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Neil Watson

Children sit in one of the carriages at The Long Island Museum during a school program. Photo from The Long Island Museum

The planning process for a new gallery is about to begin at The Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages in Stony Brook thanks to a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) announced Aug. 3 the museum was awarded $40,000 through NEH’s competitive grant program. The new interactive gallery will be called “A World Before Cars” and plans include developing a simulation ride where visitors can experience how it felt to ride in a carriage.

“The Long Island Museum has continued to do amazing work in preserving this great heritage.”

— Lee Zeldin

Zeldin thanked the NEH for recognizing the museum’s contributions of providing a source of art, history and culture to the community.

“Our local history and culture is so important to us here on Long Island, and The Long Island Museum has continued to do amazing work in preserving this great heritage,” Zeldin said in an email. “The Long Island Museum presented a strong application for this grant when compared with other applicants, and as such were able to get through the rigorous NEH selection process.”

The NEH is an independent federal agency that was established in 1965 and provides grant funding for museums, archives and libraries to promote excellence in the humanities in the country. Zeldin was among the congressmen who voted to fund the agency at $149.8 million this year, which was an increase of $1.9 million from 2016.

Funding organizations such as this is important to Zeldin.

“Our museums, libraries, art galleries, archives, and other related venues serve an incredibly important purpose, and it is imperative that they remain supported through initiatives like these,” the congressman said. “Long Island has a unique and cherished history unlike any other, and securing grants like this for our local institutions is integral in preserving our distinct heritage and attracting visitors to help our local tourism economy.”

Neil Watson, executive director of The Long Island Museum, said in a phone interview he feels the future gallery is the missing element at the museum.

The director said they submitted a proposal in 2016, and while they weren’t awarded a grant last year, they were able to rework and resubmit the proposal for 2017. He said the grant was awarded for the planning necessary to construct the gallery, and the museum will apply for another grant through the NEH to implement the plans. Additional funds will be raised to supplement both grants.

“We don’t know what’s possible yet and that’s what we want to discuss [in] the next nine months to a year.”

— Neil Watson

Watson said the proposal was one that needed time to be honed as the new gallery will incorporate history, interactive features and is object-driven.

The director said the concept for interactive elements was a result of requests from visitors to the museum, which features carriages from various eras. 

“What visitors have told us often … is they want to know what it’s like to ride in a carriage,” Watson said.

The director said the planning period will take approximately a year and the gallery will be located on the lower level in a 2,500 square foot space. While they have held preliminary meetings with the architecture company Lee H. Skolnick Architecture + Design Partnership, future meetings will include historians, curators, and they will also approach the plans from the educational and public access angles.

“We don’t know what’s possible yet and that’s what we want to discuss [in] the next nine months to a year,” Watson said.

Joshua Ruff, director of collections and chief curator, will be part of the planning process and said he was pleased when he heard the news about the grant.

“I think it’s a terrific thing,” he said. “NEH has been very instrumental in the process to renovate the carriage museum.”

The curator said the planning committee will be taking a long, meticulous look at the proposed plans for the gallery that he said will be rich in content. He said a simulation ride will give museum guests the opportunity to choose the type of horse, carriage and ride they would like to experience and feels it will add a new dimension to the museum.

“I think it will help us to connect with a new, larger audience,” Ruff said. 

Watson and Ruff said the gallery will incorporate displays to show the direct correlation between cars and carriages, too.

“[A carriage] was the car before there were cars,” Watson said. “Everybody used it for industry, for everyday life, to get to one place to another. It was like a car. So we want to make that connection through a variety of activities.”

For more information about The Long Island Museum of American Art, History and Carriages, visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

Above, seated from left, LIM Executive Director Neil Watson, Jennifer Lawrence and Paul Lamb; standing from left, Christopher A. Miano and Michael J. Opisso. Photo above from LIM

Passengers traveling through Stony Brook past The Long Island Museum on Route 25A might have noticed a new bit of landscape recently. The Long Island Museum unveiled the Betty and William F. Howind Memorial Garden, funded by the North Suffolk Garden Club, at a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony on June 29. The event celebrated the Howinds as longtime supporters of the museum and Betty as a devoted member of the garden club.

A view of the new memorial garden with the sculpture, ‘Three Sheets to the Wind,’ by Drew Klotz in the foreground. Photo by Michael J. Opisso

“Betty and Bill Howind were longtime supporters of LIM and Betty enjoyed working in The LIM’s Emma Lee Blackford Rockwell Herb Garden, designed and maintained by North Suffolk Garden Club. The garden club wanted to honor Betty and Bill for their generosity and for Betty’s devoted service to the club. So NSGC felt The LIM campus was a perfect place to create a lasting memorial to the Howinds and LIM agreed!” commented Jennifer Lawrence, NSGC president, who was instrumental in the project.

The North Suffolk Garden Club has been maintaining the Emma Lee Blackford Rockwell Herb Garden on the grounds of The Long Island Museum since 1993. The Howind garden is the most recent highlight of this long-standing partnership. Together, The LIM and the garden club selected Michael J. Opisso to design the garden.

A key feature of the space is a beautifully designed black walnut bench by Christopher A. Miano. When LIM Executive Director Neil Watson proposed Miano’s design to Lawrence, he mentioned that Miano works only in black walnut. It happened that Lawrence and her husband Brewster had 600 board feet of black walnut from trees on their Nissequogue property and Miano was able to use some of the wood for the bench. “It really is a local product,” said Lawrence.

The Betty and William F. Howind Memorial Garden provides several key elements to the museum property including delineated walkways, a resting spot for visitors on their way into Stony Brook Village and a beautiful focal point to celebrate the new vision of LIM as a community destination. The new garden will enhance the museum grounds for years to come and will be enjoyed by thousands of Long Islanders throughout the seasons.

The Kennedys will return for their ninth Dylan birthday celebration on May 21. Photo by Jeremy Lebled

By Kevin Redding

The times may be a changin’ but the songs of Bob Dylan continue to be sung. On Sunday, May 21, in celebration of the Nobel Laureate’s 76th birthday, The Long Island Museum, in partnership with WUSB-FM’s Sunday Street Concert Series and the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, will host the 12th annual Dylan tribute concert in the Carriage Museum’s Gillespie Room at 7 p.m.

Several local and outside musicians — including concert staples Pete and Maura Kennedy, whose covers include guitars, sitars and ukuleles, Rod MacDonald of the revered tribute band Big Brass Bed, and Russ Seeger of Levon Helm’s Last Hombres, who will perform Dylan deep tracks like “Foot of Pride” — will strum and sing through decades of material, from 1965’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” to 1997’s “Love Sick.”

Much of the setlist will feature songs from two touchstone albums celebrating anniversaries this year — 1967’s “John Wesley Harding,” Dylan’s return to his acoustic roots after three albums of going electric, turns 50, and 1997’s “Time Out of Mind,” his Grammy-Award-winning comeback album, turns 20.

“Every year the show takes on a different dimension … it’s always different and never stale,” said Charlie Backfish, host of the long-running, weekly Stony Brook University radio program “Sunday Street” from which the series stemmed. “We have unique interpretations of Dylan’s songs and we don’t just do the greatest hits; we really go through the catalog and try to play songs you don’t hear often, making it very different than the usual Dylan tribute show.”

Speaking of deep tracks, Seeger is expected to perform “Foot of Pride,” a song Dylan wrote and recorded in 1983 but never released on an album.

Backfish said he chose Dylan as the focus of the tribute concert because of the singer-songwriter’s incredibly prolific career. “He has been at home in a variety of different musical settings over the years, starting out in a folk direction and moving toward rock and then into a country sound and then in a gospel direction later in his career — he’s moved in fascinating ways, his songs are incredible and it [really] opens up the possibilities of using the lyrics and melodies and taking them in different directions and there’s a lot of room to move with Dylan songs. It’s terribly interesting and it’s quite a rich catalog we have to go with,” he said.

The Sunday Street Series started in 2004 at the University Cafe at Stony Brook University when Backfish put on concerts featuring the singer-songwriters he’d interviewed and played on his radio program. In 2014, he was in need of a different venue to host the concerts and turned to The Long Island Museum, which took it over a year later.

“We were wanting to do a singer-songwriter concert series at the museum when Charlie approached us,” Neil Watson, the museum’s executive director, said. Since Backfish came aboard, the museum has hosted more than 20 concerts featuring an ever-changing roster of artists. “It’s activated our performance space on a regular basis like nothing can. People who would never have come to the museum are now being introduced to it in a different way.”

Watson, who noted “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” as his favorite Dylan song, said he was thrilled to be hosting this particular event.

“This concert series sells out very fast and I think it’s because Dylan’s music has touched so many people for different reasons,” Watson said. “What these musicians do with the material is critical and when you hear their interpretations of his songs, they take on a new life. The [concert] captures the spirit of Bob Dylan. It will be a rollicking good time.”

The Long Island Museum is located at 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. Tickets may be purchased in advance at www.sundaystreet.org through Friday, May 19 for $30. If available, tickets may be purchased at the door for $35 (cash only). Please call the museum at 631-751-0066 the day of the show to confirm ticket availability.

Above, a 1927 Ford Motel T greets visitors at the entrance of the exhibit. Photo by Julie Diamond

By Susan Risoli

Prohibition made the 1920s roar. Long Island was the center of all the glamour and danger of that whirlwind time, as we now know from Midnight Rum, a new exhibit on display through Sept. 4 at The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook.

“Being on a coast and having so many inlets, Long Island was a natural” for running illegal alcohol, said LIM Executive Director Neil Watson. Proximity to New York City was another factor. The exhibit, which Watson described as “unusually stimulating and rich,” reveals the daring and ingenuity of people making the most of an era that lasted from 1920 to 1933. “When alcohol was banned, it flourished,” he said, “but it flourished in a different way.”

Above, a still used by Roy Edwin Thompson of Roosevelt in the 1920s and ’30s. Photo by Julie Diamond

A massive car built for adventure greets the visitor to the gallery. Was this 1927 Ford Model T touring car one of the vehicles involved in illegal activity? We don’t know for sure. But memories and newspaper accounts reveal that similar Model Ts were the car of choice for smuggling booze. The one in the LIM show is a black chariot with a black leather interior. The running board alone could hold a small gang, and the button-tufted back seat looks made for shenanigans.

Assistant curator Jonathan Olly said he originally wanted to find a rum runner boat to display. He found someone willing to loan one for the exhibit. But the motorboat was just a foot too wide to fit into the gallery. “It was a disappointment,” he recalled.

After contacting multiple car collecting clubs and individuals, “some of whom are very elderly,” Olly turned up the Model T in the exhibit. The owner was willing to drive it out to Stony Brook from Bayside, Queens — no easy journey, given the distance and the car’s top speed of 40ish miles per hour. “We lucked out,” Olly said.

A vignette depicting the Suffrage movement. Photo by Julie Diamond

Olly and his colleagues found the perfect accompaniment to the car: vintage wooden crates just like those that would have been used to store liquor, “from a guy who sells reconditioned Jeep parts out in Riverhead.” The idea came from a 1924 newspaper article that described a Model T, found in a shed by authorities, with 13 cases of liquor hidden in it.

Midnight Rum is a feast of details. Some are luxurious, some are practical, but no less fascinating. A vignette of objects portraying a speakeasy includes a hand-beaded dress and a beautiful cut-glass bowl for punch (spiked, of course). A still based in somebody’s kitchen occupies another vignette, complete with beautifully preserved stove and the tubs and pots needed to cook up some home brew. Over in the corner, tacked up on the kitchen wall, is another LIM find: actual old recipes, written in carefully cursive penmanship. But this is not your grandmother’s coffee cake recipe. “Place in tub as is, stems and grapes,” says the instructions.

Other vignettes tell the story of the strong connection between the drive to make alcohol illegal and the fight for women’s suffrage. Equally compelling are the artifacts and objects that reveal how women, growing in political savvy and connections, helped lead the movement that ultimately repealed Prohibition.

Midnight Rum is a multimedia exhibit. The sounds of oral histories, projected on a screen, draw the viewer in. A short film on the perils of drink is entertaining, while it explains the thinking and emotions that led to Prohibition in the first place. The film’s string- and woodwind-filled score might be familiar to anyone who remembers the Little Rascals or Bugs Bunny.

A speakeasy vignette. Photo by Julie Diamond

Olly said although Long Island played a key role in what he called “a very extreme moment in American culture, when alcohol suddenly became illegal,” there were challenges in putting the exhibit together. “Everyone has some sort of anecdote about Prohibition,” he said, but often anecdotes are … well … only anecdotal. Finding all the objects needed to tell the story properly was a complex task, he said, and consequently “a lot of the objects are borrowed. It’s not a story we could tell without a number of lenders.”

Olly and his colleagues found parallels between the Prohibition era and today’s America. There was economic inequity, with poor people being affected more directly by the alcohol ban than their wealthy counterparts who could afford to stockpile liquor or frequent fancy speakeasies.

Many of the alcohol brewers of the time, in the New York metropolitan area, were German-American. And saloons were important places for Italian and German immigrants to gather, to find out about work and socialize in what Olly called “a public drinking culture.”

“There was some anti-immigrant sentiment, a nativism,” he said. “There were issues of citizenship — who should have access to resources and who shouldn’t.”

The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook will present in the Visitors Center through Sept. 4. The museum is open Thursday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday 12 to 5 p.m. Regular admission is $10, $7 for seniors and $5 for students ages 6 to 17. Children under 6 and museum members are admitted free. For more information, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

By Kevin Redding

Strap in, old sport. The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook is bringing you back to the roaring twenties for a special fundraiser and examination of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 literary masterpiece. Chasing Gatsby: The Journey from Book to Film is a one-night event Saturday, May 6 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. that explores the enduring power of “The Great Gatsby,” Fitzgerald’s universally revered novel about excess and tragedy in the fictional town of West Egg on Long Island in the summer of 1922.

“To me, it doesn’t get any better than this for a program,” Neil Watson, the museum’s executive director, said. “We’re all really proud of what we’ve put together because it really pushes the limit for us of what’s possible in programming — it will bring theater, performance, the written word and Hollywood under one umbrella. There’s nobody else putting this kind of event together.”

Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails will be served to attendees as they follow the classic novel’s progression and interpretations throughout the years with the help of an impressive panel of guest speakers.

John Bedford Lloyd

Actor John Bedford Lloyd, known for his film roles in “Crossing Delancey” and “The Abyss,” will join Tony Award-nominated actress Anne Twomey, best known for originating the stage role in “Nuts,” in reading selected excerpts from the book.

Christine Vachon, award-winning producer of the new Amazon series “Z: The Beginning of Everything,” based on the life of Fitzgerald’s infamous wife, Zelda, will discuss how three Hollywood film adaptations — the 1949 version starring Alan Ladd and Betty Field, the 1974 version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow and the 2013 version starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan — approached the source material differently and show clips from each.

Maureen Corrigan, book critic for NPR’s “Fresh Air” will also be there to talk about her 2014 book, “So We Read On: How the Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures.”

Julie Diamond, director of communications, said the program has been in the works for about six months and will coincide with the museum’s Prohibition on Long Island exhibition May 5. “We try to organize public programs that correspond with our exhibitions, so Gatsby is complementary to that era of Prohibition in the 1920s and is highly regarded as one of the best examples of American literature,” she said.

Maureen Corrigan

Watson, who referred to “The Great Gatsby” as one of his favorite books of all time, said it didn’t take long for the program to take shape. “It started with the idea of just doing readings [from it] and really evolved quickly from that into a much more interactive experience,” he said. “To have this right in our backyard on Long Island, where the novel takes place, is wonderful.”

“We want the public to look at our museum and see this museum is about exhibitions we do, the carriage collection, the education programs we do, but also about this kind of program,” said Watson. “It’s really looking at the museum as a cultural hub for the area, and we want everybody to really take advantage of it because there’s so much here and the more we can do and the more we get the community responding we can up our game too.”

Watson called on his wife, Judy Blundell, a National Book Award recipient and successful author of books for young adult and adult readers, to moderate the event. “I’m so thrilled,” Blundell said in an email. “I can’t imagine a better group to discuss how and why this gorgeous novel manages to capture the imagination of generation after generation. In only nine chapters and 50,000 words, Fitzgerald delivers an iconic American story told in language and images consistently fresh every reading.”

“I think it’s a smart program and it has everything — it’s entertaining, it’s dramatic and it’s fun and you learn something too, which is great,” said Watson. “I think it’s going be a wonderful evening.”

Tickets for the event are $35 per person or $75 for premium seating and may be purchased online at www.longislandmuseum.org/events. The museum staff expects the limited-seating program to sell out, so act quickly, old sport.

The Long Island Museum, a Smithsonian affiliate, is located at 1200 Route 25A in Stony Brook. For more information, please call 631-751-0066.

Front row, from left, Wendy Feinberg, co-director PJDS; Honey Katz, board member PJDS; Lyn Boland, co-director PJDS; Allan Varela, chairman, Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council; Barbara Sverd, co-director PJDS; and PJDS board members Phyllis Ross and Lynn Rein; back row, from left, Doug Quattrock, director of development, group sales and special events coordinator at Theatre Three; Vivian Koutrakos, managing director at Theatre Three; Julie Diamond, director of communications at the Long Island Museum; and Jeffrey Sanzel, executive artistic director at Theatre Three. Photo by Heidi Sutton

By Heidi Sutton

It’s official! Bethpage Federal Credit Union and the Long Island Press recently announced the 2017 winners of their Best of Long Island survey, now in its 11th year. Among the elite few was The Port Jefferson Documentary Series, which won for Best Film Festival.

“We were surprised and delighted when we were nominated in the early fall of last year. We had never been nominated before and the other nominees were all big names on the film festival scene. We never expected to actually win!” said Lyn Boland, co-director of the Port Jefferson Documentary Series, adding “This award means so much because it tells us that people appreciate what we are trying to create — a way to enjoy great, new documentaries, on the big screen, in our community. A big thank you to everyone who voted for us!”

Sponsored by the Greater Port Jefferson Arts Council, the Suffolk County Office of Film and Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts, the series has presentend award-winning documentaries in the fall and spring for 11 years, with screenings most recently held at Theatre Three in Port Jefferson and The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook.

“The series has made an extraordinary contribution to the arts community for over thirty years. It has been our honor at Theatre Three to even be a small part of this vital institution,” said Jeffrey Sanzel, executive artistic director at Theatre Three.

Neil Watson, executive director at the LIM, concurred, stating “The museum is thrilled to partner with the Port Jefferson Documentary Series on these ongoing presentations. This collaboration strengthens and expands our connection to the community, and offers another rich layer of programming for our growing audience.”

The series kicks-off its Spring 2017 line-up on Monday, March 13 at Theatre Three with a screening of “Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing.” For more information and the full schedule of films, visit www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com.

Photo by Kristen Cuomo

The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook was recently awarded the 2016 SmartCEO Magazine’s Corporate Culture Award. The Corporate Culture Awards program honors companies that foster a creative, collaborative workplace culture to enhance performance and sustain a competitive advantage.

The Long Island Museum was one of 38 companies honored at the first Long Island Corporate Culture Awards ceremonies at Chateau Briand in Carle Place.

According to SmartCEO, “Smart leaders understand that culture is a company’s greatest asset, driving performance and growth. What’s more, a successful culture is actively and intentionally cultivated and developed.”

“The most significant aspects of our corporate culture are teamwork and timing,” said Long Island Museum Executive Director Neil Watson. “With a very lean staff, we work cohesively to deliver compelling exhibitions and engaging programs for diversified audiences. We’re constantly changing and people’s experience are changing when they’re here. The success of our corporate culture comes when we engage new and existing audiences in new ways,” he said.

Above, LIM staff members gather in the Carriage Museum’s Core Gallery to celebrate. Clockwise from left, Neil Watson, Executive Director; Jonathan Olly, Assistant Curator; Alexandria D’Auria, Development Associate; Andrea Abrahamsen, Curatorial Assistant; Joshua Ruff, Director of Collections and Interpretation; Lisa Unander, Director of Education; Emma Backfish, Public Programs Coordinator; Julie Diamond, Director of Communications; Louise Anderson, Executive Assistant; and Regina Miano, Special Events Manager.

Winners honored at art reception last Sunday

By Heidi Sutton

The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook kicked off its annual juried art competition, I’ve Got the Music in Me, with an artist reception on Sept. 18. Amateur and professional artists across Long Island were invited to submit up to three works with a music theme for the exhibition, which is now on display in the Visitors Center.

Executive director of The LIM, Neil Watson, congratulated the artists and thanked them for rising to the occasion and addressing the theme of the exhibit. The idea for a music-themed art exhibit came out of the previous exhibition in the Visitors Center — Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience — and also from the fact that the museum is now home to the singer/songwriter series Sunday Street as well as the North Shore Pro Musica group (chamber music), among others. “For us, it is very important to have music and as a theme it is a challenge, visually, so I appreciate all of the artists who did this and the show is a really handsome exhibition,” said Watson.

Museum staff members combed through 144 pieces submitted by 68 artists to come up with the final 59 entries that make up the exhibition, and juror John Cino chose a first-, second- and third-place winner along with two honorable mentions. (See juror’s comments under each photo.) Barbara Jo Kingsley of Huntington Station captured first place with her serigraph, “Mississippi River Blues”; Neil Leinwohl of Rockville Centre took second place with “Love the One You’re With”; and Renee Caine of Holtsville garnered third with her oil painting, “Hello.” Honorable mentions were handed to Hicksville’s Lynda Wright for her acrylic painting,“ Bridge of Dreams” and Andrea Baum from Lynbrook for her photograph titled “Trumpet Player.”

Lisa Unander, director of education at the museum, said that, when choosing the five selections, Cino noted that “Music means a lot of different things to different people. Many artists in this exhibition chose to depict musicians making music or listeners responding to music. At least since the time of [Wassily] Kandinsky there have been artists who have attempted to create a visual analogy of music which is essentially the organization of sound over time.” The exhibit runs through Oct. 23. For more information, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.

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