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Art

The Shelf at East Main officially opened its doors April 19 and welcomed an array of local artists, who all said they were happy for the rare opportunity to show off their work.

The new consignment-style shop is similar to the typical art gallery, since artists show their work and give a percentage of sales to The Shelf.  But, Diane Walker, the new store owner, said that her operation is different, because it’s intended to be more encouraging to local artists. 

Kyle Kubik, Walker’s son and an artist himself, said people were coming in at the last hour to get their work on display.

“There’s no out of pocket expense to them, and it’s up to us, and them, to promote the venue,” Kubik said.

Walker, a 25-year resident of Mount Sinai, opened the shop to try and give those artists the opportunity to really flesh out their passions in a noncompetitive space, something that gives local artists a leg up in an often cutthroat field.

Now that The Shelf is open, here’s a small helping of some of the artists who have their stuff on display. All had a similar frame of mind, saying that there are very few spaces like the Shelf where they can display their work without an upfront cost or upfront judgment.

The Shelf at East Main, located at 218 E. Main St., Port Jefferson, is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Walker said she expects she will soon start to open up the store for events outside regular hours. More information is available at www.visittheshelf.com.

Kyle Kubik

Walker’s son and an artist specializes in making video game and other pop culture inspired shirts and paraphernalia. He often ran the convention scenes and art shows from Long Island to New York City, and his mother saw the hustle that went into promoting one’s work as an artist. Kubik called it a gamble when one traveled to such events.

A customer holds one of Kyle Kubik’s shirts. Photo by Kyle Barr

“There’s a lot of competition out there, and there’s a high barrier to entry,” he said. “In my experience with conventions, I’ve walked out of events with a few thousand dollars in your pocket. I’ve walked out of events where I’m a thousand short, because I had to travel somewhere. Because of that hot and cold aspect, that’s what’s difficult for artists.”

He added that in some cases, even with quality work, some people simply don’t believe their work is good enough to be on display.

“We have macramé, we have knitted pieces,” he said. “You could put it up and be in a huge pool of people, or you can be in a local place with people in your community.”

More of Kubik’s work can be found at: www.kylevonkubik.tumblr.com/.

Crystal Wyllie

Crystal Wyllie speaks to a shopper. Photo by Kyle Barr

Wyllie, a Setauket resident, has been doing ceramic pottery since her college days, and opened up her own small workshop in her parent’s garage. She first learned about The Shelf from her aunt, the owner of Cardinal Realty in Port Jefferson, just next door to the new shop. 

“There aren’t many places where local artists can show their work in a noncompetitive atmosphere,” Wyllie said. “And I think it’s incredible to see what our community is capable of creating.”

To find more of Wyllie’s work, visit: @crystalmariepottery on Instagram or her website at www.crystalmariepottery.com.

Paul Cammarata 

One of Paul Cammarata’s photos. Photo by Kyle Barr

Cammarata is a local photographer, taking his inspiration from the idyllic sights of Port Jefferson, nearby Stony Brook and beyond. His photographs feature alluring destinations, images of classic cars, still lives and nature.

A graphic designer by trade, Cammarata got back into photography in the last few years after being convinced by a friend and watercolor artist. 

“Galleries can cost an artist a fortune — or you don’t get the right exposure sometimes,” he said. “Hopefully with the way [Walker] worked it out it’s a win-win for everybody.”

Cammarata’s work can be found at: www.fineartamerica.com.

Tracey Elizabeth

Tracey Elizabeth holding her painting. Photo by Kyle Barr

Elizabeth’s day job is photography, but she said her true passion is painting. 

To her, the new store is an opportunity not just for her, but for the community of small-town artists who are still looking to break out. It also gives the chance for the local community to see the creativity of their community.

“I live in Port Jeff, so I like that [Walker’s] using local artists,” she said. “It’s helping local artists, and it being a small town it really needs those small-town artists to be represented.”

Elizabeth’s photography can be found at: www.traceyelizabeth.com.

Paul Motisi 

One of Paul Motisi’s projects. Photo by Kyle Barr

Motisi works in graphic design, producing designs for shirts, album covers and more. He started doing freelance work out of college, and recently he started creating spray-painted stencil portraits and selling them on Etsy. He has portraits of characters from Rocky Balboa to The Dude from “The Big Lebowski.” Now his images sit in person inside The Shelf in Port Jefferson. He said many art shows and conventions can be hard to work with.

“Usually those people are very standoffish — they usually want you to jump through hoops, but these people were just so ready to have people involved,” Motisi said. “These places are in short supply.”

Motisi’s work can be found at his website: www.paulmotisi.com, or at his Etsy page at: www.etsy.com/shop/motisistencilart.

The Shelf at East Main. Photo by Kyle Barr

A shelf can be a curious thing. When walking into a stranger’s house, what you may find on the shelves, whether it be pictures, books, art, can tell you much about that person. 

In a small shop located at 218 E. Main St., one local woman is trying to get others to discover something about local artists through the shelves she’s built to showcase their work.

The shelves Diana Walker is planning to use for artists. Photo by Kyle Barr

Diana Walker, a 25-year resident of Mount Sinai, is planning to open a consignment shop called The Shelf at East Main, a new spot that will showcase artists and entrepreneurs talents in a way many artists rarely have the opportunity to do so.

“To classify it, it is an artisan market,” Walker said. “The aim of this is to lift others through community connection, and also educate the community on the talent that is here locally.”

The idea has been sitting in Walker’s head for several years, since she helped her son Kyle arrange an art show in the Port Jefferson Village Center for him and a group of fellow artists. During the show she overheard several conversations about the artists who were desperately looking for ways to break into the art scene.

“Talking to the artists I heard, ‘It’s so hard to find places to exhibit,’ and ‘It’s so hard to sell,” she said. “I thought, wouldn’t it be nice where there was a place where they could sell their work, we could have events more regularly, to get their work out there not only to buy but just to experience?”

As of March 1, Walker had 32 artists signed onto the store, though not all will be present when it comes time for the grand opening April 19. She’s proud that many of the artists she expects to showcase come from all walks of life. She said a veteran has signed on to showcase his work, several older retired folks and even children as young as 9 years old.

“This is a talented group of people that is here locally.”

— Diana Walker

The new shop owner said since artists already have a tough time showcasing their work, often not having the funds to do so, she will take a percentage of each sale.

“This way if it sells you pay, if it doesn’t you don’t pay,” she said. “This is a talented group of people that is here locally.”

Items in the store are expected to be changed out every 90 days, and the owner expects to host several community events after hours, including giving artist the opportunity to showcase their entire line, doing crocheting classes, book signings, storytelling and podcasts. Her website will be a digital version of the store, showcasing the artists work so those unable to come into the store can still see the artist’s work.

“What motivates me is the energy that these people have,” Walker said. “It’s said you lift yourself by lifting others, and that’s what this is going to do.”

The figures painted on the walls and ceiling of the Greek Orthodox Church of the Assumption in Port Jefferson inevitably draw the eyes up, ever up, past the icons of saints and religious figures to the top of the dome several stories from the floor, up to Greek letters surrounding an image of Jesus looking directly down on the pews below.

Religious images and iconography glow in the soft light, which streams down from the apex of the chapel, images that, having started more than a decade ago, have been finally finished after years of painstaking work. 

Between the scaffolding used by the artists who were finishing up their work, images of St. Haralambos, the Nativity of the Theotokos, the baptism and the entrance of the Virgin Mary all adorn the walls, painted on fabric that is adhered to the wall, the kind of sight those of the 6th century must have had on the walls of now-ancient Byzantine churches.

High above the nave’s pews, only a few spots needed to be completed by Feb. 21: a handful of arches above the towering windows and the finishing of some icons. By the weekend, the chapel was completed.

“Although it’s very tedious work, I derive satisfaction in putting up works of art that are immortal and will be present for many years.”

—Dimitris Gkinos

“I’m delighted to put on canvas the life of Christ and the saints, and it’s very enjoyable and rewarding,” said iconographer Dimitris Gkinos. He and most of the other painters, who work for the Greek iconography company, Alevizakis Icons, only speak a little English, but their words were translated by Father Demetrios “Jim” Calogredes, who has seen the iconography go up since he came to the church in 2009.

The iconographers hired to finish the chapel’s paintings are a mix of artists from all over, including the U.S. and Serbia, but mostly Greece. 

“I am from Serbia, and I wanted to become an artist and then an iconographer,” said Dragomir Djekic. “I finished college in Belgrade, Serbia — that’s the university in the capital city — then when I came to the United States, I found other iconographers and started to work.”

The paintings that now adorn the walls and ceiling of the chapel have been in the works since 2002, when the old Greek Orthodox church on Sheep Pasture Road was replaced by the one currently standing. Calogredes said watching the whole project finally come together was long, but worth it in the end. The classic images that now surround the chapel walls are well known to the priest, who is able to read off the stories as if they came straight from the Bible. 

The priest said the chapel is based on the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, which was built by the Byzantine emperor, Justinian I, in the 6th century. That church now exists as a museum in Istanbul, but its re-creation in America is finally coming together with the finishing of the iconography.

“I derive the greatest satisfaction depicting the icon of the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child,” said iconographer Christos Palaioxaris, his words translated by Calogredes. “That icon is in the holy mountain in Greece, Mount Athos.”

The work is part religiosity and art, a job that is at times monotonous in getting every detail of the icons right but, in other ways, soul touching.

“Although it’s very tedious work, I derive satisfaction in putting up works of art that are immortal and will be present for many years,” Gkinos said.

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Image from Theatre Three

An afternoon of ‘Art’

Discover your inner Picasso! Grab some friends and join Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson for a painting class at Griswold’s Cafe on Sunday,  Jan. 20 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. The class will be led by local artist Rita Rooney who will help you create an 11×14-inch acrylic painting (see featured painting on right). Then head up to the Mainstage to enjoy a performance of Yasmina Reza’s one-act play, “Art.” Tickets for the paint party and show are $70. To reserve, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

*Update: Due to the weather, this event has been postponed until the Spring.

By Heidi Sutton

What is art and what is not? Ultimately art is in the eye of the beholder, yes? But what if your two best friends don’t agree with you? Which is more important? Friendship or art? These are just a few of the questions explored in Theatre Three’s latest offering, “Art” by Yasmina Reza (“God of Carnage”). The one-act drama runs on the Main stage through Feb. 2.

From left, Antoine Jones, Matt Senese and Steve Kyle in a scene from ‘Art’. Photo by Brian Hoerger

The French play premiered in Paris in 1994. Translated by Christopher Hampton, it opened in London’s West End in 1996, and then headed to Broadway two years later for a 600 performance run. The original New York cast featured Alan Alda, Victor Garber and Alfred Molina. By the time the show closed in 1999, it had garnered many awards including a Tony for Best Play and the Lawrence Olivier Award for Best Comedy.

Serge (Steve Ayle), Marc (Antoine Jones) and Yvan (Matt Senese) have been best friends for the last 15 years. A dermatologist by profession, Serge decides to start collecting art and purchases a contemporary painting for $50,000. The modern artwork is 3 feet by 4 feet and has a white background with “fine white diagonal lines” (if you look closely —— very closely). 

He is eager to show it off when Marc comes over, handling it ever so carefully as he brings it out for air.  At first Marc tries to be polite and says nothing as Serge has him look at the painting from different angles but finally can’t control himself. “You paid $50,000 for this white s—?” Marc asks in disbelief and their friendship takes a dark turn.

When Yvan is shown the painting, he is rather ambivalent about it. “I didn’t like the painting … but I didn’t actually hate it,” he reports back to Marc. “Well, of course not, You can’t hate what’s invisible! You can’t hate nothing!” exclaims Marc, who is getting more agitated by the minute. 

The cast of ‘Art’. Photo by Peter Lanscombe, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

Although he has more pressing things to worry about like planning a wedding with his fiancé turned “bridezilla,” Yvan finds himself playing referee and trying to diffuse the situation. In the end, however, the argument is not really about a painting but about friendship, its boundaries and how we should treat and speak to each other. 

Director Linda May has assembled the crème de la crème of actors to relate this comedy. Steve Ayle (“12 Angry Men,” “I Hate Hamlet” ) is the quintessential Serge, Antoine Jones (Festival of One-Act Plays, “A Chrismas Carol”) is exemplary  in the role of Marc while Matt Senese (‘The Addams Family”) is hilarious as Yvan. The three work perfectly together to produce a wonderful evening of live theater. 

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “Art” on the Mainstage through Feb. 2. Running time is 1 hour 30 minutes with no intermission. Contains adult language. The season continues with the musical “Nine” from Feb. 23 to March 23 and “The Miracle Worker” from April 6 to 28. Tickets are $35 adults, $28 seniors and students, $20 children. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

Being a hospital patient for any length of time is not likely an experience that engenders tranquility or inner peace for most, but local artists and hospital staff are doing their best to change that.

The 3 North Patient Care Unit at Port Jefferson’s John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, a newly constructed intermediate care unit on the third floor, is now furnished with paintings from artists who donated their work to be displayed for and enjoyed by patients and staff.

The hospital hosted a reception to thank the artists, including Irene Ruddock, president of Setauket Artists, who played a leadership role in getting the idea off the ground.

“The art installation endeavor was the inspiration of Dr. Shug-Hong Young, a cardiologist at Mather Hospital, who purchased one of my paintings which he donated to the hospital’s newest wing,” Ruddock said.

She said Young then took the idea to Mather president, Kenneth Roberts, who liked the concept and requested works featuring Long Island waterways and boats be displayed.

“This is actually a wonderful opportunity and a wonderful meeting of community members and artists with their local community hospital resource,” Roberts said. “We put a brand new wing on with private rooms with computers in the rooms so we don’t have all of the [computers on wheels] or [workstations on wheels] out in the hallways, so nothing is crowded. So we have this brand new nursing station with beautiful finishes, but the one thing we didn’t have was artwork.”

Ruddock was tasked with selecting paintings from her group’s members that fit the bill.

“I chose art that would add to the beauty of the already beautiful space, create a peaceful, serene environment that might provide a sense of spiritual healing,” she said. “I wanted paintings that touch people’s hearts and souls — ones that were memorable and draw you right into the painting.”

Young explained why he donated Ruddock’s initial painting, and why he thought it would brighten up the wing.

“It came to me that if we could bring all of these local artists [works] to the hospital, because many of the artworks reflect local scenes — the beach, the port, the pond — that would make patients feel they are not isolated, they are still connected to the beautiful environment,” he said.

Emily Emma, nurse manager for 3 North who recently transferred to the position, said she asked colleagues in her unit if there was anything she could do to elevate their work and the care they provide to patients, and a common theme emerged in the answers.

“Most of them had said, ‘We would really like some artwork on the walls,’” Emma said. “Patients can’t get enough of them. It’s really a nice peaceful journey to get through their progression of health.”

Jim Molloy, a Miller Place-based artist, was among those who donated a piece to the hospital that he called “Turning Tides.”

“I think that’s what art is about — it’s about brightening up someone’s day,” Molloy said. “If somebody can look at a piece of art and kind of escape for a while, then that makes me feel good, it makes them feel good — it’s perfect.”

Ruddock thanked Roberts, Young and Emma for their efforts in bringing the idea to fruition, as well as Mather employees Nancy Uzo, vice president of public affairs, and Laura Juliano, director of annual giving. Juliano said artist Renée Caine also provided invaluable help during the planning and installation phases of the idea. Caine donated one of her own works.

“By far, the most rewarding aspect of the project was the reaction of the patients, caregivers and staff to the paintings,” Ruddock said. “One staff member said of Michael Kutzing’s painting of a sailing vessel, ‘I mentally take a ride on the boat every day on the Long Island Sound to breathe in the air.’”

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A mural has been painted on the side of a business in Rocky Point depicting some of the hamlet's history. Photo by Kyle Barr

A local artist is using an image of the past to illustrate a brighter future.

A newly finished mural on Broadway in Rocky Point highlights the historic nature of the old hamlet while serving to continue efforts to beautify the downtown.

Natalie Rash, Edith Mahler, Geraldine Luglio and Max Braun work on the mural, which was completed last month. Photo by Julia Vogelle

Retired Miller Place High School art teacher Julia Vogelle spearheaded the project and painted the mural, located just outside Rocky Point Ship and Pack, alongside Edith Mahler, a trustee of the Rocky Point Historical Society. It is painted on the side of Belladonna Hair Design, located at 45 Broadway, and faces the entrance of Rocky Point Ship and Pack next door. Vogelle said several local community members, even those just passing by, came to help with the project. She said she even got several of her ex-students involved, including Geraldine Luglio, Max Braun and Natalie Rash, all recent graduates from Miller Place High School.

“It’s been a wonderful experience working with them,” Vogelle said. “It’s really been an effort of love for Rocky Point.”

The mural depicts several historic elements and landmarks of Rocky Point, such as the Noah Hallock Homestead, Indian Rock, The Hallock Landing shipwreck, the RCA Radio Central station, Tilda’s Clock and the Rocky Point train station. Natalie Stiefel, the President of the Rocky Point Historical Society, gave Vogelle a few suggestions on what to include.

“It would take a mural the entire size of the town to represent all the history of Rocky Point, but they did a really good job,” Stiefel said. “Rocky Point is really such a magical place.”

Vogelle said the mural was in planning since spring 2017, and after many months of work it was finally completed in mid-August.

Julia Vogelle, Geraldine Luglio and Natalie Rush work on a mural in Rocky Point. Photo from Julia Vogelle

The former art teacher is one of the people heading up plans for The Brick Studio in St. James after a successful crowdfunding campaign in 2017. The original plan was to locate the studio in Rocky Point in a brick building near the Rocky Point Farmers Market at the corner of Prince and Broadway, but the group was unable to land the deal. Vogelle said this mural project is a way of giving back to the community that originally supported her and the rest of her team.

Steven Badalamenti, who works at Joe’s General Contracting and Masonry, watched as the mural went up over time. He marveled at just how much history there is in the hamlet where he grew up.

“It really did capture the essence of Rocky Point,” Badalamenti said.

The mural was painted with supplies provided by Rocky Point Civic Association in continued efforts to continue to beautify downtown Rocky Point, according to President Charles Bevington.

“Hopefully Rocky Point grows slowly with some dynamic but still within the spirit of the local culture,” Bevington said.

My family has become archeologists in our own home. After 12 years of collecting artwork from the kids’ classes in school, saving report cards and filing away binders from earlier grades, we are sifting through all that material, jettisoning or recycling what we don’t need.

Some of the finds are so remarkable that they stop us in our sorting tracks. My high school daughter isn’t much of a morning person. She often prefers short sounds or gestures in the car on the way to school, rather than actual conversations that might require her to form words.

As we were going through a pile of material, we found a note from her nursery school teacher. She described a charming little girl who often takes a while to get going each morning. That description is so apt today that we realized how much of people’s patterns and personalities form early in life.

Then, sorting further, we found papers from her spectacular first-grade teacher. A young woman with a soft voice and a determined style, her teacher brought out the best in our daughter, even early in the morning.

Our daughter kept a diary in that class, in which she shared stories about the family’s weekend activities. Clearly, her brother was jealous of that writing, as we also found a diary from him in which he thanks her for creating a similar book for him to record his experiences. He shared his thoughts from the weekend, and the rest of the family readily wrote back to him.

His sister also kept handwritten notes from her first-grade teacher. The letters are all clear and distinct, and offer a positive and supportive tone. Her teacher wrote to her, without talking down to her. What a wonderful role model. This teacher, through form and content, offered a ray of sunshine to our daughter even then, which was probably why we kept the papers.

These notes today take on a different meaning for us, as the teacher succumbed to cancer at a young age just a few years after our daughter had the privilege of being in her class. Our daughter was recently in a high school English class in which her first-grade teacher’s husband served as a part-time instructor. She shared some of these notes with him. He was delighted to take them home to his daughter, who was a toddler when
her mother died. His daughter has particularly appreciated seeing her mother’s handwriting and feeling an indirect connection to the encouraging words she offered.

We have also sorted through dozens — OK, hundreds — of pictures that have transported us to earlier memories. We have a photo of our 1-year old son standing on the warning track at the old Yankee Stadium, bunched up in a winter coat on a December day.

We also found numerous pictures of our son on baseball fields of his own, surrounded by younger versions of teammates who have stuck with him through the years, as well as of friends who have gone their separate ways — or have pursued other sports.

Amid all the trophies from sports teams, we discovered certificates indicating that one or both of our children had been successful lunch helpers.

We have unearthed old VHS tapes of movies we watched numerous times as a family, including a few Disney classics and a surprisingly amusing Barbie version of “The Princess and the Pauper.”

In addition to sending us down memory lane, sorting through all the accumulated clutter has made the house seem so much larger, giving us room to add modern memories and memorabilia to our collection.

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In the last few weeks we have been subjected to a constant bombardment of tragic news. The horrific mass killings in Las Vegas is just the latest. We have lived through reports of the sequential hurricanes that have killed, maimed and destroyed lives and property in Texas, Florida, the Caribbean and Puerto Rico. We have agonized for the men, women and children caught in the Mexican earthquakes. And this latest horror of crowd homicide is the worst because it is not a paroxysm of the natural world, something we have to accept, but the act of a crazed human against hundreds of other innocent humans. Imagine the concertgoers’ happy anticipation for an evening of music under the stars with lovers or family only to be killed by a sniper’s bullets. And why?

We ran away from news of the carnage the other night and took refuge in art. The glorious embrace of Giacomo Puccini and his soaring arias of “La Bohème,” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, welcomed us.

Puccini, you may well know, is considered one of the two most famous Italian opera composers of the 19th century, the other being Giuseppe Verdi. What I didn’t know is that he was the offspring of a musical dynasty in Lucca that included his father and the fathers preceding them as far back as his great-great-grandfather. All of these ancestors studied music at Bologna, wrote music for the church and, aided by their genes and family connections, were distinguished in their time.

Puccini’s first opera, “Le Villi,” premiering in 1884, when he was 26, was well enough received, and his subsequent “Manon Lescaut” was a triumph. His personal life, however, was as riveting as his librettos. He eloped with his married, former piano student at the risk of being shunned. They did eventually marry, after another husband killed her womanizing husband. By coincidence, Puccini’s opera premiered the same week as Verdi’s last opera, “Falstaff,” and talk began of Puccini being the natural heir to Verdi. At least that was what George Bernard Shaw is reported to have said.

Puccini’s next three operas are among the most popular and most often produced: “La Bohème,” “Tosca” and “Madama Butterfly.”

When “La Bohème” premiered in Turin in 1896, Arturo Toscanini conducted it, and it was immediately popular. The story is of four young artists, all starving and freezing as they work in a garret in Paris and experience the pleasures and pains of young love. The opera is at turns joyful with the energy of youth and tragic with the premature death from tuberculosis of Mimi, the seamstress, and Rodolfo’s love. As a young man in Milan, Puccini lived the life he wrote about, once sharing a single herring with three others, as portrayed in the opera.

Puccini almost died in a car accident before finishing “Madama Butterfly” but then went on to complete what is now one of the most loved operas in the world. “Tosca” followed; then “La Fanciulla del West,” a plot set in America; “La Rondine;” and a three-act opera, including “Gianni Schicchi,” which contains my favorite aria, “O mio babbino caro.” “Turandot” was his final opera, finished after his death by his associates from his sketches, and offering the memorable, “Nessun dorma.”

Publicity about his personal life continued when his wife accused their maid of having an affair with Puccini, who was known to wander off the reservation. The maid then committed suicide, and an autopsy revealed that she had died a virgin. Puccini’s wife was accused of slander, found guilty and sentenced to five months in jail; but a payment by Puccini spared her that experience.

Ultimately 11 of Puccini’s operas are among the 200 most performed operas in the world, and the abovementioned three are in the top 10. Only Verdi and Mozart have had more operas performed. By his death in 1924, Puccini had earned $4 million from his works.

I hope this excursion in art has helped you, as it did me, to escape at least briefly from the omnipresent bad news.

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.”

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