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art teacher

Miller Place art teacher Julia Vogelle helped form The Brick Studio and Gallery nonprofit. Photo from Julia Vogelle

Who better to bring vibrancy and revitalization to downtown Rocky Point than a group of local artists? With the support of elected officials, a new nonprofit organization is leading the charge to help enrich, educate and electrify the Rocky Point community and surrounding areas.

The Brick Studio and Gallery is an art collective of more than 20 local artists and instructors with aspirations to grow and develop into a full-fledged community studio and hub.

Spearheaded by Miller Place High School art teacher Julia Vogelle and professional ceramicist Justine Moody, the group blossomed around the time Stony Brook University’s Craft Center and ceramics studio closed for renovations in January 2016, leaving potters and artists without a space to do what they love.

Pottery making will be offered at The Brick Studio and Gallery. Photo from Julia Vogelle

Vogelle and Moody, who shared dreams of opening up a cooperative to bring art back into the community, met in the wake of the Craft Center shutdown and enlisted the help of the “homeless” artists to form the organization.

Since then, the project has grown, culminating in a Kickstarter campaign with an ambitious goal of $18,000 to turn a dream into a reality. With 120 backers, their goal has already been exceeded, raising a total of $18,150.

The money will cover the start-up costs to find a location and equip and supply the studio with 14 pottery wheels, two electric kilns, kiln shelves, clay, glazes and ceramic tools. According to the fundraiser page, the studio “has the potential to begin a renaissance in historic Rocky Point, with other artists and artisans joining in bringing life to other empty buildings” and plans to open in early spring.

“My vision is to have this cultural center energize and bring all the money back into the hamlet,” Vogelle said. “Rocky Point has a lot to offer. People 16 and up can come; we’d have services for students, seniors, veterans and anyone who would like to work. I want to look at Broadway in Rocky Point as ‘artist’s row.’”

In addition to pottery, glass and jewelry making, the studio will be a venue for documentary showings, live poetry, trivia nights and  live music.

Moody expanded on the grand vision.

“I think it’s going to become a destination place … I don’t know that Rocky Point has one, and there are a lot of towns here with a tremendous group of creatives who don’t really have a place to call their own,” Moody said.

She’s hoping it could be a place to attract locals during the summer to take lessons, and others from outside the community on Friday nights, saying she envisions big events on weekends and other pop-up events throughout the year.

Suffolk County Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai) believes The Brick has the potential to be a tourist attraction that could boost Rocky Point’s foot traffic and revenue — much-needed since the state built the bypass, which encourages traffic to go around the area, hitting downtown businesses especially hard.

“There are a lot of towns here with a tremendous group of creatives who don’t really have a place to call their own.”

— Justine Moody

“So many of our residents come in from the Long Island Expressway, from Sunrise Highway, and they look to go east from the North Fork, and my hope is that maybe they’ll turn left and go west to experience what Rocky Point and Shoreham have to offer,” Anker said. “There are so many high-level artists that live in the area and this will hopefully give them a way to stay local and promote their craft to the public.”

Anker has been involved in North Shore revitalization plans since 2011, participating with the Rails to Trails project and the clean-up of the Tesla Science Center at Wardenclyffe, and said that art is not just trendy.

“We underestimate how important art is, it needs to be cultivated,” she said. “It’s part of our culture and it has an educational component. It will definitely benefit downtown Rocky Point.”

Councilwoman Jane Bonner (C-Rocky Point), who contributed $100 to the art collective’s Kickstarter campaign, said she’s so excited about the studio and points to Vogelle and Moody’s hard work and dedication.

“They’re very dedicated and committed and they’re not looking for somebody else to solve their problem … grass isn’t growing under feet at all and it’s hard not to pay attention to that,” Bonner said.

As a 30-year Rocky Point resident, the councilwoman is hopeful that the artists can bring people back to downtown Rocky Point and trigger change.

Vogelle feels the same, stating that she believed that the art can bring value to homes and surrounding businesses.

“If you put art into a community, people want to move in,” she said. “If you put music in town, people want to gather around and enjoy it. A cultural center like this always connects with schools in the district and it will also help people realize there’s so much culture that’s hidden. And anyone can get hooked on ceramics — the elderly, veterans, teens. Once you touch mud, you never go back.”

Elizabeth Anziano smiles with one of her art students. Photo from Hauppauge school district
Elizabeth Anziano smiles with one of her art students. Photo from Hauppauge school district
Elizabeth Anziano smiles with one of her art students. Photo from Hauppauge school district

By Nicole Geddes

Bretton Woods and Pines Elementary School teacher Elizabeth Anziano was named the 2016 New York State Art Educator of the Year.

The Hauppauge teacher said she has experienced a lot in her 30-year journey as an art educator, and it helped fuel her passionate love of art, which she passes down to future generations.

“The best part about teaching is working with the students,” Anziano said in a phone interview. Anziano said one of her goals as a teacher is to reveal every student’s inner Da Vinci, and her passion for art and teaching is evident through her students. 

“Ms. A. is the nicest teacher,” Wesley, one of her students, said. “I wish we could have art class every day. We always learn the neatest things in art, and Ms. A. makes it fun.”

Colton, another student of hers, agreed.

“Ms. Anziano is the greatest art teacher; I never want her class to end,” he said. “I like art class with Ms. A. more than I like recess, because we do really cool things in art.”

Michael, a fourth-grade student, also shares the opinion that art is more enjoyable than other parts of the school day that are traditionally more popular

“I never thought that art could be as fun as gym,” he said. “Ms. A. is a really good artist and she teaches us how to be really good artists too. She shows us techniques to get better.”

Anziano said she enjoys telling her students stories of famous artists, like Pablo Picasso.

“I make sure to tell them that it was just the tip [of the ear],” she said while speaking about Picasso’s famous ear story. She also said she tells students about tests Picasso had to take when he was a student. He finished in one week what took some three months,” she said.“Everyone loves to hear stories.” Hauppauge Superintendent of schools Dennis O’Hara spoke highly of Anziano’s accomplishments at the district.

“After having had the opportunity and pleasure to visit Ms. Anziano’s classroom, and watch her interact with students, I am not surprised to learn of her special recognition,” O’Hara said in a statement. “She is most deserving, and we are most fortunate to have Ms. Anziano teaching our students.”

The teacher said her mother helped inspire her love of art.

“When I was young, I brought home a fourth-grade project,” she said. “I had to draw a deer. My mother drew the most perfect deer and I knew right then that that was what I wanted to do.”

Anziano received a Bachelors of Arts at Ohio State University,and started out working with the J. Paul Getty Trust, a cultural and philanthropic institution in a joint venture with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, located in Los Angeles.

Along the way, she met Leilani Duke and was introduced to discipline-based art education, which is a style of teaching comprised of arts production, arts history and culture, criticism and aesthetics. Eventually, Anziano joined the registrar staff of the New-York Historical Society museum where she had the chance to work with newly discovered American Art collections like John James Audubon.

Anziano said. “One of my favorite artists is Georgia O’Keefe, whose landscape paintings displays colors of purple to magenta.”

Anziano said Mary Lou Cohalan, director of Islip Art Museum, suggested that she teach art, as she had never thought of it herself. Subsequently, an after-school arts program was started at the museum which Anziano taught while earning a Master of Arts in teaching at Dowling College.

“Art doesn’t just imitate life — it is life!” Anziano said.

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