately helps both people and animals.”

— Linda MacDonald

Green, who went to college for pre-veterinary studies, grew up in a family that always encouraged compassion for animals. At home, they raised horses, chickens and ducks, among others. “It was always my intention to work with animals. They can’t speak for themselves so they need people to help them,” she said.

Under Green’s direction, Kent Animal Shelter has flourished. They now facilitate adoptions for nearly 700 dogs and cats every year, and are expecting to surpass that number by the end of 2019.

Included in the adoptions are a population of animals rescued from other places in the United States and even around the world.

“We have rescue partners around the country as well as internationally. Every 10 to 14 days, we do rescue transports from high-kill shelters in places that don’t place a lot of priority on adoption programs,” Green explained. “For many of the animals in those areas, there aren’t a lot of ways out of the shelter. We rescue them, bring them up here for medical care, vaccines and spaying or neutering, and then adopt them out.”

Many of the rescues Kent performs are in the South, where animals can become victims of homelessness or injury following natural disasters like hurricanes or floods. Some rescue dogs are flown to the United States from other countries where dog meat is consumed. Around 25 animals are rescued per trip, the majority of which are dogs because of Long Island’s ongoing problem with cat overpopulation.

One of the shelter’s biggest draws is their spay and neuter program. Two veterinarians work four days a week to spay and neuter local pets. Approximately 3,500 animals are spayed or neutered each year, Green said.

Pam Green with Mason

“Spaying and neutering is so important because if it’s left unchecked, a huge number of animals will be left without homes. You see this in areas of the country where spay and neuter programs aren’t as much of a priority. It leads to overbreeding and overpopulation.”

It takes a lot of work to keep the busy shelter running, and a regular staff of 22 makes it happen, along with volunteers who walk dogs, play with cats, and work fundraisers.

Office manager Linda MacDonald has been involved with animal care and rescue in various capacities for more than 20 years. These days, she keeps the business side of the shelter running smoothly while also helping to facilitate adoptions and surrenders.

“I love being a part of the work we do, which ultimately helps both people and animals,” MacDonald said. “I get to know the animals we have here very well, and it helps me to counsel customers on the right type of animal or breed for their lifestyle. We’re always looking to change and grow, whether it’s growing our social media presence, expanding our kennels or working with a trainer to help our customers introduce a pet to their home. A positive experience when a pet goes home can affect how they behave the rest of their lives.”

Eileen Striese of Bellport visited Kent for the first time 15 years ago. She had lost a dog a few years before and was eager to bring home a new pet. Her husband suggested they try Kent, and not long after, they welcomed home a black and white shih tzu named Lily.

Years later, as Striese approached retirement, she began to think about what she might do next. “I always knew that I wanted to volunteer and give back in some way,” she explained. “I love animals, but I had never worked with them before. So I went to the shelter and asked how I could get involved.”

Soon, Striese was walking dogs and socializing with the animals at Kent. She was also one of the volunteers responsible for transporting dogs to a local Petco for adoption.

“They warned me that I might fall in love with one of them, and there was a white bichon poodle mix that would just fall asleep in my arms. The bond formed instantly,” she recalled. “A few months later I brought him home. We renamed him Rocky.”

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine with Pam Green, executive director of Kent Animal Shelter and her dog, Frodo. Photo courtesy of Kent Animal Shelter

Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine has a long-standing connection to the shelter that began when he adopted his first family dog in the 1970s. Since then, his family has gone on to raise two poodles who are now elderly. 

“I thought that these two dogs were going to be the last for us, but sometimes life throws you a curveball,” Romaine said. “My wife was diagnosed with cancer, and she said to me at the time, ‘If I make it through this, I want to get a dog.’”

In March 2018, the Romaines welcomed a white bichon poodle mix into their family. Appropriately, they named him Lucky.

“They say you can judge a person by the way they treat animals — I’ve known Pam Green for a long time, and she’s a very special person who is so enthusiastic about her career,” he said. “The work Kent does for the community is incredible, and so important. It sets the shelter apart.”

Kent Animal Shelter’s funding is donor-based, and while most donations come from private donors, other funds come from foundations including the ASPCA and PetSmart. The shelter also holds several fundraising events throughout the year, all of them focused on having fun. In the past, they’ve held comedy nights, psychic readings, dog walking events, and recently celebrated its golden anniversary with a dinner/dance fundraiser at Stonewalls Restaurant in Riverhead.

At the end of the day, it’s all about doing as much good as they can, said Green. The shelter is looking to update and expand its facilities in the future to reach even more animals in need.

“It’s very rewarding work, but it’s also difficult and sometimes disheartening. The reward is to see an animal taken out of a terrible situation and have its life saved. To see them go to a loving home makes it all worth the effort,” she said.

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Rd, Calverton, and is open seven days a week. To learn more about the shelter or to find your perfect pet, visit www.kentanimalshelter.com or call 631-727-5731.

Half Hollow Hills senior writes children’s book celebrating local history
Author Jay Nagpal;

Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

It’s Jay Nagpal’s senior year at Half Hollow Hills High School in Dix Hills, and like everyone else in his grade, he’s got a lot to do. There’s classwork to finish, college applications to mail, a social life to keep up and the future to consider. But in the midst of all that, he’s also taken up an unexpected task. 

On Nov. 30, Nagpal published his debut book for children, “Miss Kim’s Class Goes to Town.” The 17-year-old wrote the book in hopes of sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for local historical sites with the next generation. The book plays out just like a real class trip, with questions from students and helpful commentary by “Mr. Robert,” an actual historian in Huntington. 

The informative storyline coupled with cartoonish, fun illustrations will capture the imaginations of local children.

What came first for you, the interest in writing or history?

 It was history. From a young age, I was lucky enough to do quite a bit of traveling with my family, and we would always make a point of going to the historical sites or museums in the places we were visiting. We’ve gone to Rome, Paris, London and many other places in Europe that are rich in history. I think being exposed to that at such a young age is what’s given me such a great interest in history now.  

Do you have a favorite historical time period?

It bounces around, but years ago I was very interested in ancient history like you would see in Rome. Later on, I became more interested in the American Revolution, and last year I spent a lot of time focusing on World War II and postcolonialism.  

Why did you decide to write this book?

Last year, I started to see that while I was really passionate about history, a lot of other people just aren’t. In my history classes, I noticed that many of the other students weren’t engaged in the material, and I started to wonder if there was something I could do to engage kids in a meaningful way. I thought that I could create a platform that focused on local history and stir up interest around that for people my age.

Ultimately, I founded the Dix Hills-Melville Historical Association. It was uncharted territory for me, but I had tremendous support from the Huntington Historical Society and the local school district. Robert Hughes from the Huntington Historical Society supported me from the very beginning. I compiled all the important historical sites, landmarks and archives with their help, and created a website that would provide me with a forum to write features and blog posts about history. For example, we just celebrated Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday in May, so it was important to write about that on the website.

Are any of the children in the book named after people you know?

A lot of the names in the book have meaning to me. Early on, one of the students mentions a teacher named Miss Martin. That’s a reference to Karen Martin, who is the archivist at the Huntington Historical Society. Mr. Robert, the town historian, is directly based off of the real Robert Hughes. Dylan is my friend’s brother, whose parents published the book, and some of the other students are also named after friends of mine.  

What was it like to see the book for the first time?

It was a surreal feeling, for sure. After months of going through the entire process of publishing and putting everything together, it was so rewarding to finally see the finished product. 

How long did writing take?

I started over the summer, and the book was published about six weeks ago. A lot of the research had already been done in founding the historical association, so I already had the information I needed.

How did you go about getting it published?

A close friend’s parents actually run a publishing company called Linus Learning, and they were very open to the idea of publishing my book. 

What about the illustrations? Did you do them, or did you work with someone else?

I’m definitely not an artist, and one of the great challenges of the project was finding the right illustrator. I ended up going online and using a service called Fiverr to connect to a very talented illustrator who lives in Sri Lanka. Her name is Thushari Herath, and she really did a phenomenal job. There are a lot of cultural differences between us, so we had to talk about things like what side of the road the bus would drive on, what classes would look like, how people would dress and so on. It took a bit of extra effort, but it was all worth it because she’s so talented.  

What is the recommended age for this book?

Older elementary school kids will probably get the most out of it, starting at about third or fourth grade. My goal was to be as accessible as possible, though, so people older or younger than that shouldn’t feel discouraged to read it.

What’s next for you? Do you want to write more books?

Right now, I’m focusing on finishing up my college applications. I’m looking to stay somewhere in the Northeast that has a strong history program − I’d like to pursue some kind of research track through graduate school and maybe a Ph.D. down the road. I’m not totally sure about anything yet, but that’s what I’m thinking about lately. 

I hope to do something like this book again in the future, especially if it makes an impact on local students.

Where can we learn more about you?

I share information and thoughts about local history at www.dixhillsmelvillehistory.org. 

“Miss Kim’s Class Goes to Town” is available online at Amazon.com, at Huntington Historical Society events and at the gift shops of historical sites around Huntington.

'Kicking up the Dust'

By Melissa Arnold

Ask Sally Anne Keller what she loves most about painting with watercolors, and she’ll give an interesting response: She says it’s like painting backward.

“There’s no white paint in watercolor, so if you want to have a white cloud in your piece, for example, you have to paint around the area you want it to go. It’s a little tricky, and I enjoy that,” said Keller, 53, of Rocky Point.

The artist fell in love with painting when she was just a little girl, and since then her work has appeared in galleries, libraries, hotels and local businesses. Her next event is a solo exhibit entitled Atmospheric Watercolors, appearing at the North Shore Public Library in Shoreham for the month of December.

“I grew up with a single mom and she worked a lot, and I was always doodling or painting something. Then one day when I was in elementary school, we had an art class about watercolors. That was it for me,” she recalled.

‘Path to Beach’

Aside from public school art classes, Keller is entirely self-taught, gathering much of her painting expertise from poring over books. Her family was supportive, she said, and pushed her to create and share whatever she could.

Ultimately, Keller began a career in the insurance industry, working jobs in various parts of the field for 30 years. On the weekends, she works as a consultant at an art gallery. And of course, whenever she can steal a few moments to herself, she’s painting in her home studio.

“You can be your own worst critic, and to hear other people say that they enjoy your work feels really good,” Keller said about the exhibition process. Her first exhibit a decade ago in Southampton brought her out of a solitary hobby and into the local art scene.

She’s now a part of the North Shore Art Guild and loves selling her work at affordable prices to raise money for causes close to her heart. Even the infamous radio host Howard Stern has purchased one of Keller’s paintings — at the time, he shared that he enjoyed painting with watercolors himself.

“I love getting people together, especially when it can help other people at the same time,” she said. “I’ve donated to veterans’ causes, animal rescues, and children’s hospitals in the past.”

With Atmospheric Watercolors, Keller has selected about a dozen watercolor paintings of varied sizes that depict Long Island landscapes. What makes her work special, she said, is the way she tries to pull viewers into the scene.

“I’m really into nature — I see shapes, shadows, and colors in ways that most people overlook. I like to create pieces that make you feel what you see. If it’s a sunny day, then I want you to be able to feel the warmth. If it’s a storm, you might feel the heaviness of the clouds coming in or smell the rain,” Keller said. “If people can experience that by looking at my work, then it makes me happy.”

Currently, the Holiday Inn Express Stony Brook, located at 3131 Nesconset Hwy. in Centereach, is featuring a collection of works from the North Shore Art Guild. The exhibit includes several of Keller’s paintings. All the artwork on display is for sale, and proceeds from sales of those pieces will benefit Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. 

Vito Marrone, incoming president of the North Shore Art Guild, met the watercolor artist when he first joined the organization in 2011. At the time, Keller was participating in a mixed exhibit of more than 50 artists. Marrone recalls Keller’s work catching his eye right away.

 “We have some really great artists that are part of the North Shore Art Guild, and Sally is one of them. I’ve had the chance to take classes with her and she’s so good at what she does,” he said. “Watercolor is difficult, and she’s taught me a lot about how to engineer a watercolor and maintain control of the paint so that the finished piece comes out well.”

Keller’s work has been featured in several exhibits at the North Shore Public Library, and Adult Program Coordinator Lorena Doherty said they’re excited to welcome her back again.

“Sally is a skilled watercolor artist. Her work is direct, and luscious in the use of color and light,” Doherty said. “Sally has a way of isolating the beauty of nature and creating the feeling of standing inside the work, not just on the outside looking in. Atmospheric artwork is timeless and enduring, and the exhibit is a beautiful addition to the library.”

For those interested in meeting Keller and learning more about working with watercolor, she will host a demonstration at the library on Dec. 11 at 7 p.m. All are welcome and the event is free.

North Shore Public Library, 250 Route 25A, Shoreham will present Atmospheric Watercolors throughout the month of December. For library hours and more information, please call 631-929-4488. 

By Melissa Arnold

In 1867, August Heckscher left his native Germany and, like so many others of that time, embarked on a journey to start a new life of prosperity in the United States. He immediately set to work mining coal for his cousin’s business, all the while studying English. Heckscher’s efforts led him to a lucrative career in iron and zinc mining, and he ultimately became a multimillionaire.

Heckscher was well-known for his philanthropy, and in 1920, he gave back to the town of Huntington with the establishment of Heckscher Park. The beautiful setting of the park became home to the Heckscher Museum of Art, which was founded with a gift of 185 works from Heckscher’s personal collection including art from the Renaissance, the Hudson River School and early modernist American art.

The museum has since weathered the Great Depression, eras of war and peace and changing artistic tastes in the community. That early collection has blossomed to include more than 2,000 pieces that include many styles, media and historical time periods from artists all over the world.

Today, the Heckscher Museum of Art is looking ahead to 2020 and honoring its home with a museum-wide exhibit entitled Locally Sourced: Celebrating Long Island Artists.

At the helm for this exhibit is the Heckscher Museum’s new curator, Karli Wurzelbacher, who joined the staff in August. Wurzelbacher studied art history in college and spent the better part of a decade in and around Manhattan before coming out to Long Island.

“We wanted to take a broad view of all the artists who have visited and worked on Long Island at some point in their lifetime,” she said. “In this exhibit, we’ve represented more than 130 years of art in all styles, from very abstract to very representational. It’s about all the different perspectives that Long Island has inspired. I think everyone here has been looking forward to our 100th anniversary and wanting to commemorate it in a special way. The museum has always been so supportive of artists who have lived and worked here, and it’s part of our mission to preserve and share the history of Long Island through art.”

The process of planning Locally Sourced was already underway when Wurzelbacher arrived on Long Island. She acknowledged that an exhibit that encompasses the whole museum was quite the undertaking, but it allowed her to dive deep into the Heckscher’s permanent collection.

“Curating gives the opportunity to tell stories and create narratives visually using objects, and to help people make connections between artists,” said Wurzelbacher. “Some of the artists in this exhibit were teachers or students to other [artists], and you can see that in their work.”

The exhibit is divided into four sections, each offering a unique view of Long Island. They include Huntington’s Own featuring the works of renowned painters George Grosz, Arthur Dove, Stan Brodsky, Mary Callery and many more who live or lived and worked around Huntington; East End Exchanges which explores the connections and influences of artists of the East End, including Fairfield Porter and Jane Wilson; Women Artists which features the work of female artists who have made a profound impact on their field, such as Miriam Schapiro, Betty Parsons and Esphyr Slobodkina with a nod to the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, allowing women the right to vote; and Landscapes that trace the changes in environment and in art throughout the Island’s history. This gallery includes 19th-century images from Thomas Moran, to modern works by Ty Stroudsburg who interpret Long Island’s land, sea and air.

The exhibit includes work in a variety of media, including painting, photography, sculpture and mixed projects. In all, more than 100 pieces represent the work of 89 artists — just a fraction of the museum’s permanent collection, Wurzelbacher said.

Visitors to the museum will have a chance to weigh in on the places and things that they believe make Long Island special. Stop by and leave a pin on the 15-foot graphic of Long Island in the Huntington exhibit. The graphic will also show where the exhibit’s artists lived.

“Artists have been escaping the city to come out to the country and take part in the natural life here from very early on. To see the rugged terrain and vegetation of the North Shore, it’s easy to understand why artists would be drawn here,” said Michael Schantz, the museum’s president and CEO. “Ultimately this collection belongs to the community, and everyone should be proud that there are so many artists that have called Long Island home. We want to celebrate that.”

The Heckscher Museum, 2 Prime Ave., Huntington will present Locally Sourced: Celebrating Long Island Artists from Nov. 23 through March 15, 2020. The museum is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission discounts are available for children, students, members of the military, first responders and residents of the Town of Huntington. For more information, call 631-351-3250 or visit www.heckscher.org.

By Melissa Arnold

Brittany Schiavone has a long list of things she loves to do, including acting, singing, dancing and riding horses. But these days, her biggest passion is giving back to others.

Schiavone, 30, is among more than 400,000 people in the United States living with Down syndrome. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21. Down syndrome can lead to learning, muscular, cardiac and digestive problems, to name a few.

Today, one in every 600 babies in America is born with Down syndrome. Since 2016, Brittany has sent care packages to families around the country that welcome babies with Down syndrome to let them know they’re not alone. Her organization, Brittany’s Baskets of Hope (BBOH), has delivered more than 800 baskets to families in 49 states and Puerto Rico.

Brittany’s mother, Sue Schiavone, remembers struggling firsthand with the reality of Brittany’s diagnosis and uncertain future.

“Everything about my pregnancy and delivery with Brittany was typical,” said Sue, who lives in Huntington and also has an older son. “At the time, screening for Down’s wasn’t as advanced as it is today, so I didn’t have a diagnosis for Brittany prior to her birth. I knew something was wrong right away — she was adorable, but very floppy.”

Sue added that while she worked as a special education teacher, she had limited experience with Down syndrome at the time. “We learned pretty quickly that Brittany had Down’s, and it put us on a totally different road. I want to say we weren’t devastated, but we were. We took some time to come to terms with it, but ultimately we rallied and worked to help Brittany be the best person she could be.”

The Schiavone family became a part of the broad-reaching but tight-knit Down syndrome community, where Brittany was connected to early intervention therapies and other resources. As time went on, she blossomed into an outgoing, bright and happy girl who loved performing. Later on, as part of her own self-directed care program, Brittany went to work part-time at a clothing boutique. She liked the job, she said, but would soon be inspired to try something new.

“I was on a break at my job and I watched a video about people helping babies with Down’s. I wanted to do that,” Brittany said.

At home, Sue said Brittany became insistent about doing something to help families like theirs. “She just wouldn’t let the idea go.”

In 2014, Brittany founded BBOH as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. With help from talented family and friends, legal paperwork was filed and social media websites took shape — all with Brittany calling the shots.

Each care package is either personally delivered or mailed by Brittany and contains a hand-crocheted baby blanket, a Down Right Perfect onesie, some pampering products for new parents, Brittany’s story in her own words and educational material about Down syndrome.

 BBOH has exploded in popularity recently, primarily through word of mouth. Thanks to a nomination from family friend and BBOH team member Ashley Asti, Brittany was selected as one of 10 finalists in the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth national competition. The internationally known makeup company, L’Oreal Paris, began the Women of Worth event to honor those who go above and beyond, selflessly volunteering their time to empower others. 

Asti got to know the Schiavone family when Brittany hired her to work on healthy eating and good nutrition. “Brittany was 25 at the time, and I really admired how driven she was,” Asti said. “How many people at 25 know their purpose and have the courage to live it so fully?” 

She eventually stopped working for Brittany, but the two remained close friends. Earlier this year, Asti saw an ad for Women of Worth while scrolling through her Facebook news feed. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is a big deal,’ and I really felt called to nominate Brittany. When I stopped to consider what a Woman of Worth should be, she immediately came to mind,” she said.

Brittany received a $10,000 prize for being chosen as a finalist and is now enjoying some time in the spotlight.

“I was so excited when I found out,” she said. “There were lots of interviews, and L’Oreal sent a camera crew. I wasn’t nervous about it; I just said, ‘Let’s do it!’ We got our makeup done, it was a lot of fun.”

Now, Brittany is looking for the community’s support to help her win the grand prize of $25,000 by voting for BBOH online now through Nov. 14. The winner will be announced on Dec. 4 at a star-studded gala in New York City.

All of the prize money will be used to benefit BBOH by covering the cost of care package materials and shipping, as well as the creation of a dedicated office space for BBOH in the Schiavone’s home. They are also working toward helping families outside of the U.S. receive baskets, which is in great demand but still too costly for the organization, Sue said.

“Brittany’s Baskets of Hope gives people that have babies with Down syndrome hope and joy, and it makes me really happy to help them,” Brittany said. “I want everyone to know that people with Down syndrome can do anything — really, really anything.”

To vote for Brittany, visit www.lorealparisusa.com/women-of-worth. To learn more about Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, donate to the cause or to request a care package, visit www.brittanysbasketsofhope.org.

Photos by Nilaya Sabnis

 

Army veteran Eugene Casper with his POW/MIA tattoo Photo by Chris Cordone/Foxlight Studios

By Melissa Arnold

Each Veterans Day, the country pauses to recognize the men and women who have served as members of the military. For some, it’s a day of pride and they’re humbled to be recognized. Others live with trauma, injury or regret and prefer not to talk about their service years.

Regardless of their circumstances or histories, the Northport-East Northport Public Library is honoring all veterans with a unique photography exhibit for the month of November.

The exhibit, titled Ink Stories: Symbols of Service, focuses on sharing veterans’ memories and experiences through photographs of their tattoos.

Army Veteran John Baptisto Fiore. Photo by Chris Cordone/Foxlight Studios

“My father was a Vietnam veteran who had tattoos. When he returned from Vietnam, he struggled to find acceptance in the community [because he was in the war],” said Kathryn Heaviside, community services librarian at the Northport-East Northport Public Library. “Hearing stories from his service and the stories behind the tattoos, I felt confident I would be able to find others who were willing to share.”

Heaviside said that art exhibits focusing on tattoos have been held in other places around the United States and believed the concept would be a great fit for the library because of its commitment to veteran outreach and proximity to the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The exhibit took nearly a year to plan, with flyers, email blasts, social media posts and word of mouth used to find local veterans.

“It was slow going at first, but once the word started to get out, we had more and more responses. The concept was really well-received by the veterans,” Heaviside said.

In all, 34 veterans came forward to participate in Ink Stories. They include 33 men and one woman from all branches of the military. The majority served in Vietnam, while others were involved in the Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion or the modern conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among them is Eugene Casper, a 69-year-old Vietnam veteran from Ronkonkoma. Casper didn’t want to go to college and enlisted in the Army after graduating from high school in 1968.

“I knew I was going to end up in Vietnam, but I wanted to see what it was all about. I was 18, young and dumb,” Casper recalled. He spent one year in Vietnam, where he was exposed to Agent Orange and now lives with cancer and other health issues.

While many of Casper’s fellow soldiers got their first tattoo during basic training, it took decades for him to get inked. 

Army veteran Eugene Casper has his tattoo photographed by Chris Cordone/Foxlight Studios. Photo by Nora Nolan

“When I got back from the war, I had a bad taste in my mouth and pushed a lot of my feelings and experiences aside. But years later, this stuff will always catch up to you. I reached out for help at the VA and decided to get my first tattoo when I was 50.”

That first tattoo, the POW/MIA symbol on his left shoulder, was eventually followed by an eagle with an American flag background and his dates of service. Most recently, his granddaughter opened her own tattoo shop and did a piece on Casper’s forearm depicting a helmet, boot and rifle with the phrase “All gave some; some gave all.”

Casper and the other veterans came to the library over several scheduled days, where they filled out questionnaires about their experiences before posing for photos. Chris Cordone, a Huntington-based wedding photographer, volunteered to photograph the veterans for free.

“They would enter the room to be photographed and just totally open up. Some would cry,” Heaviside said about the photo sessions, which she described as emotional and moving. “The vets were thrilled to talk about their tattoos and share their stories. For some of them, it was the first time they had spoken about their history in 40 years. Some of them were hesitant, but once they started to share, they didn’t want to stop. I’ve formed a real bond with each of them through this experience.”

Army Veteran John Baptisto Fiore. Photo by Chris Cordone/Foxlight Studios

The exhibit is comprised of individual 24-by-36-inch framed posters featuring photos of each veteran, his or her tattoos and some of their own reflections as written and designed by Heaviside. Each veteran will also be presented with a blanket made by the library’s teen volunteers.

Casper was thrilled to be a part of the project after seeing an ad for it in a local newspaper. “I thought it would be a good thing to do. The more people that get to see what we went through, the better,” he said. “I’m 69 years old now, I have nothing to hide and I don’t care what anyone thinks. I’m proud to be a Vietnam veteran.”

He added that seeking support at the VA made all the difference for his well-being. “There is help out there for everything, but you have to look and you have to reach for it. Talk to your friends, talk to your neighbors, tell people what’s going on,” he said. “You don’t have to deal with things alone.”

Ink Stories: Symbols of Service is on view at the Northport Public Library, 151 Laurel Ave., Northport and the East Northport Public Library, 185 Larkfield Road, E. Northport through Nov. 30. Identical exhibits are found at each library. 

The public is invited to an opening reception at the Northport Public Library this Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. For library hours and more information, call 631-261-6930 or visit www.nenpl.org.

‘View from the Red Room’ by Joseph Reboli

By Melissa Arnold

For more than three decades, Joseph Reboli dedicated his life to creating art and sharing it with the world. His vibrant oil paintings, many of which focused on scenes in the Three Village area, were beloved not only here on Long Island but around the world for the way they captured the essence of the places he loved. Reboli’s work has been on display in museums, private collections and homes around the world.

Since its founding in 2016, the Reboli Center for Art and History in Stony Brook has worked to preserve the legacy of its namesake, who died in 2004, while also highlighting the people and places that most inspired him. Its newest exhibit, on display beginning Nov. 1, will focus on one of Reboli’s unique honors: his inclusion in an exhibit at the White House.

“Joe was a very modest guy, but I think he was really honored by this opportunity, and it was one of the highlights of his career,” said Lois Reboli, Joe’s wife of 14 years.

In 2000, the nation’s capital was preparing to mark the 200th anniversary of the White House. To celebrate, the White House Historical Association planned an art exhibit and companion calendar titled White House Impressions: The President’s House Through the Eye of the Artist. The association selected 14 well-respected artists to participate, with one artist representing each of the 13 original colonies and the District of Columbia. 

Among the chosen artists were Reboli, who represented New York for the month of March, as well as realist painter Ken Davies of Massachusetts, Reboli’s former professor at the Paier College of Art, representing February. 

The cover of the 2000 White House calendar.

The other artists were Domenic DiStefano (Pennsylvania, December 1999), Al Alexander (New Jersey, January 2000), Ray Ellis (Georgia, April 2000), John Barber (Virginia, May 2000), Marjorie Egee (Delaware, June 2000), Marilyn Caldwell (Connecticut, July 2000), Tom Freeman (Maryland, August 2000), West Fraser (South Carolina, September 2000), Richard Grosvenor (Rhode Island, October 2000), Carol Aronson-Shore (New Hampshire, November 2000) and Bob Timberlake (North Carolina, December 2000). Carlton Fletcher of the District of Columbia was granted the cover.

“We made the trip down to the White House in 1999, and the artists got to meet with Bill and Hillary Clinton. It was our first trip to the White House, and definitely impressive to us both,” Lois Reboli recalled. “Joe had been in the Army and he was a very patriotic person. A White House photographer walked around with each artist as they decided what they wanted their piece to be — the photographer was the only one allowed to take pictures. Then the artists took the photos home to work.”

Reboli was the only artist in the White House exhibit to choose a point of view from inside the building. His painting, “View from the Red Room,” looks outside to the South Portico with the Jefferson Memorial in the background. 

The Red Room has served a variety of purposes in different presidencies, from a music room to a meeting space, the backdrop for official photos and family dinners. First Lady Jackie Kennedy once said that the view from the Red Room was her favorite in the White House because it looked out on the American people. 

“When I saw this particular view, I loved the light on the South Portico with the landscape in the background,” Reboli wrote at the time about his choice. “The light’s reflection on the portico contrasted nicely with the dark interior of the room.”   

The painting from the Red Room will be on display at the Reboli Center, along with the White House calendar and original work from nine of the 14 artists featured in the 2000 exhibit, said Reboli Center secretary Colleen Hanson.

“This exhibit was a huge undertaking, and took a lot of detective work in some cases. Lois has been working on this exhibit for more than 8 months. It was a search for contacts with the artists of the calendar, communicating back and forth, and then finally getting the artwork. This was a rather complicated exhibit to put together because of the number of artists involved, the time span of an event that happened more than 20 years ago, and the fact that during those 20 years not everyone had stayed put and that deaths had occurred,” Hanson said. 

“We wanted to share the work the artists did for the White House as well as some of their original work to give a greater sense of who they were and their artistic interests.”

The White House Calendar exhibit will be on display from Nov. 1 through Jan. 26, 2020 at the Reboli Center for Art and History, 64 Main St., Stony Brook. Participating artists include Al Alexander, Carol Aronson-Shore, Marilyn Caldwell, Ken Davies, Domenic DiStefano, Ray Ellis, West Fraser, Richard Grosvenor and the late Joe Reboli. For more information, call 631- 751-7707 or visit www.rebolicenter.org.

'Ensnared' by Jonathan Horn

By Melissa Arnold

For the past three years, The Atelier at Flowerfield has buzzed with activity. Artists of all skill levels come to the St. James art studio to create, learn and connect with others through classes, studio time, social events, art history lectures and exhibits.

As The Atelier has grown, it has also attracted a host of young, talented creatives looking for a place to hone and share their skills. Since 2017, the annual Long Island Young Artists Exhibition has provided a platform to celebrate their accomplishments with the community.

“I believe that when artists are young, they’re uninhibited. The sky is the limit for their creativity, and they don’t filter themselves by what will or won’t sell or how people will respond,” said Director Kevin McEvoy in a recent interview. “They’re willing to experiment, to take risks with their art. It’s incredible to be a part of that,” he said.

McEvoy estimates that 50 to 60 young people spend time at a workshop on a regular basis, many of them students at local schools or recent college graduates. Some of the artists take classes or have studio time five nights a week, while others come by for several hours during the day. The Atelier’s state-of-the-art studio space simulates natural light, allowing nighttime students to create pieces with realistic-looking daylight without interrupting their daytime responsibilities.

This year’s Young Artists Exhibition invited artists ages 11 to 28 to submit works of any medium or theme to be reviewed by a panel of curators including Margaret McEvoy, Gaby Field-Rahman, Dr. Stephen Vlay and Barbara Beltrami.

In total, 46 applicants submitted 130 different pieces for judging. The completed exhibit includes 47 pieces from 33 artists, mostly from Suffolk and Nassau counties.

Aside from age, there were no specific requirements to enter a piece for consideration. McEvoy said he wanted to welcome young artists of all kinds to explore themes and mediums that appeal to them the most.

One of this year’s exhibitors, Ariel Meltzer, 16, has always been fascinated with drawing people. “I’ve always found art to be very calming, and even when I was young I loved drawing faces and people in general,” said the artist, who lives in Stony Brook. “There’s so much diversity in the human figure, but there are so many similarities at the same time.”

Meltzer discovered The Atelier a few summers ago after her mother encouraged her to find something fun to do. She said she was interested in continuing to develop the art skills she’d gained during the school year at The Stony Brook School, and the St. James studio was a perfect fit.

“You get to know so many different people that each have their own perspective on art,” Meltzer said. “I love the connections that I’ve been able to make through The Atelier. Everyone is welcoming and supportive — it’s a great atmosphere to learn in.”

Whether she’s attending morning classes in the summer or night classes during the school year, Meltzer always has a new project to work on. She’s worked with charcoal, oil, acrylics and more, but at home she tends to return to her old standby, graphite pencil.

Her submission to this year’s exhibit, “Grace,” is a drawing of a classmate she completed for a school assignment. Meltzer said she wanted to make the girl’s hair and face appear softer to match her name, Grace.

“I’m proud of the work that I send in no matter what, so I don’t worry too much about whether or not it gets chosen. But it’s still really exciting to be a part of the exhibit. This is my second year being included,” Meltzer said.

Jonathan Horn, 27, is on the upper end of the young adult group, but that doesn’t stop him from creating whimsical, unique and fun works of art.

The East Setauket resident has been artistic his entire life, starting to draw with markers at just 2 years old. These days, he’s primarily a painter, but his tools are one of a kind. Horn studied studio art and anthropology at Stony Brook University, and in the process developed a deep curiosity for the tools used in ancient civilizations.

“I started to wonder what it would be like to make and use these tools to paint with,” Horn said. “So I did. And I found that they work just as well as anything you’d buy commercially today.” His yucca leaf and palm brushes are used with paints Horn has made himself using a special clay. 

While Horn enjoys painting using classic techniques and subjects, his real passion is fantasy. “I grew up watching a lot of cartoons and playing video games, so the work I do tends in the direction of fantasy,” he explained. 

Horn’s two works in the exhibit include a clay-based gouache painting of flowers done on watercolor paper and a vivid gouache painting on gypsum board of a fish being attacked by a squid and eel. 

“This is the first recent exhibit I’ve submitted work for, so I was pretty nervous and relieved to be chosen,” he said. “The Atelier is a fantastic place to learn, whether you’re an experienced artist looking to hone your skills or a beginner looking to dip your toes in the water for the first time.”

The Long Island Young Artists Exhibition is currently on view at The Atelier at Flowerfield’s Atelier Hall Gallery, located at 2 Flowerfield, Suite 15, St. James through Nov. 21. The gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and admission is free. For more information, call 631-250-9009 or visit www.atelierflowerfield.org.

Image courtesy of The Atelier at Flowerfield