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Long Island Museum

Sharon Cowles

The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook has announced that local resident and longtime LIM supporter Sharon Cowles recently made a significant contribution to the museum’s future. The former Bayman’s Art gallery in the History Museum/Visitors Center, home to the museum’s collection of wildfowl decoys, has been renamed the Cowles Gallery.

While the decoys will be moved to another area of the museum in a more focused installation, the new gallery will triple the amount of exhibition space available for the presentation of the museum’s world-class permanent collection, giving visitors access to more of the LIM’s hidden treasures.

Cowles first moved to Long Island in the mid-1960s when she and her husband purchased a house in Old Field, neighboring the home of Dorothy and Ward Melville. “I didn’t know anything about Long Island … I knew where Jones Beach was but that was about it,” she said, adding that she was invited to stay with the Melvilles the first night she moved to the area. Later, she and Dorothy Melville became friends and Cowles became interested in many of the same projects Melville supported, including the Long Island Museum.

Her steadfast dedication to the LIM over the course of three decades led Cowles to make this truly transformative gift to the museum.

Photo by Julie Diamond

RIBBON CUTTING

The Long Island Museum of Stony Brook welcomed members of the Huntington Chamber of Commerce on Feb. 28 for a reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony in the Carriage Museum. In its continuing effort to increase its reach and gain new audiences, the museum joined the chamber, which represents the interests of business, industry, financial service, not-for-profit and other professionals within the greater Huntington area. 

Its mission is the promotion of business, economic development and job creation through the coordinated effort of its membership. In addition to the customary ribbon cutting, chamber members, many of whom have never been to the Carriage Museum, received a guided tour of the galleries.

Pictured from left, LIM Deputy Director, Director of Advancement & External Affairs Sarah Abruzzi; Manager of Membership & Special Projects Alexandria D’Auria; Manager of Special Events Regina Miano; Executive Director of the Long Island Museum Neil Watson; Huntington chamber board member Brian Yudewitz; board member Bushra Dano; board member Vincent Casillo; board member Gail Lamberta; and Executive Director of the Huntington Chamber of Commerce Ellen O’Brien.

‘Come for the film, stay for the talk’

By Kevin Redding

It began more than 15 years ago with a group of film lovers gathered around the television on Oscar night. Lyn Boland, a former lawyer and adjunct professor from Setauket, was among them, and as she and her friends gushed over clips from the year’s Best Documentary Feature category, she wondered: Why can’t we ever see any of these powerful films?

‘Horn from the Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story’ will be screened at Theatre Three on May 20.

Around this time, she was called on by her law partner, and a fellow cinephile, to help rebuild the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council’s faltering film program. Boland had just recently watched “Spellbound,” the Academy Award-nominated doc about a group of eight young students competing in the Scripps National Bee; it was exciting, artistic, moving and it made Boland cry. It seemed obvious what to do with the local cinema program.

“Let’s make it a documentary series,” she recalls saying to her friend. While the initial concept was to hold screenings around the work primarily of local filmmakers, this proved to be difficult and limiting. So, members of the program’s board decided to pluck documentaries straight from the source: high-profile film festivals, from the Hamptons International Film Festival to DOC NYC to Tribeca Film Festival to Stony Brook Film Festival, and more, where new, important works are debuted, and the voices of blossoming filmmakers are heard for the first time. 

And thus, in the fall of 2005, the first Port Jefferson Documentary Series was born. “The idea was to make a place where we can actually see these films while they’re still very current,” Boland, one of three co-directors of the now-14-year series, said. “I think that this particular area on Long Island has a well-educated population, people who want to stay up-to-date, and, for some people, watching a documentary is a great way for them to go into depth on an important issue for a couple hours.”

She continued, “We used to travel to Cinema Arts Centre [in Huntington] to see documentaries, and it seems like there was this giant hole in our ability to see independent films like these in this area. Our criteria now is that the film is new and not available elsewhere, has critical acclaim, and tells an important story.”

Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council and the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs, the spring 2019 season of the award-winning documentary series begins March 4 and will run until May 20. The seven-film lineup will be spread across several local venues, including Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson; the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook; the Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook; and Robert Cushman Murphy Junior High School, 351 Oxhead Road, in Stony Brook. 

Each of this year’s emotional and thought-provoking films will be followed up by  a Q&A session with guest speakers involved in the documentary, like directors, producers, the movies’ subjects and outside experts. 

They include the compelling journalism-focused “The Panama Papers”; “Under the Wire,” about a heroic Sunday Times correspondent who was killed while covering the war in Syria; “Weed the People,” in which medical cannabis is posed as “a human rights issue”; as well as “Liyana,” “City of Joel,” “Horn from the Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story” and “Emanuel,” about the Charleston church shooting.

As is the case every year, the documentaries are selected by the series’ seven-member film board, or “The Film Ladies,” as they are called — made up of Boland, fellow co-directors Barbara Sverd and Wendy Feinberg, as well as board members Honey Katz, Phyllis Ross, Lorie Rothstein and Lynn Rein. 

Each member sees upward of 100 documentaries during the preliminary film festival blitz, and whittle their favorites down to 10 or less to present to the board. Out of that batch, seven films, one from each person, are selected to be screened. From the get-go, the board member assumes responsibility for “her” film, presenting it to the board, writing press releases and making sure the venues have all the right equipment for a proper screening. 

“The earlier we get the film, the better it is for us because then we can actually help the filmmakers and expose their film    we like getting them early in their emergence,” said Boland. 

“There’s also the discovery aspect of it. For example, we just saw a film we’re considering for the fall that hasn’t been anywhere, no film festivals so far, but we saw it and it was great. The idea that you could see somebody’s first documentary, really help them along in the huge process [is rewarding],” she said. 

Because of the series’ longevity, its members have developed a relationship with the many distributors of the films, as well as their directors, most of whom are just pleased to have more eyes on their work. 

Last summer the Port Jefferson Documentary Series held a special screening of “RBG,” which focused on the life and career of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and which was recently nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards.  

In the early years of the series, they showed “Taxi to the Dark Side,” a film that went on to win the Oscar in 2008, and in 2017, Daniel McCabe, the director of “This Is Congo,” an immersive, and brutal, examination of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, discussed his film after the screening.

The board, supported by ticket receipts and a grant from Suffolk County, routinely pays filmmakers to come out and discuss the film in their Q&As, but McCabe actually donated his fee back to them that night, saying “You are the people that really make this happen … You’re the ones who really deserve this money.” 

“We have a responsibility to curate really well,” Boland explained. “Because we get public funds, we can’t just run anything … it’s a high bar to get to be one of the seven documentaries we select.”

Among the upcoming films, Boland is particular excited about “The Panama Papers.”

“Our series reflects the value of journalism,” she said. “[The director] is very good at taking a complicated topic and turn it into a very exciting film. It has you on the edge of your seat in anticipation of what’s going to happen next.”

Sverd’s favorite is “Under the Wire,” which will be shown at Stony Brook University and will involve the college’s School of Journalism. 

“Over the years, the documentary has become an extremely important and effective tool for information and social change,” she said. “All of these are very special films to whoever chooses them.”

Feinberg, a retired teacher who joined the board in fall 2014, recognized a highlight for her this year: the closing night music film “Horn from the Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story,” an “interesting, educational, heartbreaking”  film about a blues harmonica player who formed an interracial band. 

“Other than being a cinephile, I love music and love music of such varying genres,” Feinberg said. “I try to always push for one music documentary, and I’m usually successful when I see that the audience really responds to the film. I remember we had one gentleman say to me, ‘Every time you screen a film, every one is better than the one before, I don’t know how you do that.’ Feedback like that warms my heart, and confirms that we’re doing something good and lasting.”

Boland agrees and encourages community members to show up and help grow the series. “These films compel us and can introduce you to a powerful, personal story you might not ever have heard,” she said. 

The Port Jefferson Documentary Series will be held at 7 p.m. on select Monday nights from March 4 to April 15 and at 7:15 p.m. on May 20 (see sidebar for locations). Tickets, which are sold at the door, are $8 per person. (No credit cards please.) If you would like to volunteer, please call 631-473-5200. For more information, visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

Film schedule:

The spring season will kick off with “The Panama Papers” at Theatre Three on March 4. Leaked by an anonymous source to journalists in 2015, the Panama Papers were an explosive collection of 11.5 million documents, exposing the use of secretive offshore companies to enable widespread tax evasion and money laundering. Director Alex Winter speaks to the journalists who worked to ensure the release and examines how it reshaped our understanding of corruption in the highest tiers of government.  Moderated by Tom Needham, host of “The Sounds of Film” on WUSB, guest speaker will be Kevin Hall, chief economics correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-winning senior investigator for McClatchy newspapers in Washington, D.C.

“Under the Wire,” the chilling and inspiring documentary about Marie Colvin, the celebrated Sunday Times correspondent, and photojournalist Paul Conroy as they enter war-ravaged Syria in February of 2012 to cover the plight of trapped and slaughtered civilians in Homs, a city under siege by the Syrian Army, heads to the Charles B. Wang Center at Stony Brook University on March 11. Deliberately targeted by Syria’s top leaders, Colvin was killed in a rocket attack that also gravely wounded Conroy, who eventually managed to escape. Co-sponsored by the Stony Brook University’s School of Journalism’s Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting, guest speakers include Catherine Colvin (Marie Colvin’s sister) in person and Paul Conroy, photojournalist (via Skype). 

The season continues on March 18 at The Long Island Museum with “Weed the People.” Through the emotional stories of children fighting cancer, the documentary educates mainstream audiences about medical cannabis as a human rights issue and begets the unsettling question at the heart of the film: If weed is truly saving lives, why doesn’t the government want people to access it? Guest speakers include  director Abby Epstein and cancer survivor and co-founder of NYC Botanics, Jill Fagin. Screening will be held in the museum’s Gillespie Room, located in the Carriage House Museum. 

“Liyana,” which will be screened at Robert Cushman Murphy Junior High School on April 1, is a touching and unique film set in Swaziland (now Eswatini). Told by five children who were orphaned by the AIDS epidemic, this extraordinary film uses animation and narrative to illustrate their plight. Ultimately hopeful, this is a visually beautiful and unforgettable film presented in a poetic and creative style.  “Liyana” has recently been nominated for the prestigious 2019 Cinema Eye Honors Award for Nonfiction Filmmaking for the Outstanding Achievement in Graphic Design or Animation Award. Guest speaker will be executive producer Susan MacLaury.

The series continues with “City of Joel” at Theatre Three on April 8. The town of Monroe, which lies 50 miles north of New York City and deep within the Hudson Valley, is one of the fastest-growing Hasidic communities in the country. Shot over several years with seemingly boundless access, Emmy-winning director Jesse Sweet’s documentary observes the simmering tensions that have come to define the community, and the myriad ways in which the town’s divide echoes the country’s as well. Co-sponsored by Temple Isaiah of Stony Brook, the guest speaker will be the film’s subject, B.J. Mendelson.

In collaboration with the Long Island Museum’s Long Road to Freedom: Surviving Slavery on Long Island exhibit, “Emanuel” will be screened on April 15 in the museum’s Gillespie Room. The documentary highlights the mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, on June 17, 2015 and is a poignant story of justice, faith, love and hate. Featuring intimate interviews with survivors and family members, this film examines the healing power of forgiveness. Sponsored by The Law Offices of Michael S. Ross in Smithtown,  Building Bridges in Brookhaven, the Bethel AME Church and the Multicultural Solidarity Group, guest speaker will be producer Dimas Salaberrios.

The series concludes with “Horn from the Heart: The Paul Butterfield Story” at Theatre Three at 7:15 p.m. on May 20. The documentary follows the complex story of a man many call the greatest harmonica player of all time. The film features Butterfield’s music and words, along with firsthand accounts from his family, his band mates and those closest to him, with appearances by David Sanborn, Bonnie Raitt, B.B. King, Bob Dylan and more. Co-sponsored by the Long Island Blues Society and the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, the evening will be moderated by  WUSB’s Tom Needham with guest speaker executive producer/producer Sandra Warren. A prefilm blues concert with Kerry Kearney, Frank Latorre, Gerry Sorrentino and Mario Staiano will be held at 6 p.m. (Combo concert, film and Q&A ticket is $15.)

Don Law has carved more than 5000 decoys over the years. Photo from LIM
Sarah Broadwell

Take a break from all the holiday preparations and come on down to Stony Brook for the Long Island Museum’s Open House and Decoy Day celebration on Sunday, Dec. 2 from 1 to 4 p.m!  The day includes decoy carving demonstrations, a discussion about fishing on Long Island and live music.  You’ll meet:

  • Captain Don Law a full-time charter boat captain from Hampton Bays who began carving decoys in the 8th grade!
  • George Rigby, Jr., a descendant of baymen who settled on LI in the early 1900s.
  • Don Bennet, whose family has worked the LI waters for more than 100 years.
  • Sarah Broadwell, a full-time fishing captain with the Viking Fleet based in Montauk, who works with students, teachers and recreational fishermen, lecturing about responsible fishing.
  • Stuart Markus, a fixture on Long Island’s folk and acoustic scene.
  • Traditional folk singer Larry Moser.
  • Max Rowland, banjo master and folk musician, who’s family history includes several sea captains.
DEMONSTRATIONS AND MUSIC FROM 1 – 4 P.M.
Free admission all day.
The Long Island Museum is located at 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. For more information, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

On Saturday, Oct. 27 from 9:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook will present Elias Pelletreau: Long Island Silversmith & Entrepreneur, an all-day symposium exploring this early American silversmith’s life and work, as well as the Long Island Colonial and Revolutionary War-era in which he lived. Scholars and historians will examine Pelletreau’s fine craftsmanship and his essential role in the complex trade and social worlds in conjunction with the museum’s current Pelletreau exhibit.

Topics of discussion include Pelletreau’s Life and Legacy, Pelletreau’s Larger World, American Craftsmen of the 18th Century and Pelletreau’s work in general from an artist’s point of view. There will be a Q&A session after the program, giving audience members the opportunity to ask specific questions of the presenters.

Presenters for the symposium include Joshua Ruff, director of Collections & Interpretation at The Long Island Museum; Deborah Dependahl Waters, independent historian and decorative arts specialist, and guest curator, Elias Pelletreau: Long Island Silversmith & Entrepreneur; Jennifer Anderson, associate professor of history, Stony Brook University; David Barquist, curator of American Decorative Arts, Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Eric Messin, silversmith and jeweler, Pelletreau Silver Shop, Southampton.

Fee is $12 adults, $10 students, seniors and museum members which includes symposium and admission to the museum. Optional $10 additional for lunch. Lunch also available off-site at area restaurants. To register for this event, call 631-751-0066, ext. 212 or email bchiarelli@longislandmuseum.org.

RENAISSANCE DOG Long Island Museum educators, from left, Lisa Unander, Emma Backfish, Beth Chiarelli, Kristin Cuomo and Jessica Pastore, pose with artist and star of the day, Dagger II, aka DogVinci, at the Stony Brook museum’s Summer Thursday event on Aug. 16. Dagger painted a work of art and then attendees created their own masterpieces to take home. Join the museum for its final Summer Thursday event of the year, a free outdoor screening of “Back to the Future,” on Sept. 6. For more information, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

From left, Supervisor Ed Romaine, Joshua Ruff of The Long Island Museum and town historian Barbara Russell at the Longwood Estate. Photo courtesy of Town of Brookhaven

On Aug. 7, Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine (R) and town historian Barbara Russell visited the Longwood Estate (circa 1790) in Ridge where they presented two historic paintings to Joshua Ruff, director of collections and interpretation at The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook, to be added to the museum’s collection as a long-term loan.

The portraits, painted by Shepard Alonzo Mount, were gifted to the town by Eleanor Smith of California. The subjects are William Sidney Smith (1796–1879) and his wife, Eleanor Jones Smith (1805–1884). A year after their marriage in 1823, the couple came to Longwood Estate and raised 10 children. William Smith served as Brookhaven Supervisor from 1829 to 1834.

“These pieces were donated to the Town of Brookhaven, they still belong to the Town of Brookhaven, but they are coming to the museum and will be stored in our collections to be used occasionally for exhibition purposes,” said Ruff in a recent phone interview. “We agreed in taking them as a long-term loan because we believe they really add to our holdings on Shepard Alonzo Mount.”

Painted in the early 1830s, the two portraits were displayed in the house on the property until the last Smith family owner, Eleanor Northrup Smith, sold the estate and moved to California in the late 1960s. The paintings have been stored in a warehouse since that time. 

Albeit a loan, Ruff is thrilled to be able to add them to the museum’s current collection, which includes more than 25 of Shepard Alonzo Mount’s paintings and several hundred of his drawings and sketches, not to mention the enormous collection of paintings and drawings by his more famous younger brother, William Sidney Mount.  

According to Ruff, these particular portraits are unique in that they precede the portrait paintings the museum has, which are from the later 1830s and 1840s. “They were done just when [Shepard] was starting to launch his career as a portrait artist. This was a phase of his career that we hadn’t really documented before. They are valuable in that sense to us,” he said. “They show him beginning to mature as an artist and improve in his skills.”

Winners honored at art reception on April 20

By Heidi Sutton

Wanderlust: a strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world.

The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook kicked off its 2018 juried art competition, Wanderlust, with a standing room only artist reception on April 20. 

Amateur and professional artists were invited to submit up to three pieces using the desire to travel as their inspiration. 

Neil Watson, executive director of the LIM, opened the reception by congratulating the artists.“You deserve a huge hand. This is one of the strongest shows that I’ve seen in five years.” 

“I’ve been a museum director for many years in many different kinds of museums and artists are the core … Whether it’s a carriage that’s made by a group of artisans from the wheels to the fabric … or it’s a painting or a photograph, it’s a maker. I applaud all of you for being makers and continuing to do that and push it because I know it’s really hard.”

Watson went on to mention that the works of 39 members of the LIMarts, a collaborative arts group, were in the show and encouraged the other artists in the room to join. “This museum believes in makers,” he said. 

Museum staff members combed through more than 300 entries submitted to come up with 76 final entries. Debbie Wells, co-founder and partner of Artful Circle, served as juror and was tasked with selecting a first-, second-, and third-place winner along with two honorable mentions. Wells was also present at the reception, a first for a juried exhibit reception at the museum.

Before announcing the winners, Lisa Unander, director of education at the museum, encouraged all the visitors to browse the exhibit to see all of the artist’s works. “It’s a fantastic show. We are so happy for the turnout for [all the artists] tonight,” she said.

Smithtown resident Elizabeth Milward captured first place for her hauntingly beautiful black and white photo,  “All Aboard,” which was taken on the Strasburg Railroad in Pennsylvania. “Just beaming with artistic talent” was a comment overhead from one of the visitors.

Barron Krody of Stony Brook nabbed second place for his oil on canvas painting, “Happiness Is …” depicting a young girl with a big smile sitting on a cloud with arms outstretched as if flying. “When I heard about the theme [for the show] the word that came to mind was exuberance,’’ said Krody at the reception. Mission accomplished Mr. Krody. 

Third place was awarded to Julianna Kirk of the hamlet of Brookhaven for her  colored pencil masterpiece, “Prague Street,” which featured a young girl in the foreground.

Two honorable mentions were awarded as well. The first was to Jovanna Hopkins of Dix Hills for her stunning digital photograph of Zabriskie Point in California’s Death Valley. The second was to Ronkonkoma’s Gabriella Grama for a vintage suitcase decorated with mosaic tile titled “Worldy Possessions.” The work of art is adorned with images of all the places she has visited, including Egypt. Said the mosaic artist, “I made this just for the show because I love to travel.”

Juror’s comments:

1stplace  

 Elizabeth Milward

All Aboard, Photography

“This photograph tells the story of wanderlust – the desire to journey. The composition of the two figures facing the tracks into the misty distance is very strong and quite moving. The atmospheric quality is enhanced by their vintage clothing and the soft landscape ahead of them.  Excellent monochromatic layering and use of photographic techniques makes it worthy of first prize.  It exemplifies the theme of the exhibition.”

2ndplace 

Baron Krody

Happiness is…,Oil on Canvas

“The perfect title for this whimsical take on the Wanderlust theme. Beautiful, painterly clouds float throughout the composition. Like a cherry on an ice cream sundae, the young girl is brave, happy and poised to embark on an adventure.  This piece is colorful and imaginative – the viewer does not know what is going to happen next, but there is much optimism for this girl!”

 3rdplace 

 Julianna Kirk

Prague Street, Pencil

“This storybook-style illustration was executed by an artist with superior skills in colored pencil techniques.  The perspective of the buildings and architectural landscape are charming and beautifully drawn.  By adding the red-headed woman in the foreground, it frames the composition so that the viewer is seeing the world as she sees it.  The color choices are interesting – a terracotta palette with touches of green give the piece an old world feel.  One wonders what this woman is dreaming about in this European courtyard scene.”

 Honorable Mentions

 Gabriella Grama

Worldly Possessions, Mosaic on Vintage Suitcase

“Most exhibitions feature art on the walls, but when a piece made of unusual materials is showcased, it always stands out.  This mixed media artwork is an unexpected combination of materials.  The form underneath is a suitcase, symbolizing travel and carrying one’s belongings from place to place.  By covering it with mosaics, it adds a sense of permanence because mosaics are not mobile. They historically, are adhered to walls and decorative objects. The juxtaposition of movement and stability is intriguing.  The travel stickers are both fanciful and well-created as they document the travel itinerary of the suitcase.”

Jovanna Hopkins

Zabriskie-Point, Death Valley, Ca.,Photography

“This photograph takes a vast landscape and reduces it to a viewpoint that is nearly abstract.  Between the intense colors and the varying textures of the rocks and shadows, the viewer must look at this scene for the beauty of the shapes, rather than its reality. The composition forces the eye round and round with just enough time to stop and appreciate nature at its finest. Sometimes ‘wanderlust’ means one wants to keep going, but there are also times where it is necessary to just sit and really look at where you are!”

Whether you’re a world traveler or just a dreamer, don’t miss this beautiful exhibit. The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook will present Wanderlust in the Visitors Center through June 3. For more information, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

Ray Bonneville
On Sunday, April 15 at 5 p.m. WUSB-FM, The Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, sundaystreet.org and the Long Island Museum will welcome singer-songwriter Ray Bonneville, performing live on the stage of the Carriage Museum’s Gillespie Room in Stony Brook.  

With a style that sometimes draws comparisons to JJ Cale and Daniel Lanois, this blues-influenced, New Orleans-inspired “song and groove man” holds dual U.S. and Canadian citizenship. He says he “found his grove” when he moved to New Orleans after serving in Vietnam as a Marine, earning a pilot’s license, and moving to Alaska, then Seattle, and Paris. Ray‘s songs involve gritty narratives inspired by a lifetime of hard-won knowledge set against his soulful guitar and harmonica playing.
Ray has earned many accolades, including a Juno (the Canadian equivalent of a Grammy). His post-Katrina ode, “I Am the Big Easy” received the International Folk Alliance’s 2009 Song of the Year Award, and in 2012 Bonneville won the solo/duet category in the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge. His songs have been recorded by many other artists, among them Slaid Cleaves and Ellis Paul.
Ray will perform songs from a new album as well as fan favorites from his previous six releases. (www.raybonneville.com).
Tickets are $25 per person and may be purchased at the door. Please call the museum at (631) 751-0066 the day of the show to confirm ticket availability. Museum exhibitions close at 5 p.m. and are not included with concert tickets.
The Sunday Street Concert Series is presented by WUSB-FM, sundaystreet.org, the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council and the Long Island Museum.
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About Sunday Street
The Sunday Street Series began in 2004 at The University Cafe at Stony Brook University, when Charlie Backfish, host of the long-running weekly radio program Sunday Street on WUSB-FM, began presenting concerts with many of the singer/songwriters featured on the program. In its first decade, the series presented 172 concerts with musicians from all over the world performing in an intimate venue. In 2015 the series moved from the University Café to the nearby Long Island Museum, where musicians may take advantage of the museum’s Steinway Boston Grand piano. For more information and a complete concert schedule visit www.sundaystreet.org

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About the Long Island Museum

Located at 1200 Route 25A in Stony Brook, the Long Island Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate dedicated to enhancing the lives of adults and children with an understanding of Long Island’s rich history and diverse cultures. Regular exhibition hours (unless otherwise noted), are Thursday through Saturday,10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, noon – 5 p.m.  For more information about programs and exhibitions, please call 631-751-0066 or visit the museum website at www.longislandmuseum.org.

‘Dance of the Haymakers’ by William Sydney Mount, 1845

By Heidi Sutton

Now through Sept. 3, The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook presents a delightful treat: a special exhibit titled Perfect Harmony: The Musical Life and Art of William Sidney Mount.

William Sidney Mount (1807-1868) was a renowned artist best known for his genre paintings, although he also painted landscapes and portraits. Born in Setauket, Mount lived in Stony Brook and painted many local scenes. A man of many talents, Mount was also a musician (he played the fiddle and fife), composer and inventor, designing a hollow-back violin that he named the Cradle of Harmony.

‘The Banjo Player,’ 1856, by William Sidney Mount, oil on canvas, gift of Ward and Dorothy Melville. Image from LIM

So many of Mount’s paintings incorporate music into the scene, whether it is dancing or playing a musical instrument so it was only natural to “connect his two major passions in life,” according to the exhibit’s curator, Joshua Ruff, director of collections and interpretations and chief curator at The LIM.

Currently on view in the Victoria V. Costigan Gallery in the Art Museum on the hill, the fascinating exhibit links Mount’s music and art with more than 20 oil paintings, pencil drawings, musical instruments, original compositions and more.

Of course, it is the incredible oil paintings, drawn from the museum’s unsurpassed collection, that take center stage. “Catching the Tune,” “Dancing on the Barn Floor,” “Just in Tune” and the famous “Dance of the Haymakers,” among others, are displayed in all their glory.

The portraits, some of which are over 160 years old, are as colorful and vibrant as ever. “Both William and his brother, Shepard Alonzo Mount, were really great at painting eyes and giving one the feeling like they are sitting in a room across from you,” commented Ruff, who has a fondness for “The Banjo Player.”

‘Just in Tune,’ 1849, oil on canvas, by William Sidney Mount, gift of Ward and Dorothy Melville. Image from LIM

Situated toward the center of the room is a unique music stand that Mount illustrated with sheet music of early American folk tunes including “Dearest Ellen” and a patriotic Fourth of July song. “These musical pieces were popular in the 19th century,” explained Ruff during a recent tour. The stand was designed to accommodate four musicians at a time and Ruff said that Mount most likely used it. “I would be surprised if he didn’t,” said the curator.

Also on display are some of Mount’s compositions including “In the Cars on the Long Island Railroad” and “The Musings of an Old Bachelor,” as well as musical instruments — a tin whistle, hornpipe, tuning fork — which belonged to the Mount family. A piano owned by Mount’s uncle Micah Hawkins sits in the corner. A General Store owner at Catherine’s Market in lower Manhattan, Hawkins composed music and to some extent was an influence to Mount “but his whole family was passionate about music,” said Ruff.

Along with Mount’s personal violin and initialed case, three prototypes of Mount’s Cradle of Harmony are also on view. “It’s nice that we were able to have all three examples of the violin that he designed and we have the 1852 patent design drawing for the first one,” the curator said.

In the background, a video plays several of Mount’s compositions, initially recorded by violinist Gilbert Ross for the Smithsonian in 1976 on its own Cradle of Harmony, tying the exhibit together perfectly.

“It is amazing how Mount was just able to bring music and art together and combine it. Until you have all [these items] gathered in a gallery you don’t necessarily appreciate just how much he was setting a violin down and picking up a paintbrush,” reflected Ruff. “Where one started and one finished is not always clear … nor should it be. It was just this continuing, constant influence and important part of his life.”

Related programs

Art & Music lecture

The Atelier at Flowerfield, 2 Flowerfield, St. James will present a lecture on the Perfect Harmony exhibit with guest speaker, curator Joshua Ruff, on Thursday, April 12 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in Atelier Hall featuring an early American fiddle performance by Director Kevin McEvoy. Suggested donation is $10. For more information, call 631-250-9009.

Mount tribute concert

On Saturday, April 14, The LIM will host a concert by the Manhattan-based Red Skies Music Ensemble at 2 p.m. The group will bring Mount’s music and art to life through visual imagery and theatrical interpretation of songs from the artist’s own collection. One of the musicians will play Mount’s Cradle of Harmony. Followed by a Q&A. Admission is $20 adults, $18 seniors, $15 members and students. To register, call 631-751-0066, ext. 212.

Hands-On Art

Students in grades K through 4 can take part in an after school program, Hands-On Art, on Thursday, May 3 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. by visiting the Perfect Harmony exhibit and taking inspiration from William Sidney Mount to combine music and art. $10 per child. To register, call 631-751-0066, ext. 212.

The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook will present Perfect Harmony: The Musical Life and Art of William Sidney Mount through Sept. 3. The museum is open Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 adults, $7 seniors, $5 students, children 5 and under free. For further information, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

 

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