By Victoria Espinoza
Northport resident Beth Atkinson reignited her love for creating art thanks to some help from a Northport gallery and since then has constantly found inspiration in the village she calls home.
Currently a permanent member of The Firefly Artists, a gallery in the heart of Northport, Atkinson said she has found ideas and support within her community.
Atkinson grew up on the North Shore and moved to the area after she married her husband Brian, a Northport native himself. An art teacher at Hicksville High School for the past 30 years, Atkinson said she went through a period when she lost herself as an artist because she was so focused on supporting her students’ artwork.
“Sometimes [art teachers] let our students’ needs take over our needs,” she said in a phone interview.
Once she got a home for her work at Firefly, she said it was just the push she needed to refocus.
“It’s kept me on it,” she said. “I’m always trying to change my wall. I now set aside time almost every night to carve blocks or work on a collage. Firefly is my year-long motivation.”
Atkinson creates in a variety of genres and media, including jewelry, paintings and sculptures. The Harvard Club of Long Island recently named Atkinson a Distinguished Teacher of 2016, and she was given honorable mention at the Art League of Long Island Member Exhibition in 2015.
The Northport resident said all the other artists at Firefly mesh well and present a wide range of talents.
Atkinson has taken her newfound energy and paid it forward with an adult summer program she co-chairs at Great Camp Sagamore in the Adirondacks, through the New York State Arts Teacher Association. That camp has a Long Island connection, as it was a former home of the prominent Vanderbilt family.
“It started out to help art educators renew themselves and come up with new ideas for the classroom,” she said. “It also helps art teachers find the artists they were before they were a teacher. You’d be surprised how many art teachers stop making their own art once they start teaching.”
As for the inspiration Atkinson finds in Northport, she said it’s endless.
“When you take the time to stop and look around you … the other day I had to drive to Eaton’s Neck and all of the sudden I see the most incredible sunset over the harbor,” she said. “We live in a great area for inspiration.”
And it is supportive of artists: “I think we’ve got a great opportunity in Northport — Main Street alone has several galleries. There are more art exhibitions on Long Island than you can possibly go to.”
Art runs in the family for much of the Atkinson clan, aside from a daughter Katie who is dancing to her own tune. Her daughter Lauren teaches art in Maryland, and her son Alex is currently taking photography classes at Northport High School. She said she and her son have traveled together to different spots in the area to take photos and find inspiration.