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The Long Island Museum

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.

Local residents receive crochet circle instructions and create works of art to be displayed at Middle Country Public Library’s Centereach location this September as part of Carol Hummel’s global project. Photo from MCPL

By Jill Webb

This summer, the Middle Country Public Library is giving the community a chance to not only admire the beauty of nature but to create something new and exciting within it.

Artist Carol Hummel brought yarn-bombing to the Middle Country Public Library with her Crochet It! project, making circles that will be part of an installation on display in September. Photo from The Long Island Museum

Crochet It! is being hosted by the library as a community-driven art collective in which trees will be wrapped with thousands of colorful crocheted circles. This project will be creating two separate art installations to be displayed at the library for the public to enjoy.

Tracy LaStella, the library’s assistant director for youth services, beamed recalling the nearly 100 people who showed up for the June kick-off, where the library went through its first four boxes of macramé for the trees. Since then, she’s seen people of all ages and backgrounds become participants.

“This is our third drop-in, and they just keep on getting bigger and bigger,” LaStella said.

Carol Hummel, an artist well known for her large-scale installations and global projects, attended the Middle Country Public Library’s kick-off to offer two instructional workshops and will return in September to start the decorations she refers to as “artwork by the people, for the people.”

Since 2004, Hummel has been traveling to do community crocheting projects, also known as yarn-bombing. This is Hummel’s third time doing an installation on Long Island — her first was in Oyster Bay, and the  second was at Stony Brook’s Long Island Museum after being noticed at a gallery showing in the area.

After the installation at The Long Island Museum, Hummel said the staff told her that they still get 10 people a day, at least, that stop and come to The Long Island Museum to look at the trees. “And then they get exposed to the place,” Hummel said.

Participants not only get pleasure from creating the pieces but also get to enjoy them  after they are installed.

“It exposes people to a kind of art — contemporary art — that is different than going into a museum and looking at a painting on a wall,” Hummel said.

Local residents receive crochet circle instructions and create works of art to be displayed at Middle Country Public Library’s Centereach location this September as part of Carol Hummel’s global project. Photo from MCPL

Hummel’s role in Crochet It! is planning, designing and figuring out logistics, like how much of each yarn color is needed. Then, the project is turned over to the library’s volunteers to produce pieces, which Hummel and her team will put together in September.

The artist said she enjoys working with Long Islanders, saying that they get many people involved.

Participants have the choice to work individually or attend the drop-in crochet sessions hosted at the library. The Crochet Socials Drop-in Sessions will have instructors present and will be taking place until September.

Instructor Corin LaCicero, 38, walked around the July 12 session, offering assistance to anyone who needed help.

“It’s fun to see them learn, and when they get it they get really excited,” LaCicero said of the participants. She explained that after a few weeks they’re learning how to create things like chains and circles.

LaCicero was taught to crochet by her mother and grandmother at 8 years old. Having the hobby passed down leads her to emphasize the benefits of group sessions.

“Some people might have different techniques than others,” she said. “You might have someone come who’s left-handed and it’s hard to teach, and someone else can help with that.”

Local residents receive crochet circle instructions and create works of art to be displayed at Middle Country Public Library’s Centereach location this September as part of Carol Hummel’s global project. Photo from MCPL

The trees will be adorned with orange, blue, yellow and purple yarn in the Nature Explorium at the library’s Centereach building, where the drop-in sessions are held. “We must have over a thousand circles done already, and we need thousands because we’re doing two large trees on the property here,” LaStella said. “My office is just filled with the circles.”

Marianne Ramos-Cody, of Selden, sat in on a drop-in session July 12 for the first time with her two young children nearby.

“I’ve crocheted before, but nothing like this,” Ramos-Cody said as she demonstrates the circular pattern of the crocheting with her son by her side. “He wants to learn, but I gotta learn first to show him.

The library is offering Crochet It! kits to be picked up for any participants to start their work. The kit includes all of the materials necessary for making the circles.

The Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts, has given the necessary funds for the project to take off. The Huntington Arts Council administers the project, which will integrate nature and art into the community.

Community involvement is one of the beneficial aspects of the project, and drop-in crochet sessions will be Aug. 9 and 22 and Sept. 6 and 12 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Centereach location at 101 Eastwood Blvd.

“It’s always nice to experience something that’s so inspirational to everybody who’s working on it,” Hummel said.

She’s excited to be one of the first artists to go viral with yarn-bombing.

“People always say ‘aren’t you afraid people are going to copy you?’ I want them to copy me — I think it’s great,” Hummel said. “Spread joy and art around the world — that’s the best thing you can expect.”

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    *5-6pm, “Meet the Director” Wine & Cheese Reception
    6-8pm, Screening of SOUR GRAPES + Q&A
    4:30-6pm, Midnight Rum — Long Island & Prohibition Exhibit
    Guest Speaker for “Q and A”: Reuben Atlas, Co-Director

    Set in the super-fast, super-rich world of LA and New York during the financial boom of the early 2000s, in the lead up to the 2008 financial crash, and featuring the obsessive collectors, outraged wine producers, suspect auction houses, and specialist FBI sleuths, SOUR GRAPES is an “Emperor’s New Clothes” fable for the modern age. The film traces the story of the millions of dollars made from the sale of fake vintage wine, which flooded a susceptible luxury market with counterfeits that still lie undetected in cellars across the world. Winner of Best Documentary at the Key West Film Festival.
    Time: 85 minutes

    *Tickets for Reception and Film are $12 and we strongly recommend that you purchase advance tickets at portjeffdocumentaryseries.com until July 5th. Please print out your e-mail receipt, as that is your ticket. Walk-ins will be be welcome if we can accommodate.
    **Tickets for film only are $7 at the door (no credit cards, please).
    ***Wines provided by Pindar Vineyards Port Jefferson Wine Shop | 117 Main Street, Port Jefferson, NY
    ****Cheeses and Accompaniments provided by C’est Cheese, Pt. Jefferson, Brew Cheese, Stony Brook, Bliss Restaurant, E. Setauket and Wild By Nature, E. Setauket

    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.

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    This might sound peculiar since I am in the news business, but for over the past weekend I disconnected myself from all news reports. I was unplugged, you might say. Now this is a confession from an ultra news junkie. I’m normally so addicted that if I wake up in the middle of the night, I’ll switch on the bedside radio to catch up on what has happened since I went to sleep. But the past week, with the excruciating racist events and senseless killings, here and abroad, were more than I could process.

    So I just turned off, or rather I didn’t turn anything on — not my radio, not the television, not the news apps on my cellphone. I didn’t even talk about the news with friends and neighbors.

    What a luxury to be able to withdraw from global events for a couple of days.

    I have a further antidote for all that has been happening in the world, and it’s even great fun to pursue. This Saturday is Culper Spy Day in Setauket, and it is the work of a number of local organizations committed to bringing history to life. The Culper spies, as you may know, were a small band of close friends who provided George Washington and the colonists with critically important information throughout the Revolutionary War at great risk to their lives. So engaging were their exploits, and so valuable to the eventual outcome of the war, that AMC has a cable TV drama, “Turn,” which has been drawing large audiences for three seasons to date. The series is what we call historical fiction, with the emphasis on fiction loosely — very loosely — based on real events. Those events belong to us because they are part of our local history and are a source of community pride.

    This Saturday, July 23, you will be able to walk or bike or drive a designated route that offers views of key locations in the Culper story. There will be “colonists” in costume and signs along the way, helping the stories come alive. And we at Times Beacon Record have produced a multimedia map to enhance your experience. I refer to the newly released Three Village Map, complete with local roads and information from our business community. On this map is a QR code and also a link that, if you click on it with your mobile phone, will open up onto our website to seven different dramatizations of Culper stories — that we promise are historically accurate. In fact, the truth, we think, is more riveting than fiction, as we watch the dangerous exploits of these American heroes and heroines.

    The actors in these episodes may be recognizable to you, and they do a fine job of conveying the gist of the story. We have used the services of a professional film crew, who shot the local scenes over the past several months. Community leaders introduce each film segment to set the scene. And in between episodes, if you are walking the route with your family, there are fun arcade-like games to play on your smartphone or laptop. The games, like the scenes, are our original creations and lots of fun. I predict your children — and you — will return to them many times to improve your score. I have.

    Special thanks go to the participating organizations and their members for the vision to mount such an ambitious event and the enormous amount of time and effort that went into making history come alive. These include the Three Village Historical Society, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and The Long Island Museum.

    The Times Beacon Record has put together a special pullout within this week’s Arts & Lifestyles section with additional information about Culper Spy Day. Copies will be distributed for free in the historical society parking lot; our multimedia map is $3. Tickets for the more-than 16 attractions, including battle reenactments and colonial cooking demonstrations, are $25, with children under 12 free, from the historical society, WMHO Educational & Cultural Center in Stony Brook village and The Long Island Museum.

    Have yourselves a worry free and wonderful day!

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