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Neil Watson

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.