On May 19, Celebrate St James hosted state, county and town officials as well as local residents at the Lake Avenue Gazebo to commemorate an official Cultural Arts District, located along Lake Avenue in the hamlet of St. James.
The event, led by one of the organization’s founding members Natalie Weinstein, included a custom artwork unveiling by local artist Arline Goldstein, a ceremonial toast and ribbon cutting. The not-for-profit organization was also responsible for approaching the Town of Smithtown with the vision of creating a Cultural Arts District along Lake Avenue.
“There has always been something about St. James that has fostered community pride. It was and is a place where people have come together in the past and still do,” said Weinstein. “It is a place where, no matter who we are or what we think, we always share one commonality – we love our hometown.”
Weinstein went on to thank Gary Fitlin, CEO of Gyrodyne; Mario Mattera of Deepwells Farm Historical Society; St. James and Smithtown chamber of commerces; and the Smithtown Historical Society. “They, along with local and state government, realize the economic benefits that a revitalization of St. James would have, not only for Smithtown, but Suffolk County and all of Long Island,” she said.
The Smithtown town board voted unanimously on April 25 to declare an overlay cultural arts district along Lake Avenue in St. James from Route 25A (at the St. James Firehouse) on the north end down to Woodlawn Avenue on the south end, which is intended to highlight the arts, culture and entertainment for residents and visitors alike, creating much needed attractions, tourism and foot traffic along the St. James small business district.
“Thanks to the Town Council and Supervisor Ed Wehrheim, we are on our way to making history! Celebrate St. James is about you – all of you – all who will reap these benefits as you walk down Lake Avenue, sharing a coffee or ice cream, playing a game of chess, joining your friends for a meal or just … sitting on a park bench and enjoying the best of what small town life on ‘Main Street’ was like and will be again,” said Weinstein.
“And we are privileged to make it happen and see it become a wonderful gathering place for us all. We truly look forward to the future, joyfully, as we celebrate our past.”
The ceremony was held in conjunction with Celebrate St. James’ first St. James Art Walk, which featured vendors, art demonstrations and music along Lake Avenue.
Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) asked the crowd of enthusiastic residents to envision the future Lake Avenue as it undergoes a renaissance.
“An artist looks at life around him or her and sees something that most of us can not … They see colors on a blank canvas, they see the finished product looking at a blueprint. They see potential. They see an extraordinary future,” said Wehrheim. “As we cut this ribbon today, I ask that you take a moment, find your inner artist … and imagine the potential.”