Authors Posts by Melissa Arnold

Melissa Arnold

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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

Model Jean Patchett wears a Hulitar gown in 1952 for fashion magazine Vogue. Photo by Francesco Scavullo.

By Melissa Arnold

Before Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors became icons in the fashion world and a fixture of department stores everywhere, there was designer Philip Hulitar.

Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Hulitar was designing distinctively tailored and elegantly decorated cocktail dresses that were worn by the likes of Jane Fonda, Rosemary Clooney and Patty Duke. In 1949, a journalist wrote of him, “The star of a gifted designer has risen recently on the fashion horizon.”

Hulitar developed a passionate following on Long Island, where he lived and gave generously in support of his local community. So it was only fitting to host the first exhibit dedicated exclusively to his work and legacy at the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook. Titled Gracefully Chic: The Fashions of Philip Hulitar, the show opens in the museum’s Art Museum on the hill on July 27 and runs through Oct. 20.

Curated by LIM’s Deputy Director and Director of Collections & Interpretation Chief Joshua Ruff, the exhibit has been years in the making, beginning with a single dress. The yellow silk chiffon gown with a green sash and floral accents was purchased at Henri Bendel in New York circa 1955 and was worn by Carolyn Fell of Nissequogue during her teen years. It was donated to the Long Island Museum in 1998. 

Ruff has included the dress in a few other exhibits over the years and always wanted to know more about the man who designed it. 

“This exhibit is unique in its dedication to a single designer. He’s never truly gotten his due in a museum project before, especially on this scale,” he said. “There are a lot of museums that have one or two Hulitar pieces in their collections, but to have the opportunity to gather so many pieces in one room is really special.”

Born in 1905 to a Hungarian diplomat and an Italian noble, Hulitar immigrated to the United States during the Great Depression. For 18 years, he worked as chief designer for the Bergdorf Goodman department store before launching his own brand in 1949.

Philip Hulitar dress, Museum of the City of New York

“Philip Hulitar’s work really evokes mid-20th century America. He was tremendously successful during that specific time in history,” Ruff said. “All major cities carried his label, from large department stores to small boutiques. In postwar society, parties and social events were hugely popular, so having several elegant dresses was a priority. Hulitar’s pieces were accessible to people in middle and upper middle class who needed fine evening wear at prices they could afford.”

Hulitar gained a reputation for his creative use of different materials, complex and elegant textures, and mixing synthetics with traditional fabrics like silk and satin. While he liked to employ a variety of cuts and silhouettes, Ruff said that Hulitar was very conscious of how a particular look would fit each person. 

“At his core, Hulitar was about making the feminine form even more beautiful,” Ruff said.

Gracefully Chic will include original drawings from Hulitar, along with apparel and dresses borrowed from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of the City of New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston and a variety of other public and private sources. 

In all, the exhibit will display 45 garments and more than 100 objects and images. 

The Long Island Museum also benefits directly from the generosity of the Hulitar family. In 2016, the museum received a large monetary donation from the Hulitar Family Foundation, and the museum has since named its textile collection after them. The Mary and Philip Hulitar Textile Collection houses more than 10,000 objects, from a 1790s wedding dress to a pair of Jordache jeans.

Visitors to the exhibit will also have the unique opportunity to visit the “interactive dressing room,” an area designed to resemble an early 1960s department store. There, they can try on a Hulitar replica in various sizes. Velcro panels make it easy for the dress to fit over regular clothes, and visitors are encouraged to take pictures and show off their style. 

Those looking to explore fashion at a deeper level will want to join the Long Island Museum on Sept. 26, when they host Behind the Runway. This special dinner will celebrate the 80th anniversary of the museum and will feature guest speaker Madelyn Shaw, textile curator at the Smithsonian American History Museum. Shaw will speak on the development of American fashion in Hulitar’s era.

“I think people love to see fashion exhibitions, especially with such an interest in retro fashion today,” Ruff said. “It’s an exciting opportunity for people out here on Long Island to come and see these pieces in their backyard, without having to go to New York City.”

Gracefully Chic will be on view at the Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook from July 27 through Aug. 25. Regular museum hours are Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors and $5 for students 6 to 17 and college students with ID. Children under 6 are admitted for free. For further information, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

 

By Melissa Arnold

The John W. Engeman Theater in Northport is bringing out its disco balls and bell-bottoms this summer as it kicks off its 2019-20 mainstage season with “Saturday Night Fever.” 

The high-energy musical delivers all the 1970s hits and fashion that’s made it a beloved classic for more than just baby boomers. The musical is based on the famous 1977 film of the same name that rocketed John Travolta into stardom. The film was adapted for the stage by Robert Stigwood in collaboration with Bill Oaks, and the North American version was written by Sean Cercone and David Abbinanti.

Directed by Richard Dolce, “Saturday Night Fever” is the story of Tony Manero, a 19-year-old ladies’ man from the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. It’s 1977, and Tony is restless, working a dead-end job in the shadow of the Verrazzano Bridge and dealing with his family’s scathing disapproval. It doesn’t help that his brother Frank Jr. is a priest, making Tony even more of a black sheep. 

All of that fades away on the weekends, though, when Tony escapes to the local disco Odyssey 2001 to show off his skills on the dance floor. He’s got real talent and sets his sights on winning an upcoming dance competition that could be his ticket to a more fulfilling life.

Tony is quickly frustrated with his overeager dance partner, Annette, who’s more interested in winning a trip to his bedroom than a dance competition. To Annette’s chagrin, Tony is drawn to Stephanie, a lovely yet guarded dancer he meets at the club. Stephanie reluctantly agrees to enter the contest as Tony’s partner on the condition that it’s strictly business. But their passion at the disco is unmistakable, and romance is hard to resist. 

While it’s difficult to compare anyone to John Travolta, Michael Notardonato makes the role of Tony seem effortless. A newcomer to the Engeman, Notardonato has also played Tony elsewhere in the U.S. and abroad — he was even nominated for Outstanding Actor in a Musical by the Connecticut Critics Circle for a past performance of the show. Notardonato’s silky vocals and expert footwork are a treat to take in.

Annette (Andrea Dotto) and Stephanie (Missy Dowse) are in contrast throughout most of the show: One is bold, the other withdrawn; one is full-on Brooklyn, the other tries to forget her roots. Both Dotto and Dowse are great dancers with strong vocals; newcomer Dotto tugs on the heartstrings with a powerful rendition of “If I Can’t Have You,” while Dowse’s multiple duets with Notardonato (“100 Reasons,” “What Kind of Fool”) are where she really shines.

Also at the heart of “Saturday Night Fever” are Tony’s knucklehead best friends who are prone to making bad decisions, including some that change their lives forever. Matthew Boyd Snyder, Christopher Robert Hanford, Steven Dean Moore and Casey Shane act like they’ve known each other forever. They play well off of one another and have no trouble getting laughs out of the crowd while also drawing empathy in the show’s darker moments.

The standout work for this show goes to the ensemble and orchestra — after all, it’s the soundtrack and dancing that drive “Saturday Night Fever.” Chris Rayis leads the band in foot-tapping, dance-in-your-seat favorites from the Bee Gees, including “Stayin’ Alive,” “Boogie Shoes” and “Disco Inferno.” The ensemble’s dance numbers, including “Jive Talkin’” and “Night Fever,” are among the best in the show. 

Dance captain Kelsey Andres, choreographer Breton Tyner-Bryan and associate choreographer Emily Ulrich deserve accolades for the obvious hard work and effort that went into preparing the cast to be at the top of their game. Keep an eye out for Gabriella Mancuso who plays Candy, 2001 Odyssey’s professional singer. Her vocals are among the strongest in the entire cast, and definitely the most memorable. 

The extra touches to the Engeman’s production of “Saturday Night Fever” help the audience feel like they’re a part of the show. Disco balls can be found both above the stage and in the lounge area, covering the entire theater in those characteristic funky lights we all love. The set is equally dazzling and showcased a wide variety of scenes. The mirrors in the dance studio, neon lights in the club, and a stunning, climbable Verrazzano Bridge made the show more realistic.

The only drawback in the musical version of “Saturday Night Fever” is the number of unanswered questions by the end of the show, but it’s still a fantastic performance that’s not to be missed. Stick around after the curtain call for a few extra songs, and don’t be afraid to dance in the aisle.

See “Saturday Night Fever” now through Aug. 25 at the John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport. Tickets range from $75 to $80 with free valet parking. For showtimes and to buy tickets, visit www.EngemanTheater.com or call 631-261-2900.

All photos by Michael DeCristofaro

A sensory-friendly performance of 'Cinderella' will be held on July 7. Photo from Theatre Three

By Melissa Arnold

Jason Furnari was 11 years old when he appeared onstage for the first time as part of a school production. Acting immediately became his passion, and he was eager to be in as many shows as possible.

Jason Furnari

One day, Furnari’s school took a field trip to Theatre Three in Port Jefferson. His life would never be the same. “As soon as I saw the stage I knew I had to be up there,” recalled Furnari, now 34. He auditioned for his first Theatre Three show in 2002, and soon became one of the theater’s full-time actors, appearing in local shows and becoming a part of their professional touring troupe. His credits include “The Laramie Project,” “A Christmas Carol,” “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” and “Barnaby Saves Christmas,” to name a few.

In a gesture of gratitude to the theater, Furnari has announced that his Port Jefferson Station based real estate company, EXIT Realty Island Elite, will sponsor Theatre Three’s Children’s Theatre and offer complimentary tickets to its sensory-friendly performances. 

“I love acting so much because you get to go onstage for a few hours and tell a story. If people are having a bad day, you can bring a smile to their face,” Furnari said. “Every day when we go onstage, we get to see how much the kids really enjoy live theater. They get a glimmer in their eye, and I wanted as many people as possible to experience that joy.” 

That desire to do good has run through the entirety of Furnari’s career journey. He studied nursing, worked in restaurants, and ultimately launched a successful real estate career, helping families find their dream homes. All the while, he continued to do occasional shows with Theatre Three, hoping for the day he could give back to them, too.

Furnari’s moment finally came during rehearsals for “Barnaby Saves Christmas” this past December. Jeffrey Sanzel, executive artistic director of the theater, was preparing the cast for their upcoming sensory-friendly performance. 

Each Children’s Theatre production has one performance that is specifically tailored to those with sensory processing disorders or other special needs. The shows provide lower volume levels, remove sudden noises, leave the house lights on and are accepting of audience noise and movement. Sensory-friendly shows also offer complimentary social stories, booklets which explain the parts of the theater, its employees, what to expect at a show and more, all accompanied with helpful pictures.

“I was talking to them about the sensory-friendly shows, and I said that I would love for someone to come along and underwrite those performances, so we could just give the tickets away for free and we wouldn’t have to charge,” Sanzel recalled. “Jason pulled me aside and said, ‘I’ll do it.’ He committed in that moment and [the free tickets] began immediately with the next show. “I was stunned but not surprised because Jason is such a profoundly generous person. It was an amazing moment for us.”

In addition to underwriting the sensory-friendly shows, EXIT Realty Island Elite will be the official sponsor for Theatre Three’s children’s performances for the 2019-20 season. 

Jason Furnari, center, in a scene from last year’s ‘Barnaby Saves Christmas’

Vivian Koutrakos, managing director at Theatre Three, noted that, while the theater is a not-for-profit, they still have expenses and need support. “At the theater, we want to treat everyone equally and provide an experience that anyone can enjoy, regardless of their needs,” Koutrakos said. “I’ve known Jason for a long time, and he’s done so well for himself. He always wanted to give back to the theater and make sure it was cared for, even when he didn’t have the means to do so himself.”

Sensory-friendly performances at Theatre Three began in 2016 when the parent of an actor with special needs encouraged Sanzel to pursue it. Since then, he said the feedback from audiences has been overwhelmingly positive.

“The families and organizations that come to the sensory-friendly shows are so appreciative and grateful,” Sanzel said. “And now that we’ve eliminated the costs, it’s an opportunity they’ll always be able to enjoy.”

Theatre Three is located at 412 Main St., Port Jefferson. Upcoming sensory-friendly children’s performances include “Cinderella” on July 7; “A Kooky Spooky Halloween” on Oct. 6; “Barnably Saves Christmas” on Nov. 24; “Little Red Riding Hood” on Jan. 19, 2020; “Hansel and Gretel” on March 8, 2020; “The Adventures of Peter Rabbit” on April 19, 2020; and “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” on May 31, 2020. All shows begin at 11 a.m. and tickets are free. 

For more information or to make a reservation, please call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

‘Boy Drinking From Water Fountain’ by John Goldstein of Stony Brook is one of 51 photos chosen for the Art League of Long Island’s latest exhibit. Photo courtesy of Art League of LI

By Melissa Arnold

 You’ve probably heard the old adage that laughter is the best medicine. As it turns out, it’s more than just pithy wisdom. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter stimulates the heart and muscles, releases feel-good endorphins, reduces tension and can even lower blood pressure. 

Inspired by the belief that we could all use a good laugh, the Art League of Long Island invited amateur and professional photographers from the tristate area to submit photographic images “capturing smile provoking images of humor, laughter, and all things silly with their camera lens” for its 7th annual juried photography exhibit, Laughing Out Loud, which opens June 29. 

‘French Art is Not PG’ by Gemma Saylor

“We all need a break from the seriousness of life and to share a little joy with one another,” said Susan Peragallo, gallery coordinator and curator for the Art League’s Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery in Dix Hills. “Everybody on the exhibition committee latched onto the idea and they really loved it. We were so pleased with the submissions and were literally laughing out loud.”

More than 200 photos were submitted for juror Alex Ferrone, owner of the Alex Ferrone Gallery in Cutchogue, to review. She ultimately narrowed the field to 51 of her favorites. 

“I was looking for an immediate response that made me laugh or chuckle because of what was happening in each scene. Along with that, I considered the structure of the image and the technical execution including composition, use of color, balance, and mood,” Ferrone explained. 

“Jurying is never easy, and it was an honor to be asked to work with the Art League on this fun exhibition. I believe this exhibit will make people feel good inside, and maybe just keep that feeling to pass along to the next person they meet,” she added.

Gemma Saylor of Centerport quickly had the perfect photo in mind when she heard about this year’s theme. Her submission, titled “French Art Is Not PG,” features her young daughter bashfully covering her eyes in front of a revealing painting at a French museum.

‘The ULTIMATE Movie Experience’ by Alissa Rosenberg

“Reading the news every day is just depressing, and I loved the idea of getting people to laugh no matter how bad things are,” said Saylor, who works as a dietitian while also running her photography business, Leela Bleu Photography. “It’s good to have a laugh and appreciate that small things in life can make us smile.”

Alissa Rosenberg of Commack chose her photo “The Ultimate Movie Experience” for the exhibit, which depicts her husband posing before a billboard of moviegoers as if he were one of them. The photo is part of Rosenberg’s ongoing Manhattan billboard project, where her subjects alter or enhance the meaning of the billboards with their poses.

“I’m very excited to be a part of this exhibit because I love the community that the Art League provides, and the gallery is beautiful. I also really respect Alex Ferrone’s work,” said Rosenberg, a speech pathologist and owner of Alissa Beth Photography. “Everybody wants to find things that make them smile and feel good, and it’s nice to create art that evokes those feelings.”

Laughing Out Loud will be on view from June 29 through Aug. 4 at the Art League’s Jeanie Tengelsen Gallery, 107 East Deer Park Road, Dix Hills. Winners of the juried exhibit will be announced at an artist reception on Sunday, June 30 from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. followed by a Gallery Talk led by Alex Ferrone on Thursday, July 11 at 7 p.m.  

The gallery is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. except for major holidays. Admission is free. For further information, visit www.artleagueli.net or call 631-462-5400.

Update:

Six Long Island Photographers Win Awards at “Laughing Out Loud” Juried Photography Exhibition

Local photographers came together at the June 30 reception honoring the photographers selected for “Laughing Out Loud”, the Art League of Long Island’s 7th annual juried photography exhibition.  The photographers were challenged to submit photographic works that captured the essence of humor. Of those who were selected to participate, exhibition juror Alex Ferrone singled out six photographers for the following awards:

Awards of Excellence: Anna Fredericks, Spin Me Again, Digital image capture; Edward Hansen, Woman at Mermaid Parade, Digital image capture; Eric Smalkin, Fun in the Mud, Digital image capture

Honorable Mentions:  John Michaels, Who Does Your Hair?, Digital image capture; Denis A. Ostrovsky, Brighton Beach, Digital image capture; Alissa Rosenberg, The ULTIMATE Movie Experience Billboards Around the City series, Digital image capture on archival Hahemühle Torchon paper.

For the full list of exhibiting photographers visit www.artleagueli.org.