Arts & Entertainment

‘Short Beach Lifeguard Station,’ oil on wood by Christian White

By Elizabeth Kahn Kaplan

The versatility as well as the talent of artist Christian White can be seen in his paintings and works on paper at Gallery North’s current solo exhibit. White comes by his talent naturally and, through training, hard work and self-discipline, has created a body of work over the past 50 years.

His paternal great-grandfather, Stanford White, designed the triumphal arch at Washington Square in Manhattan, among many notable architectural achievements. His paternal grandfather, Lawrence White, was a prominent architect and president of the National Academy of Design. His maternal grandfather, the Dutch artist Joep Nicolas, fostered White’s talent during his early years in Holland, where the young artist studied welding, stained glass and mosaics. He learned the sculptor’s skills while assisting his father, noted sculptor Robert White. His mother, the poet Claire Nicolas White, encouraged his ability to see beauty in the ordinary.

‘Self-Portrait,’ oil on wood by Christian White
‘Self-Portrait,’ oil on wood by Christian White

The title of the current exhibit at Gallery North, “Christian White: Fifty Years of Art,” may be misleading to those expecting to see a retrospective of works produced during the artist’s long and productive career. This is not a retrospective exhibit. Rather, White terms it as “introspective” in that it includes personal pieces — portraits of himself and his family and landscapes of places close to him. It includes paintings, drawings and prints, many of them figurative. In the words of the artist, “Many of the clientele at Gallery North identify me as a landscape painter, not a figure painter, but I’ve been a figurative artist throughout my entire career.”

The works are not hung chronologically, this not being a retrospective exhibition. With but a few exceptions, they were created during the past 15 years. A master of trompe l’oeil (fool the eye) painting, White’s “Alcove,” still life (2001), tempts one to reach out and touch the three-dimensional-appearing brightly painted objects inside the frame of painted pine. In White’s compelling “Self-Portrait” (2003), we meet his rather questioning direct gaze.

But as interesting and attention demanding as these two works are, what we may recall most clearly are paintings that reveal White’s great talent for capturing light and atmosphere — specifically, bright sunlight beating down on a hot summer day. We feel the summer midday heat in the bright blue sky that dominates more than half the canvas above the stretch of sand in “Ocean Beach” (2008). It is devoid of people and, therefore, of shadows, as low whitecaps meet the shore.

“Road/River #9” (2011) is uninhabited, too, and no wonder; the brilliant light, caused by a blazing sun beating down on the unforgiving macadam road, hints at a temperature above 90 degrees. The blues of sky and water and the yellow sand in “Short Beach Lifeguard Station” (2012) take second place to the sun-drenched bright white lifeguard chair, with its occupant painted loosely in attention-getting red as she watches a man — a mere dab of white paint ­— in a motor boat in the distance. Loosely painted small figures of a couple crowd the shade under a bright red and white umbrella, taking cover from the blazing sun.

In “Clematis #2” (2015) White provides closeups of brilliant white and vivid pink flowers as they cast shadows on a bright green lawn sparkling in the noonday sun. Light is a vital element in each of these landscapes.

Christian White: Fifty Years of Art will be on view at Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket, through July 10. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Don’t miss it. If you go this Sunday afternoon, June 28, you can also catch an ArTalk by the artist, with Franklin Perrell, an art expert and former curator at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn. Registration is required for the ArTalk by calling 631-751-2676. For more information, visit www.gallerynorth.org.

Kevin Burns and Katie Ferretti in a scene from ‘Mary Poppins’. Photo by William Sheehan

By Charles J. Morgan

Revivals in the theatah are of two kinds: the supercolossal musical smash and the ones that high school groups can do handily. The latter is exemplified by “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” the former by “Mary Poppins,” which opened in the Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at the CM Performing Arts Center’s massive venue in Oakdale on Saturday.

This performance was actually a paean to Pat Grossman, that factotum of the theater who directed it and did set design. His interpretive skills were as usual quite evident, but his ability at managing a highly mobile Victorian interior was noteworthy. Grossman’s minutely trained crew gave us a living room, kitchen, Mansard roof and upstairs bedroom all with the flavor of London in the era of the queen who gave her name to the age.

Choreography was by the indefatigable M.E. Junge. Her work in the tap number “A Step in Time” in Act II was outstanding; and in Act I’s “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” was the signature hit in the entire show. One minuscule comment: Your scribe cannot understand why she continues to execute highly complex dance numbers in semi-darkness. Music was handled by Matthew W. Surico with his exemplary accuracy with electronic feed music.

Katie Ferretti held the title role. Her far-ranging soprano and excitingly beautiful stage presence were truly riveting, especially in “Supercali…” and “A Spoonful of Sugar.” Bert the Chimney Sweep was played by Kevin Burns. His mid-range tenor was put to great use as was his obvious acting ability. He had an engaging stage personality that coalesced neatly with Ferretti.

The cook was played by Linda Pentz. Her ability with tough, no-nonsense females was a touch of reality in this magical realism production. Speaking of reality, there was the infrastructure roles of the Banks family. Carl Tese was George, the paterfamilias, perfectly authoritatively Victorian, demanding Order and Precision.

Aloof from any “sentimentality,” he came across most flexibly in a demanding role involving emotional changes. Amy Dowdell was his wife Winifred. Her Mrs. Banks was a plaintive, highly melodic revelation of her role as a Victorian wife. The children, Jane and Michael, were played by Katherine LaFountain and Austin Levine. These two kids were on the boards for long stretches without exits. Their ability  to concentrate as well as to sing and dance was demonstrably professional. A double role as Ms. Andrew who replaces Mary Poppins briefly as the Nanny and Mrs. Corrie, a street vendor, was handled by Pamela Parker. The power of her voice in “Brimstone and Treacle” revealed an operatic soprano that caused the light bars to waver.

This production was a true example of how the concatenation of scene changes, done with palpable dexterity, the exactitude of Junge, the eye of Grossman for interpretation prescinding from his skill as set designer, the interfacing of all of the above with that aesthetic dimension of acting,  dancing and singing created a ringing smash hit — a tribute to what the CMPAC is capable of — an exciting evening of musical theater.

The CM Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Highway, Oakdale, will present “Mary Poppins” through July 19. Tickets range from $20 to $29. For more information, call 218-2810 or visit www.cmpac.com.

‘The Missing Piece’ by Alisa Shea

By Talia Amorosano

“Strength is what appeals mostly to me in art. The work can be any medium, style, subject or size; however, in the end, the work must have power.” These words were spoken by David H. Reuss, an experienced illustrator, fine artist, comic artist, and writer — all occupations which have made him more than qualified to serve as juror for the Smithtown Township Arts Council’s upcoming 37th Annual Juried Fine Art Exhibition at the Mills Pond House in St. James, appropriately entitled “Power and Strength in Art.”

Reuss’s emphasis on powerful art may be connected to his admiration for the late comic book artist, John Buscema, well known not only for depicting physically strong Marvel comic book characters like Thor and Conan the Barbarian, but for his punchy, bold, and romanticized visual style. Regarding what he learned from taking art classes taught by Buscema at the Mills Pond House, Reuss said, “the infusion of power and strength in my work is the most consistent lesson I was taught by [Buscema] and it was what I was seeking in the works that I juried for this show.”

‘Lovers in 5th Avenue’ by Cesar Delos Santos
‘Lovers in 5th Avenue’ by Cesar Delos Santos

Reuss did not have to look far to find powerful artwork, as among the 40 artists whose work will be featured in the show, 28 are from Long Island and 5 are from New York City. However, this particular show does shine a wider light on American art, as six of the featured artists hail from places throughout the country as wide-ranging as Florida (Linda Trope) and California (Tonya Amyrin Rice). According to Executive Director of STAC, Allison Cruz, this national sphere allows local artists to “get their work under different eyes” and gives national artists the opportunity to exhibit in a desirable place. “The epitome of being in the contemporary art world is to exhibit in New York,” Cruz said.

As variable as the homes of the artists are the mediums which they use — acrylic, watercolor, oil, pencil, pastel, and ink are just some of the mediums highlighted in this show. Cruz said, “[Reuss] has selected a very wide variety of art. There’s no central theme except for strength of the piece, that it could just draw the viewer in. Whether you loved it or you hated it, you looked at it.” Though different mediums and styles make each artist’s work unique, each piece exhibited does have an essence of strength. How this strength is achieved and depicted, however, varies.

Some artwork, like David Herman’s acrylic painting, “Revolt, Seyithemba” and Eleanor Himel’s oil painting, “Morning Walk,” showcase vibrant contrasting colors contained by bold, solid shapes, while other pieces, like Cesar Delos Santos’ oil painting, “Lovers in 5th Avenue,” and Emilie Lee’s oil painting, “Fortitude,” dramatically display subjects with emotion-wrought facial expressions. Still other pieces carry a subtler power. Eric Chimon’s watercolor landscape, “Chesapeake Bay Boat,” uses a color scheme of muted blues and grays and elicits a quiet sense of dread, evocative of the calm before a storm.

Regarding the artists, Cruz said, “We have a lot of new artists in this show who I’m not familiar with, and to me, that’s the best thing. It’s always nice for local artists to be able to associate with artists who have never been here before. I think it’s good for Suffolk County, good for Long Island, and good for the artists. It’s a win-win-win.”

“Power and Strength in Art” will be on view at the Mills Pond House Gallery, 660 Route 25A, St. James, from June 27 to July 22. The gallery is open Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. (closed on July 4 and 5). The public is invited to an opening reception on Saturday, June 27, from 2 to 4 p.m. to meet the artists. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.stacarts.org.

From left, Lou Goold, Margaret Foster, Serena Brooks and Joan Wormell. Photo by Rita Egan

By Rita J. Egan

During the evening of the first night of the week, while many are wrapping up their weekends, the Sunday Nite Folk Dancers are kicking up their heels at the Smithtown Historical Society’s Frank Brush Barn. The welcoming group continues the teachings of leading 20th century folk dance teachers Mary Ann and Michael Herman as well as celebrates a tradition that has brought communities together for centuries.

Long-time member Lou Goold, who has been dancing with the group since 1985, said the members follow the folk dance program that the Hermans debuted at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The couple started Folk Dance House in Manhattan, and in the 1970s, after the group changed locations a couple of times in the city, they moved to North Babylon. The Hermans began leading their folk dance classes in Bay Shore and West Islip. After the passing of the couple in the mid-90s, and several years of the dancers meeting in Bay Shore, the group brought their love for folk dancing to Smithtown.

Goold said there are approximately a dozen or more members on any Sunday night who are more than happy to help newcomers learn the 15 or 20 dances a night. He said dance leader Ching-Hui Wu teaches twice a month. On other nights, called co-ops, the members take turns showing their fellow dancers their favorite numbers. “That’s a lot of fun, because we have cooperation. If one person forgets a dance or something like that, somebody else will help them out. So, it’s a very friendly group,” Goold said.

Margaret Foster, a member since the 90s, said she has enjoyed the variety of teachers throughout the years who have shared their specialties. Besides dances from America, there are also pieces from Scotland, Scandinavia, Israel, Bulgaria and other countries. “We enjoy learning something about the dances and the culture of the different places,” Foster said.

Goold said that helping people understand other ethnic groups through dance was a mission of the Hermans. Their motto was: “You can’t hate people when you’re doing their dances.”

Juanita Wetherell, who joined the group about 20 years ago, said she took a few years off to take care of family members. When she returned to the group, she was looking forward to dancing again but was doubtful she could remember the steps.

“When I first came back, I was thinking, ‘I haven’t danced in so long. I’m not going to remember any of the steps. I’m going to be the newbie all over again.’ Yet, I remembered somebody saying, ‘you listen to the music and your feet are going to know what to do’. And, you know, that’s pretty much what happened. The music tells you,” Wetherell said.

Her return reminded the dancer of her early days, when she was confused about rhythms and patterns.

Wetherell said Goold’s wife Kathy, a former dance leader, would sit her down next to her and just show her the footwork. The dancer said learning the steps first while sitting made it easier once she joined other dancers on the floor.

Foster said the leaders go over the sequences, so those who have never folk danced before can easily learn.

“You can come and learn as you go, and you’ll enjoy doing what you can and then you’ll learn more. You’ll start getting used to it next time. It’s the sort of thing that grows on you,” the group member said.

Ziggie Wielunski, a former dance leader, and his wife Alice have been dancing since 1947 and have been members of the Sunday Nite Folk Dancers since the group started meeting on the South Shore. Ziggie explained that folk dances are not that intricate, so anyone interested should come to the barn and try out the dances. Alice added, “The important thing is not to give up after the first time, but to come for a number of times, and you’ll find each time it’s easier and easier.”

The Sunday Nite Folk Dancers meet every Sunday from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., except the third Sunday of July and the month of August, at the Smithtown Historical Society Frank Brush Barn located at 211 Main Street in Smithtown. The fee is $8 and no partner is needed. All ages and dance levels are welcomed. For more information, call 516-781-3552 or 631-589-4203.

SPARKBOOM’s Off the Walls event in Huntington last year. File photo by Dan Woulfin

The sun has set on SPARKBOOM, a grant-funded program run by the Huntington Arts Council that helped foster young and emerging Long Island artists.

The program was discontinued after its grant ran out, according to Maureen Starr, who does public relations for the council. In an email, Starr said the council wasn’t awarded a Regional Economic Development Council grant from New York State this year.

SPARKBOOM was in existence for two years. The program’s last event was held on April 18 in Huntington.
The program’s goals were to showcase local artists from ages 18 to 34 and try to connect them with opportunities and networking on Long Island through a variety of different events and exhibitions. The program was all-inclusive when it came to the type of art forms it would promote — musicians, photographers, painters, visual performers and more participated in events.

The New York State Council on the Arts, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the New York State Legislature supported the grant-funded program, along with many other partners.

“We were thinking, what can we do to help emerging artists [who] tend to be underrepresented and are usually recently out of college?” Michelle Carollo said in a phone interview. Carollo was the artistic supervisor for SPARKBOOM.

Pandafan performs at a SPARKBOOM event. File photo by Dan Woulfin
Pandafan performs at a SPARKBOOM event. File photo by Dan Woulfin

Carollo helped oversee and organize more than 10 events, which included a holiday party that featured musicians and spoken-word poets, as well as window art and several film screenings with after-parties featuring musicians.

One of her favorite events, Off the Walls, was a block party and street fair in Huntington Station that showcased more than 30 art vendors, a BMX stunt bike show, live Latin dancing and an interactive mural painting.

“This event was unique because we were able to publicize it in two languages, so we were able to attract a much larger audience, and a couple hundred people ended up contributing to the community mural,” she said.

Steven Licardi is a poet who worked with SPARKBOOM and described the experience as “overwhelmingly positive.” He believes that what it did so well was combine art forms and artists on a large scale and show the public how talented Long Island artists are. He also thought that SPARKBOOM was doing successfully what other organizations were either not taking advantage of or not doing as well.

“Long Island has a booming artistic community … I would argue that it’s more than or equally as vibrant and diverse as Manhattan or Brooklyn,” he said in an email. “Long Island is teeming with talented people — particularly young people — who are tempting to redefine and re-imagine what art is.”

Long Island is getting older, and its youth population is smaller than neighboring regions, statistics show.

According to the Long Island Index, the Island’s 55 and older population is growing by about 2 percent per year. The trend started to accelerate in 2007 and is expected to last for another decade. In Nassau and Suffolk counties, 29 percent of residents were over 55 in 2013, up from 25 percent in 2007.

Meanwhile, the number of 25 to 34 year olds was declining through 2007 and has held relatively steady at 11 percent of the population since then. That’s less than other suburban parts of the region and much less than New York City, which stands at 18 percent.

Employment is one of the main reasons young people leave Long Island, according to a Destination LI survey published last year. Nearly 57 percent of millennials were unable to find jobs aligned with their skills on Long Island.

For one young artist, SPARKBOOM helped her advance professionally, she said.

“SPARKBOOM offered me an entryway into performing more meaningful shows on Long Island, a goal I was having difficulty reaching on my own,” Alexa Dexa, a musician who participated in several of the program’s events, said in an email. “As a young artist, it was extremely encouraging to participate in events that fostered a real sense of community, and to be selected on the merit of my work … It was a blessing to have the exposure and funding for my performances that the infrastructure of SPARKBOOM was able to provide,” she said.

Marc Courtade, the executive director of the Huntington Arts Council, said the curtain has closed on the program for the foreseeable future.

“I am sorry to say there are no plans [to keep a program like this going] at the moment,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s unfortunate because it was a very good program, there was really nothing comparable to this program.”

Licardi echoed Couratade’s sentiment.

“The loss of SPARKBOOM is a huge blow to the Long Island arts scene.”

Festivalgoers enjoy listening to music on the Great Lawn at the Vanderbilt Museum. Photo by Stacy Santini

By Stacy Santini

It is hard to imagine that William K. Vanderbilt II envisioned people dancing ensconced in tie dye, Frisbees being tossed into the wind, and Grateful Dead melodies connecting with the air when he donated his 43-acre Eagle’s Nest estate in Centerport to the county in 1944, but if he were at what is now known as the Vanderbilt Museum on June 7, it is pretty certain that he would marvel at the sight. Exceptional weather with crystalline blue overhead, grassy knolls kissing azure water and ornate gothic buildings served as a brilliant host to a Woodstock Revival.

The amazing world of event promoter, Rich Rivkin is a wonderland of Birkenstocks, hula hoops, live music, visual artists, bubbles, and face painters. Rivkin, who started Rich Rivkin Presents more than a decade ago, is a live art and music promotional entity. He has become a sort of pied piper for a community of people who love music, the energy and movement of festivals and fellowship. Rivkin tells us, “Look at the people around you at these events. You know that years ago they were there at those shows that the Grateful Dead and similar artists became known for — themed festivals where the audience feels a tangible sense of community as they sing the same songs in unison. I wanted to recreate that.”

Artist Stelios Stylianou paints overlooking Northport Harbor at the Vanderbilt Museum. Photo by Stacy Santini
Artist Stelios Stylianou paints overlooking Northport Harbor at the Vanderbilt Museum. Photo by Stacy Santini

Rivkin is a humble and kind soul who has made a profession out of all things altruistic.  He is an environmental consultant specializing in the removal of contaminated soil and has become a national expert advisor in the field. With clients such as UPS, Rivkin’s company has more than 4,000 projects to its credit, recycling soil and bettering communities around the United States.

He is also a talented hand percussionist. Fifteen years ago he began to form drum circles so that passionate musicians like himself could collaborate with one another and share their work. Within a short period of time, popular local bands like Reckoning were eager to participate and one of Long Island’s first music festivals, called Elwoodstock, was born, overseen by Rivkin. Held at a public park in Elwood in 2001, musicians joined Rivkin for a day of music and togetherness. There were no permits in place, no insurance obtained and next to zero marketing performed, but people turned out and have been turning out ever since.

Rivkin recalls the moment he knew that these events were indeed something he not only wanted to pursue, but felt compelled to do. “It was as if we created a living room under the stars, Persian rugs and all.  In the afterglow of everyone’s departure, I could still feel the vibe, the energy of the music, the sense of community.  It was so personal, it actually made me cry. I had no idea in that moment how it would expand,  but the seed was planted and there was no turning back.”

Known for its pristine shorelines and beaches, Long Island certainly has much to offer, but there is a movement occurring that is rapidly injecting culture into our neck of the woods and Rivkin can certainly be attributed for facilitating this local renaissance. Fusing world class musicians with local visual artists, his events have become an enclave for creators and observers alike and Rich Rivkin Presents is synonymous with both art forms.  He has joined these communities together and created a fellowship much like the days of the 1960s when the Grateful Dead lyric, “Strangers stopping strangers just to shake their hands,” was the mantra. It is really quite beautiful and very much needed in such a secular society.

Ann McInerney (aka Annie Mac) and Mike Katzman of Jellyband perform at the Vanderbilt Museum. Photo by Stacy Santini
Ann McInerney (aka Annie Mac) and Mike Katzman of Jellyband perform at the Vanderbilt Museum. Photo by Stacy Santini

On Sunday, June 7, more than 50 years after the Woodstock Music Festival in upstate New York stunned a nation, the grounds of the Vanderbilt Museum were literally transformed to sustain a revival of that historical moment. Droves of hippy-clad professionals, music aficionados and art lovers alike freckled the lawns and set up camp amongst the historical landmark structures to enjoy a day of peace, love and joy. Dancing amid colorful tents, coolers and strewn blankets, attendees were treated to some of the best local music around and were able to witness the alluring process of artisans painting their canvases.

Out of the gate, the first of four bands, Jellyband, gave crowd–pleasing renditions of Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Joe Cocker favorites. Lead singer Annie Mac delivered a goose bump-inducing version of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” elevating the energy of the crowd to eagle-soaring heights.

Germinating the vibe, Milagro took the stage next, singing and emulating Santana as only Milagro can do, bringing us favorites such as “Black Magic Woman.” A welcome addition to the familiar setlists came from the third band, Wonderous Stories, as they impeccably treated the crowd to the entire “Who’s Next” album by the incomparable beloved rock ensemble, The Who.  Essentially, one voice emanated from the crowd as “Behind Blue Eyes” settled upon the audience.

Half Step, a group that has a strong following with the Long Island Deadhead community, was astounding and closed the day with an execution of “Morning Dew” that even Jerry Garcia would have loved. The vocals of Tom San Filippo and Cindy Lopez recreate the magic of the Grateful Dead in a manner very few can do. As well-known music photographers, such as Joel Werner and Artie Ralisch, and fan photographer Jason Cousins captured the crowd’s moments of rapture, it was apparent that there was no place on earth any of these people would have rather been. Festivalgoer Tom Schilling sums it up, “Breathtaking views, soul nurturing tunes, with my great friends, it is my favorite start to the season. Rivkin’s Deadfest here in September will just cap it all off.”

Rich Rivkin Presents will be indulging his friends numerous times throughout the summer with events such as Box of Rain, Long Island Sound & Art Festival and Grateful Fest. During the winter, Rivkin keeps the momentum going with indoor experiences as well. Next year, he hopes to mirror larger national festivals with a two-day camping event on a private 40-acre property on eastern Long Island. Rich Rivkin’s recipe for entertaining folks and bringing people together is marvelous, and one can only hope that he keeps playing his magical flute for years to come. For more information, please visit www.limusicfestivals.com.

Book launch to be held at annual members reception

The front cover of Stephanie Gress’s new book. Image from Vanderbilt Museum

Stephanie Gress knows more about the history of William K. Vanderbilt II than most people. As director of curatorial affairs for the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum for eight years¸ she is the steward of Mr. Vanderbilt’s legacy, his estate, mansion and museum collections.

Using that extensive knowledge and a trove of rare photographs from the Vanderbilt archives, Gress created a richly illustrated book, Eagle’s Nest: The William K. Vanderbilt II Estate. Its cover photo, from the Vanderbilt Museum archives, is by the noted New York City photographer Drix Duryea. The picture shows the bell tower and one wing of the mansion in the late 1920s, before the Memorial Wing enclosed the courtyard.

The book was published June 1, by Arcadia Publishing in South Carolina, the leading local-history publisher in the United States. The Vanderbilt will celebrate the book’s official launch at its annual Members Reception on Sunday, June 28.

Gress noted that the release of the book is well-timed, as the development of the Eagle’s Nest estate is in its centennial decade: “This book tells readers about the Vanderbilt family, why Mr. Vanderbilt came here and built the estate, how the place changed over the years based on changes in his life, and how we use it today.”

Vanderbilt, known as Willie K., purchased the first parcel of what would become 43 acres for his Northport Bay waterfront estate in 1910, and hired the eminent New York City architectural firm of Warren & Wetmore to design and build it. The firm had designed Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan for Cornelius Vanderbilt’s New York Central Railroad. Cornelius was William’s great-grandfather.

Eagle’s Nest is the easternmost Gold Coast mansion on Long Island’s affluent North Shore. From 1910 to 1944, the palatial, 24-room, Spanish-Revival mansion was Willie K.’s summer hideaway. There he hosted intimate gatherings of Vanderbilt family members and close friends — including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, legendary golfer Sam Snead, and the Tiffanys.

“Mr. Vanderbilt embarked on many of his legendary world voyages from Eagle’s Nest,” Gress said, “along with a 50-person crew and a few, fortunate invited passengers.” During his travels, she said, he collected natural-history and marine specimens and ethnographic artifacts from around the globe.

With the help of scientists and experts from the America Museum of Natural History, he created exhibits in the galleries at the estate to showcase his collections.  Mr. Vanderbilt died in 1944. His wife Rosamund continued to live in the mansion until her death in 1947.  Vanderbilt’s will bequeathed his estate and museum to Suffolk County. In 1950, it was opened to the public as the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum. The estate is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“Much to the credit of Willie K., Eagle’s Nest continues to fulfill his intended mission,” Gress wrote in the conclusion of the book. “Visitors from all over the world come to see one of the few remaining Long Island Gold Coast estates with its original furnishings. His collections remain on display and they continue to fascinate and entertain.”

Eagle’s Nest is available for purchase on the Arcadia Publishing, Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites, in the Vanderbilt Museum Gift Shop and in local bookstores.

Fred Hall, vice president and general manager of the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company, has been selected as the 67th Ringmaster of the Barnum Festival. The Barnum Festival, founded in 1948, is meant to build community spirit, as well as honor Phineas Taylor Barnum, a successful businessman, community leader and world-renowned showman, who was a resident of Bridgeport.

The festival will run from June 12 to 28, and every year a ringmaster is chosen to lead the festivities. The event, which will be held in various locations throughout the greater Bridgeport area, includes the Wing Ding Parade for Kids, the Ringmaster’s Ball, the Barnum Pub Fest, and the Greater Bridgeport Symphony Pops Concert and Skyblast Fireworks.

Ringmaster Fred Hall, photo from Hall
Ringmaster Fred Hall, photo from Hall

Hall first joined the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company in 1976 and became vice president in 1985. He served as a judge on the royal family panel for two years. I recently chatted with Fred Hall about his newly appointed position.

Q. What are the duties and responsibilities of the ringmaster?
A. You are basically the master of all the ceremonies. You’re at almost every event and are the face of the festival. Some specific duties I’ll do is throwing the first pitch at the Long Island Ducks and Bridgeport Bluefish baseball game and putting together a friendly wager between Mayor Bill Finch of Bridgeport and Mayor Margot Garant of Port Jefferson during the game.

Q. Are you essentially the kickoff for every event?
A. Pretty much. I think I have 16 appearances in the month of June alone. One of the events that is not widely know, we actually go to nursing homes and convalescent homes and we put on small shows for the residents. I know we go to more than 10 homes and we do the show and stop in. For some of these folks it’s the highlight of their year. All the past ringmasters told me that is the most rewarding of all the events.

Q. Can you give me a bit of a preview of the show?
A. No, because rehearsal hasn’t even started yet!

Q. Oh, I see. So when does rehearsal start?
A. We need to find out who the winners of the Barnum’s Got Talent Competition on June 13 are. Right after that we go into rehearsals for the small road shows, with myself, the performers and the royal family.

Q. What exactly is the royal family?
A. The royal family is made up of six members: a king, queen, prince, princess, Tom Thumb and Lavinia. To find the king, queen, prince and princess, we ask for two high school juniors in the top 15 percent of their class, one male and one female, from every school we can get in Connecticut. They go through a two-part process; the first is a panel of judges who asks varying questions to each contestant. The two years I served as a judge, my question was “Who was P.T. Barnum?” Not everyone knows about Barnum, the philanthropist or the inventor. So we have to get the word out! After the panel we hold a social event for them, and we are looking for the kids that are getting other kids dancing and socializing. At the end of that event the judges select a king, queen, prince and princess, and they all get scholarships.

Q. Who are Tom Thumb and Lavinia?
A. They were little people that Barnum employed in his circus, and they were also married. So we have a competition with seven- or eight-year-olds. Interviews happen, they get a tour of the museum, and at the end of the event we chose a Tom Thumb and Lavinia, and they comprise the last two members of the royal family.

Q. Can you tell me a little about some specific events, like the Ringmaster’s Ball?
A. It’s a great social event. Last year there were 500 people. There are cocktails, dinner, dancing; and a lot of people from the area show up. We get numerous politicians; last year Governor Malloy attended. It’s a great event. The tickets are $175, and the money helps support the scholarships we give out every year, as well as the various activities during the festival.

Q. What are you most looking forward to this year?
A. Meeting new people, getting to know the entire royal family. There really are some amazing people involved in this festival, and frankly I am in awe of them. The volunteers as well are terrific people. I can’t emphasize enough how much this festival is about the people.

Q. What was the best piece of advice former ringmasters gave you?
A. Just to relax and enjoy it as much as possible. The previous ringmasters and Elaine Ficarra, executive director of the festival, built a tremendous organization here.

For more information, call 203-367-8495 or visit www.barnumfestival.com.

Discovering the science of wind at the Maritime Explorium. Photo by Jacqueline Grennon-Brooks

By Erin Dueñas

Calling all artisans, DIYers, amateur scientists, inventors, innovators and everyone in between: The first large-scale Makers Festival is set to debut on Long Island this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Port Jefferson Village Center and Harborfront Park.

Presented and co-sponsored by the Maritime Explorium in Port Jefferson, the Long Island Makers Festival 2015 will feature a broad range of interactive exhibits including 3D printing, robotics, green screen technology, performance art, African drummers, roller skating, organic gardening and even geologists setting off volcanoes. The Explorium will also be open; there will be a “meet the scientist” booth and a horseshoe crab walk is scheduled. According to festival event coordinator Cindy Morris, the aim of the festival is to encourage the people who are already actively “making” as well as to show the community that innovation can happen anywhere.

“The common thread of the Maker Movement is accessible innovation,” Morris said. “The reality is that people have great ideas. We want to empower the ones who are creating. We found some amazing people.”

Morris said that financial backers and high-tech equipment is no longer necessary for anyone looking to invent and create. “This is something anyone can do. You don’t need a $5,000 piece of equipment. People are doing these things in their living rooms and garages.”

Mixing technology, coding and moving with kidOYO. Photo by Melora Loffreto
Mixing technology, coding and moving with kidOYO. Photo by Melora Loffreto

The Maker Movement is a mash up of lovers of art, science, technology, engineering, entrepreneurship and innovation who quite literally make things based on that love. “These are people who are inventors, artists and scientists who are doing incredible things. We believe it was time to showcase what is going on here on Long Island.” Morris said the festival will include a group of men who make holograms and students who created their own 3D printer. “We are taking concepts that feel big and powerful and making them accessible.”

Morris said that the festival motto is “Try it.” “The event is going to be very hands-on. No one could run an exhibit without it being interactive,” Morris said. “We are not just showing what was made, but we are focusing on what you can be doing.”

According to Lauren Hubbard, executive director of the Explorium, the festival will be an extension of what the Explorium does every day. A hands-on museum that features what Hubbard calls “open-ended exhibits,” the Explorium encourages visitors to build and create whatever they want. “You can do the same activity and get a different outcome every time,” Hubbard said. “There are just a million things that can be built.”

She said that the Makers Festival will offer visitors the same experience. “It’s all going to be hands-on and open ended,” Hubbard said. “We wanted to provide a venue for all Maker people to come together for a family friendly day. There’s going to be something for everyone.”

Melora Loffreto is the founder of the festival co-sponsor KidOYO, a program geared toward children ages 7 to 17 that teaches computer programming and coding. She said that Makers festivals and fairs have been popping up in small-scale locations such as schools and libraries across Long Island, but the Port Jefferson festival is the largest so far. “They take place in larger cities and there is a big one in Queens, but this is really the first to come out this way,” Loffreto said.

She described the Makers Movement as particularly important to Long Island. “Our youth is funneling off the Island. The festival is going to say that we have lots of Makers here, we have the skill set and we want to inspire people to keep the talent local.” She said the Makers Movement and the upcoming festival will help to keep skills in the United States. “We want to spur on inventors and to inspire local youth to go down a path of inventing and engineering.”

Stephen Fricker and Patricia Shih. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

Patricia Shih, an award-winning singer-songwriter, and her rollicking sidekick, Stephen Fricker, return to the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s Charles and Helen Reichert Planetarium, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport, on Sunday, June 14, for another multimedia, audience participation family concert at 4:30 p.m. Their show, Songs in the Key of Earth, with images and video projected onto the planetarium dome, is an hour-long family concert for all ages.

The duo will use the wonder and magic of the planetarium to take the audience on a rocket ship ride through space and back to Earth. Along the way, the audience will appreciate the planet’s beauty and fragility, get to make wishes upon the first star, snuggle up with a lullaby, help to make a thunderstorm, and dance under a huge rainbow. Music, projected images and video all create an enchanting journey under the planetarium’s starry dome. Shih said the evening will celebrate the Earth and “the greatest idea in the universe — love — found only on this planet.”

Shih and Fricker are renowned for including the audience as guest stars, inspiring them to sing and clap along, help write a song, dance and move, and learn sign language. Concertgoers will use the power of their imaginations — with help from the planetarium — to go on a universal adventure.

Shih wrote her first song at age 12 and hasn’t stopped since. Her professional career began when she was 15 and signed a recording and management contract with Unicorn Records of Washington, D.C., as half of a duo. She released a 45-rpm record a year later, and numerous television, radio, concert and club performances followed. Those included an international radio broadcast on the Voice of America and appearances at the legendary Cellar Door. Several years later, she began her solo career in California, notably on her own PBS special “Patty Shih — Music from the Gallery.” Soon after, she returned to the East Coast and settled in Huntington.

Shih has recorded three albums for adults and five for families and children. Her albums have brought her honors including the Gold Award from the National Association of Parenting Publications, two Parents’ Choice Awards and Creative Child Magazine’s Seal of Excellence.

Admission is $8 per person. Seating is limited, and advance purchase is strongly recommended. Tickets can be purchased at www.vanderbiltmuseum.org. For more information, call 631-854-5579.

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