Arts & Entertainment

Many of us may think that black-and-white photographs are not interesting. Mimi Hodges, an enthusiastic photographer and Sound Beach resident, doesn’t agree. She likes to take black-and-white photographs of local places. As she puts it, “color can sometimes be a distraction.”

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Mary Jane van Zeijts photo by Irene Ruddock

By Irene Ruddock

Award-winning artist Mary Jane van Zeijts recently opened her own studio/gallery, Studio 268, at 268 Main Street in Setauket to display her work and teach art. I recently sat down with Mary Jane to share her thoughts on her art and her new adventures.

Irene: I know you recently moved back to Stony Brook from New Jersey. What made you move back?
Mary Jane: I missed the people, the art community, the silvery Long Island light that’s so special, but mostly I missed my friends! My children spent their first 11 years here so it is home to them, too. It confirms my belief that the Three Village area is a great place to bring up children. My son is in the Stony Brook School, which he loves. So many good things have happened to me since I’ve been back that I feel my life is going in a new and exciting direction. I never tire of things to paint here such as Avalon Park, [Frank] Melville [Memorial] Park and West Meadow Beach. The landscape is so varied that I am forever inspired to create.

I: You just renovated a house in Stony Brook that was on the Three Village Historical Society’s house tour. The decor of a house tells a lot about the owner. Tell us about it.
MJ: It’s really just things I’ve collected that are meaningful to me: a table from my parent’s blacksmith shop in Holland, Dutch wooden shoes, an antique clock, and paintings and sculptures from fellow artists. I like an uncluttered, clean design that lets me breathe, yet I yearn to be surrounded by things that touch my heart and are a part of my heritage.

I: When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
MJ: Growing up, I was always involved with drawing and painting. I started teaching at age 16 at the Gifted Child Society where I realized that I loved working with young people. I received my bachelor’s degree in fine art from the Maryland Institute College of Art and earned my masters in art education from NYU.

I: Can you describe what you are trying to say when you paint?
MJ: It’s more about feelings than what I actually see and the desire to have those feelings come through the painting. Pastels allow me to do that because they are so immediate. You feel it and you can just put it down before it is lost. You don’t have to mix the paint, or wait for anything to dry. Creating is all about problem solving. It’s a great way to be aware of what’s around you, to interact with and observe nature, to create something that acknowledges the beauty everywhere. When someone buys my work, my wish is to make them happy and to have that painting “speak” to them.

I: Art is different to every artist. What is art to you?
MJ: Art allows you to be quiet with yourself, it centers you, and gives you an awareness of yourself. I believe art is one of the highest form of communication — a universal language that evokes emotions. One experiences art on a deeper level.

I: You have spoken about your family. What are they like?
MJ: My parents are Dutch. They are straight-forward, practical, no nonsense people who love family and traditions. They, like most Dutch people, love the water, the great outdoors and adventure. They have a very strong work ethic.
My great-grandparents were active in the Dutch underground in World War ll. They hid and moved Jewish families through Holland. I treasure a tea box given to me by a man who was saved by my family. I look back and hope this generation will be as strong, principled and loyal as they were. I hope this strength and bravery will go forward and will not be lost.

I: What is the best advice you have ever received?
MJ: My dad always gave the best advice. He said that “If someone says that you are not capable of doing something, you need to ignore them and try to do it anyway.” He said, “Just do the right thing and every else will fall in place.”

I: Tell me about your three children. What are they like?
MJ: Everyone says that they were brought up well, but their goodness and specialness doesn’t come from anything I did. They are better than I am. I have learned from them to try to handle life with grace and faith.

I: What would be your advice to them?
MJ: I would tell them to trust in themselves and let their faith guide them.

I: You have just opened your studio and gallery. What is your vision for that?
MJ: I am thrilled to fulfill my lifelong dream of having my own studio to share my art with the community. I want it to be a comfortable space where children and adults learn, guest artists show their work, and people feel free to just stop by and say hello. My vision is to make the studio a joyful place of creativity and excitement where all are welcome!

Studio 268 will hold a grand opening on Sunday, Dec. 20, from 1 to 5 p.m. Join Mary Jane before or after your holiday shopping to view the art, mingle with fellow artists and enjoy some light refreshments. The gallery is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For information about classes or private appointments, contact Mary Jane at or call/text her at 631-220-4529. You may view her art at

Tours of decorated mansion held through Dec. 30

From left, Karen Mills-Lynch, Phyllis Kelly and Mary DiFronzo of the Three Village Garden Club trim the tree in the Vanderbilt Mansion library. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

Interior designers and garden clubs deck the halls of the Vanderbilt Mansion in Centerport each year, and hundreds of visitors see the delightful results beginning the day after Thanksgiving.

The 24-room Spanish Revival house — listed on the National Register of Historic Places — is enhanced with garland, holly, 10 elegantly ornamented trees, poinsettias, brightly wrapped packages, greens and pine cones from the Vanderbilt estate and an enchanting atmosphere of early- and mid-twentieth century holiday cheer.

Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the museum, said, “We’re grateful to these imaginative decorators, who generously donate their time and talent to create an atmosphere of charming holiday grandeur and sophisticated living. They bring magic to this historic house.”

Participating this year were the Dix Hills, Centerport, Honey Hills, Nathan Hale and Three Village garden clubs; Harbor Homestead & Co. Design; and the master gardeners of the Cornell University Cooperative Extension. All have participated in the project for many years.

Artists and garden specialists from the Three Village Garden Club (representing Old Field, Setauket and Stony Brook) decorated the spacious, paneled Vanderbilt library and its tree. Beneath the tree are faux gifts wrapped with bright papers, foils and ribbons. Ornate, two-foot, stylized silver trees adorn the fireplace.

“We trimmed the tree with gold and copper ornament balls and with strands of clear, multi-faceted stones to reflect the light from the small white bulbs,” said Joann Canino of the Three Village Garden Club. “The white poinsettias used as ornaments suggest doves, a symbol of peace. We also placed white poinsettias with silver bows on the mantel of the library’s large fireplace.

“The Vanderbilt Mansion is an architectural celebration. It’s one of those grand houses that has a warm, family feeling. Our club is pleased to be part of dressing it up for the holidays. It’s great fun.”

Mary Schlotter and daughter Krishtia McCord, both of Centerport, decorated the bedroom of William K. Vanderbilt II, and the Moroccan Court next to the Vanderbilt library. They operate the Harbor Homestead & Co. design firm.

For the past several years, Schlotter also has been among the designers invited to decorate The White House for the holidays, the Fourth of July and Halloween.

“Mr. Vanderbilt loved peacocks and had them on the estate,” Schlotter said. “The bedroom color scheme is inspired by the colors in peacock feathers — deep teal, cobalt blue, apple green, plum and gold. We wanted it to look like a sophisticated man’s room,” Schlotter said.

Schlotter and McCord added wreaths of teal-blue feathers to the top of the French doors that open onto the bedroom porch with a view of Northport Bay. “Acorns are a feature of the Vanderbilt family crest, and we used acorn ornaments with the greenery that decorates the fireplace mantel. Ivy vines sprayed with gold paint and woven through the garland trim the doorways.”

In the Moroccan Court, with its rare Spanish and Portuguese tiles, they decorated the built-in tiled bench with throw pillows. The colors of the pillows match those in the antique tiles, each of which is a miniature folk painting. Decorations include a café setting with a small round table and two chairs; a basket of fruits and nuts; silver candles in ornate, antique bronze candlesticks; up-lighted palm trees; a candle-lit silver lantern next to the small fountain set into the floor; and gauzy, transparent fabric hung in front of the tall, arched windows.

Christine Lagana and her friends from the Dix Hills Garden Club decorated the Portuguese Sitting Room. “The tone was set by the deep blue in the rug and the sculpture of a knight on horseback, which has the same colors as the rug,” Lagana said, “and by the medieval theme of the 1494 fireplace surround, which features carved faces of crusaders.

“We added gold ribbon and pine cones to the garland, and small turquoise and cobalt ornament balls on the tree. One group of large ornaments displays a replica of the Vanderbilt family crest inside clear-glass globes.” Acorn-shaped ornaments echo the acorns in the family crest, which is painted on the fireplace hood in the dining room.”

Guided tours of the decorated mansion will be held through Dec. 30. During the day, tours are given Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday (including Dec. 28 and 30) at 12:30, 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. Visitors pay the general admission fee plus $5 per person for a tour.

The popular Twilight Tours of the mansion will be given Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 26 and 27, from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for students and seniors (62 and older) and $5 for children 12 and under. Hot chocolate and cookies are included. This event is a treat for visitors, and the only time of the year the Vanderbilt family’s private living quarters can be seen at night.

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Mansion is located at 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport. For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit

SkyZone photo from Kevin Ryan O’Connor

By Carolann Ryan

As the temperatures drop and days shorten, many of us find ourselves stuck inside at home, glued to our couches and televisions, during the long, cold winter months.  This year, tell yourself it’s time for a change of pace. Long Island offers a wide array of fun children and family-friendly programs, events and activities all winter long. Whether your little ones enjoy sports, arts and crafts, reading or just playing with others, there is a place for it. This list of Long Island winter activities will get you and your kids out of the house exploring in no time.

Long Island Aquarium, Riverhead
If you and your children are animal lovers, check out the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead. Daily events such as shows and “talk and feeds” with various animals like piranhas, sea lions, stingrays, African penguins and sharks provide educational and interactive fun. On holidays and weekends, you can even take a “selfie” with one of the lovable sea lions or be a shark keeper for the day. There are also various indoor exhibits, a touch tank, an exciting shark dive and a submarine simulator. The aquarium will also be holding a special Santa brunch on Sunday, Dec. 13, where you can explore the aquarium for the day and meet Santa. For more information on the Long Island Aquarium and its events, you can call 631-208-9200, or visit

The Rinx — Skating on the Harbor, Port Jefferson
Visit the Port Jefferson Village Center for the ultimate winter activity — ice skating!  The Rinx has an ice skating school that offers programs for children as young as 3½ years.  Classes are offered in two series, each of which is six weeks long for $125.  Each of the series includes one 30-minute lesson per week on your preferred day and time, admission weekly to a public skating session and a membership in USFS Basic Skills Program, as well as a USFS Basic Skills record book and stickers and USFS badges upon mastering of each level.  With an experienced and qualified staff of professionals, your kids will learn the fundamentals of ice skating with a major emphasis on fun.  Series 1 will begin on Nov. 29 and registration is open now!  For more information on The Rinx and its ice skating school, call 631-403-4357 or visit

Sky Zone Trampoline Park, Mount Sinai
When your kids are stuck inside during the cold winter months, they need a way to get out that pent up energy, and Sky Zone Trampoline Park is the perfect place to jump it out. The park has numerous activities inside to choose from, including free jump sessions, a foam pit for freestyle jumping, ultimate dodge ball, basketball hoops and more. All ages are welcome, and with jump times starting every 15 to 30 minutes, there is no shortage of fun, so jump in. For reservations, pricing and information call 631-938-1420 or visit

YMCA Huntington
For everyday activities that promote healthy, fun lifestyles, spend your winter at the YMCA in Huntington. With exclusive winter memberships available, the Y features two heated indoor pools for recreational swimming as well as lessons and a separate building complete with gymnasium and studio classes. The Huntington YMCA also includes a new children’s center that features 13 modern classrooms for early childhood programs and before and after school care.  To get more information and membership pricing on the YMCA of Huntington, visit or call 631-421-4242.

Port Jefferson Free Library
The Port Jefferson Free Library offers many free programs for children all winter long. Activities offered include toddler and preschool story times and playtimes, robotics camp, a Mad Hatter Tea Party, movie screenings, game nights, Habitat for Humanity programs and classes for activities such as dance, chess, science and winter-themed arts and crafts. The library will also be hosting a family holiday bus trip to New York City on Saturday, Dec. 12.  You must be a Port Jefferson Free Library cardholder to register for programs. For more on this event and other programs, please call the Port Jefferson Free Library at 631-473-0022, or visit

Take the kids out to play this winter at various spots across Long Island. Above left, scenes of fun at the Port Jefferson Free Library. Center and right, kids have a blast at a Sky Zone Trampoline Park.

Stephanie Gress has made a mark on the Vanderbilt Museum. Photo from Gress

By Victoria Espinoza

Stephanie Gress has made a mark on the Vanderbilt Museum. Photo from Gress
Stephanie Gress has made a mark on the Vanderbilt Museum. Photo from Gress

One employee at the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum was a fan of the spot long before she started working there and improving many of the exhibits.

Stephanie Gress, director of the curatorial department, frequented the Vanderbilt as a kid growing up in St. James, and even went there on her second date with her future husband to see the Pink Floyd laser show at the museum’s planetarium.

“A lot of people have a fond memory from here,” Gress said in a phone interview. “My niece actually had her wedding here as well.”

Gress has been upgrading exhibits at the Vanderbilt for nearly 15 years. She said some of the collections in the museum were more than 100 years old when she stepped in and needed refurbishing, and she was able to find funding to make the renovations possible.

The first exhibit Gress focused on, the Habitat Gallery, had been closed to the public since 1996, but she reopened it in 2001. She received a Save America’s Treasures grant — through the National Park Service — to make the renovations possible, including cleaning and restoring taxidermied animals displayed inside the dioramas.

“There was a whole generation of people on Long Island who hadn’t seen the exhibit,” Gress said.

For two years, Gress has also been working on a project at the Hall of Fishes that involves working with dry and wet fish specimens. She said some of the fish are a century old, and they have to be treated with extreme care because they are so fragile.

Adult glasseye snappers, collected on Cocos Island, Costa Rica, in 1928. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum
Adult glasseye snappers, collected on Cocos Island, Costa Rica, in 1928. Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

William K. Vanderbilt II, the museum’s founder, caught all of the fish himself, according to Gress, and some were the first of their kind ever caught, so “he had the fun task of naming them.”

She said she feels lucky to have found the money to finance these projects because that can be difficult, but is crucial to keep the displays in the museum in their best shape.

Gress likes many aspects of her job.

“I enjoy seeing the reactions of the kids and parents that come here,” Gress said. “There is nothing else like this on Long Island. You can’t see another polar bear or whale shark around here.”

She said aims to continue Vanderbilt’s intention when he created the museum, — to bring pieces of other countries and cultures to Long Island.

“You can choose to visit the planetarium, see the museum or even just take a picnic on the grounds.”

Gress wrote a book this year, “Eagle’s Nest: The William K. Vanderbilt II Estate,” which has details about why the museum founder built his estate in Centerport and “how the place changed over the years, based on changes in his life, and how we use it today,” she said when the book was being released over the summer.

In terms of future projects, Gress said in an interview this week that there is always something to work on, and she expects to soon digitize the collections online to bring them to people who can’t make the trip to the museum.

A scene featuring principal dancer Alexandra Palma as Sugar Plum with a host of Angels opening Act II from last year’s production of ‘The Nutcracker.’ Photo from Dimitri Papadakos

The Seiskaya Ballet School is always on point, especially around the holidays. For the past 21 years the company has performed its rendition of “The Nutcracker” at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center and this year is no different.

“Christmas is [The] Nutcracker,” said Valia Seiskaya. Russian-born Seiskaya has choreographed the school’s “Nutcracker” since 1995 when they started performing the production at the Staller Center. While “The Nutcracker” is popular around the holiday season, the ballet school took a theatrical approach to the performance. Dimitri Papadakos, the ballet school’s administrator and Seiskaya’s husband, said the  performance will include a flying sleigh, a dragon that blows smoke and other elements that will bring the performance to life.

“If you’re going to do something you might as well try to do it better than anybody else,” Papadakos said. “So we got creative in our sets.”

The backdrops for the school’s annual production are tailored specifically to the Staller Center stage. Viewers can get a hint of scenes to come by looking at the backdrops during the performance. While the production is designed for a full theatrical experience  that will keep even the youngest audience members glued to their seats, the dramatic setting isn’t the only captivating aspect of Seiskaya’s “Nutcracker” — it’s also about the acting and dancing of the production’s 90- to 100-member cast.

Soloist Diana Atoian is returning for another shot at “The Nutcracker.” Like many “Nutcracker” performers, 14-year-old Diana has several roles including Clara. She said what makes Seiskaya’s rendition of “The Nutcracker” so unique is the dancers dedication to their craft.

“It’s just the passion that gets us going,” Diana said. “Valia is a very good teacher. She helps us feel it and she makes us want to keep pushing and keep moving forward.”

Her fellow soloists, 13-year-old Madison Mursch, 12-year-old Brianna Jimenez and 14-year-old Jenna Lee agreed that Papadakos and Seiskaya push their dancers to execute the choreography and acting correctly. Being strict is part of Seiskaya’s method and it has been since the school was established in 1974.

“My wife does not believe in dumbing down based on who’s available,” Papadakos said. “You’ve got to rise to the occasion.”

Last year the school lost a handful of its older dancers who went on to college. The change left youngsters like Diana, Madison, Jenna and Brianna to take the lead on bigger roles like Clara, the Snow Queen, Sugar Plum and the Chocolate Soldier, respectively. Twyla Tharp Troupe dancer Nick Coppula will be returning to reclaim his role as the Cavalier this year.

Viewers can see these young dancers and get the full theatrical experience on Friday, Dec. 18, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 19, at 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 20, at 1 and 6 p.m. and Monday, Dec. 21,  at 7 p.m. at the Staller Center for the Arts at Stony Brook University. Tickets are $40 for adults, $34 for children and seniors and $30 for groups of 20 or more. For more information call 631-632-ARTS or visit

Wrestler Dave Otunga films a scene at the Long Island Pour House in Port Jefferson Station for ‘What Happened Last Night.’ Photo by Giselle Barkley

What really did happen last night?

That’s what audiences will figure out in writer and director Candice Cain’s film “What Happened Last Night,” an independent film that puts a spin on and takes a comedic approach to breakups, new flames, friends and college life. The film retraces the steps of a group of college students after a fraternity party and opens with main characters Sarah and Danny, played by Alix Kermes and Clayton Snyder.

Brookhaven resident Cain brought her cast and crew to Long Island on Nov. 28 and started filming a bar scene at the Long Island Pour House in Port Jefferson Station. Although the film focuses on college students, actress Rebecca Boughton said there’s something for everyone, whether in high school, college or adulthood.

“It’s just very relatable because it’s a story about relationships,” Boughton said. “It’s about coming of age and figuring out who you are and what you want to do with your life.”

Boughton plays Laila, a pretentious advisor for the Alpha Delta Pi sorority. While Boughton is a member of the sorority in real life, that’s not the only thing that attracted her to the film. She and the cast agree that Cain’s script has natural dialogue, making the interaction between characters realistic.

“You know she comes from a theater background,” actor Jake Thomas said. “It’s a very long script, but it does flow very quickly because the dialogue just jumps from one thing to another.”

Like many of the cast, Thomas is no stranger to the stage. As a kid, he played alongside Hilary Duff as Lizzie McGuire’s little brother Matt on the 2001 Disney television series of the same name. Thomas is making an appearance in Cain’s film as Dave, the main character’s ex-boyfriend. Snyder, who played Ethan Craft on the same Disney Channel show, recommended the production to Thomas.

Cain wrote the story in three days, when she was a 19-year-old George Washington University student. The idea came about after she woke up at a friend’s place after attending a party the night before. Cain was sick during the party and took Nyquil before attending, and her friend allowed her to stay overnight after alcohol spilled on Cain and soaked her clothing. She woke up to the smell of bacon but couldn’t immediately remember where she was.

“I started thinking to myself, ‘What if there was someone in bed with me and I woke up? How would I have reacted?’” Cain recalled.

The writer and director performed her story at her university’s theater, acting as Sarah. Two decades later, this past April, Cain found the script in her basement.

“Everyone who’s been in a relationship knows that breakups suck,” Kermes said. “They’re hard especially in college when you start thinking about your future.”

Big name stars like Amber Rose and WWE wrestler David Otunga, who’s engaged to singer Jennifer Hudson, will also appear in the film, which hits theaters next year. Otunga heard about the film through his agent and took on the role of Tiny, a large bartender who comes to the rescue of Sarah’s friend Mindy, played by Diana Durango.

“I’m really happy to be able to support independent films,” Otunga said. “I feel like these are so much fun because it’s truly about the art. It’s not super-huge budgets and everything, but we make it work and make such an awesome looking project and it’s really cool to be a part of that.”

Kate Keating and Austin Morgan in a scene from ‘Frosty.’ Photo by Michael DeCristofaro

The holidays are upon us and that means it’s time for “Frosty” to come to life at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport. Under the direction of Richard T. Dolce, the annual production, with a spirited cast of five adult actors, presents a lively show with song and dance that is perfect for its target audience.

Uber-talented Kate Keating reprises her role as Jenny, a young girl living in the town of Chillsville who loves the snow and loves winter. With the help of her mother, lovingly played by Courtney Fekete, Jenny builds a snowman who magically comes alive, and the duo are quickly best pals. Making his Engeman debut, Austin Morgan is a terrific Frosty and quickly connects with the audience, especially after he dances to “It’s Your Birthday.”

Jen Casey is the villain Ethel Pierpot, who wants to make Chillsville warm and snow-free so she can build a new factory. Her weather machine starts to make everything melt, including Frosty. With the help of the audience, Ethel Pierpot’s plan is foiled and, after a thrilling chase scene through the theater and an intense snowball fight, the machine is turned off.

From the very beginning the theatergoers become part of the show, thanks to the efforts of the narrator, Michael Verre, who guides the audience through the story with comedic genius. Verre draws the most laughs as he goes from being bundled up for winter to wearing less and less each time he makes an appearance on stage to demonstrate how warm Chillsville is getting.

Asking a full house last Sunday how to stop Ethel Pierpot from turning Frosty into a puddle of water, Verre received some creative suggestions, including have Frosty “go to a new town where there’s plenty of snow,” “put Frosty in an ice cream truck” and “reverse the machine to cold.” At the end of the show, all the children are asked to wish for snow to keep Frosty from melting and are rewarded for their efforts.

There was magic in the air at the Engeman Theater that morning — yes, a snowman came to life and, yes, it snowed inside the theater. But even more magical than that were the priceless expressions of joy, excitement and wonderment on the faces of the children in the audience.

Meet the cast after the show for pictures and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located at the back of the program.

Take your child or grandchild to see “Frosty” and let them experience the magic of live theater. They will love you for it.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport, will present “Frosty” through Jan. 3. Tickets are $15 each. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit

Butchers Blind will be one of the last bands performing at the Sunday Street Concert series' old venue. Photo from Charlie Backfish

By Ellen Barcel

The University Cafe at Stony Brook University will be closing early in 2016 due to renovations of the Student Union, but that doesn’t mean that the wonderful series of Sunday Street Concerts, which have been held there for more than a decade, will be ending.

First, going out with a really special performance, the Sunday Street Concert series will present its final show at the University Cafe on Saturday, Dec. 12, which will include Butchers Blind, Chris Connolly and Bryan Gallo, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10.

“For our last hurrah at the cafe, we’re presenting some of Long Island’s finest young musicians in a very special evening to benefit WUSB-FM and the Sunday Street Series as it moves to its new venue,” said Sunday Street Concert series producer Charlie Backfish.

Then, changes will take place. One is that the venue itself will change, effective 2016. Future concerts will be held down the road in the Gillespie Room of the Carriage Museum at the Long Island Museum, in Stony Brook. Wine, beer and cider will be available there.

A second change is that the concerts will be open to all ages. “That’s particularly good news because we have had parents wanting to bring their children to shows but had to say ‘no’ due to the university policy for the cafe,” said Backfish.

The Sunday Street Concert series will welcome Sloan Wainwright on Jan. 17 to its new venue at the Long Island Museum. Photo from Charlie Backfish
The Sunday Street Concert series will welcome Sloan Wainwright on Jan. 17 to its new venue at the Long Island Museum. Photo from Charlie Backfish

A third change is sponsorship. “This new direction for us is an interesting partnership between the Sunday Street Series, WUSB Radio (90.1 FM, the university’s own radio station), the Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council and the Long Island Museum,” said Backfish. “LIM has been expanding their programming to include music (the North Shore Pro Musica is already holding their concerts there), the GPJAC supports live performances in our area, and the Sunday Street Series of WUSB was seeking a new venue in order to continue. This all was a perfect match.”

Backfish, who is the director of field experience and student teaching in the Department of History at SBU, also hosts the radio station’s Sunday Street morning program, from 9 a.m. to noon. featuring acoustic, folk and singer-songwriter music.

“I’ve had a lot of performers joining me on air during my radio program, Sunday Street, on Sunday mornings on WUSB. Norm Prusslin, the former general manager of WUSB, suggested thinking about having some of these artists follow up a radio appearance with a show at the University Cafe, at that time a new venue,” he said. “It seemed like a very good idea and the result has been this series, which has now had 175 shows during its existence.”

What will not change is the great lineup of musicians who will be performing. The first concert of the new year is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 17, at 3 p.m. when Sloan Wainwright, known for a variety of American music styles including pop, folk, jazz and blues, will be performing. Tickets are $22 in advance, $27 at the door (cash only), if available. “Sloan Wainwright is a great singer whose amazing alto voice powers songs of others as well as her own songs. No surprise since she is part of a well-known musical family, with her brother Loudon Wainwright, and her nephew Rufus and nieces Martha and Lucy,” added Backfish.

The second scheduled 2016 performance will be on Sunday, Jan. 31, at 3 p.m. when Willie Nile will be performing. Advance sales are $25, $30 at the door (cash only), if available. “Willie Nile is a legendary figure on the rock music scene who came to prominence with a debut album hailed by critics. He writes powerfully and always delivers high-energy performances … Since his most recent album is a collection of his songs played on a grand piano, we’re looking forward to Willie making use of the grand piano in the Gillespie room at LIM,” said Backfish.

Another thing that won’t change includes the annual Dylan show. “Our annual celebration of Bob Dylan’s birthday in May has always been special since we assemble a group of musicians who are devotees of Dylan’s work … We’ll continue this tradition at the LIM on Saturday, May 21, at 7 p.m.,” said Backfish. “Coincidentally, the museum at the time will be presenting a traveling exhibition from the Rock and Roll Museum and Hall of Fame,” he added.

The future schedule includes the Scottish band, The Paul McKenna Band in March, Ian Matthews and Plainsong in a tribute to Richard Farina in April and John Gorka, also in April. For details and tickets for the 2016 performances go to or

The museum, which curates a large number of Setauket artist William Sidney Mount’s paintings, is a very appropriate venue for concerts. Mount not only had many musical themes in his paintings but also played the violin himself as well as designing a violin. “You can almost hear echoes of” him at the museum, noted Backfish.

The Sunday Street Concerts received a warm “reception from the folks at the Long Island Museum,” he added. “I’m really happy we were able to do this. The people at the LIM … want to expand their music — it’s very timely.” Backfish noted that the movement to the Long Island Museum really “expands what the museum does since they already are the venue for North Shore Pro Musica’s concerts.”

The move to the LIM “parallels some of the things they will be doing. For example, an exhibit on traveling music festivals … It couldn’t be better timing,” noted Backfish, adding, “We’re delighted that the LIM has been so supportive in enabling us to continue this series in a great new venue.”

“We are very fortunate to be involved in this,” said Neil Watson, executive director of the LIM. “This is our second season of North Shore Pro Musica. The museum is a cultural hub. We are trying to engage as many people as we can, create as many experiences as possible. I was interested in creating a singer/songwriter series after Pro Musica. When Charlie came to us about losing their space, the collaboration with him grew — a great marriage. We have a wonderful space and sound system and Charlie has the experience booking the talent. I’d like to do a jazz series in the future. We are beyond thrilled, so happy about it. People can experience the museum not only through their eyes but their ears.”

Regarding the future LIM music exhibit beginning in May, Watson noted, “It’s an opportunity to look at culture … All festivals were a lightning rod for more than just music.” He added that during the exhibit there will be talks, panel discussions and additional music.

Backfish will welcome Watson and Joshua Ruff, director of collections and interpretation of the museum, as his guests on Sunday morning, Dec. 13, on his show on WUSB (90.1 FM and to discuss the partnership of the Sunday Street Series with the Long Island Museum.

The Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages is located at 1200 Route 25A in Stony Brook. It is a Smithsonian affiliate. For further information on the museum, visit or call 631-751-0066.

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Port Jefferson was crawling with costumed characters and Christmas spirit on Saturday and Sunday for the 20th annual Charles Dickens Festival.

Residents and visitors took rides on horse-drawn carriages, met Santa Claus, heard music from the 19th century and checked out a puppet parade.