Features

Huntington Hospital, will soon be home to a new caregiver program center due to a philanthropic gift from Charles and Helen Reichert. Photo from Northwell Health

Thanks to Charles and Helen Reichert, a center for a new caregiver program at Huntington Hospital, part of Northwell Health, will be ready by the first quarter of next year.

To be named the Reichert Family Caregiver Center, the philanthropic gift came this month to give the new program a space to help patients, their families and the community.

“The program was designed to support the family caregiver — the people taking care of their own loved ones that carry with them the stress, possible burden, the need for information and resources or emotional support,” said Cheryl Miranda, the hospital’s director of patient and customer experience. “For them, it’s almost like CPR for the family.”

She said the families dealing with their loved ones who are in the hospital are known as the silent patients.

“They do an amazing job to try to take care of their family members,” she added.

The caregiver program was implemented before COVID as a pilot, which is made up of different components, all to connect those caring for the chronically ill with programs and resources that can relieve their burden. The center will work within the hospital to help families with ongoing care after discharge.

“Once we have the new center, we’ll have the ability to give people space in real time,” Miranda said. “Someone will be there to be with them, hold their hands and let them cry.”

From emotional support to other resources like food delivery options, the center plans on walking the family through whatever they need when they leave the hospital.

“Our social workers and case managers, as great a job as they do with the patients and their families, it’s a short time they’re with them,” Miranda said. “This allows us to be connected with them and bring continual support throughout this community.”

And because of the Reichert family, the hospital can now fund the center and a full-salaried social worker to help out. Known for their philanthropy throughout the community, the Reicherts have been instrumental in implementing new technologies and services throughout Northwell Health.

Previously the Reicherts donated to  Northwell Health Reichert Family Imaging at Huntington in Greenlawn and the reception area of the Huntington Hospital Emergency Department, as well as supporting the hospital’s Center for Mothers and Babies. The Reichert family’s donations also funded the purchase of the hospital’s first 3D mammography machine.

“The Charles and Helen Reichert Family Foundation is committed to building stronger and healthier communities,” Charles Reichert said. “We are proud to partner with Huntington Hospital to create this much-needed program that will provide support, assistance and respite. You don’t realize how important a caregiver is until you become one.”

By Melissa Arnold

The holiday season is fast approaching, and it’s time to start thinking about that shopping list. But before you visit those online retailers and big box stores, consider supporting local businesses hit hard by this year’s closures and safety restrictions.

In the Three Village area, Gallery North has teamed up with their neighbors at The Jazz Loft and Three Village Historical Society for a festive holiday experience that has a little something for everyone on your list.

Each year, Gallery North celebrates local artists with Deck the Halls, a group exhibit and art sale. Now through Dec. 20, visitors can admire the work of more than 70 artists covering a variety of subjects and media. The sale includes over 100 pieces of art, with a range of prices making it easy to find a unique gift that fits any budget.

This year, Gallery North executive director Ned Puchner was eager to put together a larger, yet safe and festive event that could bring the community together again.

“Frankly, a lot of people are still understandably concerned about going out and shopping,” said Puchner. “We had a lot of success with the Farmers and Makers Markets over the summer, and one of our board members joked that while she didn’t do hot weather, she’d volunteer in a heartbeat for a winter event.”

The idea grew from there. Puchner reached out to Steve Healy, president of the Three Village Historical Society, and Tom Manuel, founder of The Jazz Loft, brainstorming ways they could collaborate.

They were inspired by the beautiful, timeless holiday markets in New York City, and decided to transform the historical society grounds into a marketplace of their own. The outdoor marketplace will open for four Saturdays after Thanksgiving, allowing local artists and vendors to set up shop in a festively decorated atmosphere.

Browse the gallery store for paintings, photography and sculptures, then shop outdoors for handcrafted pottery, jewelry, wood and metal creations, clothing, glassware, spice blends and much more.

Along the way, grab a bite to eat and some dessert or warm up with a hot drink from local food trucks.

“Throughout the pandemic we’ve been encouraging people to shop local and support local businesses as much as possible, because everyone is struggling. We can’t help everyone, but we all have ways we can chip in,” said Healy. “[The local organizations] have a great rapport, and we’re always looking for new ways that we can support one another.”

The Jazz Loft’s Equity Brass Band will perform a wide selection of New Orleans jazz standards along with jazzed-up versions of holiday classics. You’ll find them playing in their tent and parading through the grounds on market days as weather permits.

Over the summer, you may have seen the band marching through the streets on one of their Spirit Tours — musical appearances meant to uplift the community and provide cultural enrichment in a time where entertainment has been difficult, if not impossible.

“There’s been a blessing in all this — because we [musicians] are all out of work, people that normally don’t have the time to come and work with us are suddenly free. We’ve had great camaraderie develop from this experience,” Manuel said. “Jazz has always been the soundtrack of America. People have come up to us extremely moved to hear music after being cut off from art for nearly a year.”

At the core of the exhibit and holiday market is the desire to bring a little normalcy and good cheer to the season.

“It’ll give you a little taste of the holiday season while keeping people safe and socially distanced. It also supports local artists, musicians, chefs and entrepreneurs during a time that has been devastating for people who earn their livelihoods performing and creating,” Puchner said. “We want to renew our connection with the community and restore a spirit of togetherness. We’re all still here.”

The Deck the Halls exhibit is on display through Dec. 20 at Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket. The gallery is open Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. A virtual reception will be held via Zoom on Nov. 19 from 6 to 8 p.m.

Participating artists for the Deck the Halls exhibit include:

Lucia Alberti, Kelynn Alder, Andrea Baatz, Fred Badalamenti, Steve Behler, John Benevento, Joan Branca, Sheila Breck, Nancy Bueti Randall, Natalie Butkevich, Esther Marie Caponigro, Donna Carey-Zucker, Joseph Cooke, Jody Cukier, Linda Davidson-Mathues, Julie Doczi, Daniel Donato, Michael Drakopoulos, Paul Edelson, Patty Eljaiek, Lily Farah, Meagan Flaherty, Kimberly Gerber, Ray Germann, Helaine Goldberg, Holly Gordon, Larissa Grass, Jan Guarino, Anne Katz, Marceil Kazickas, Flo Kemp, Karen Kemp, Julianna Kirk, Randy Kraft, Barron Krody, Jillian Kron, Charles Lembo, LOVID, Mary Lor, Kathleen Massi, Michael McLaughlin, Meagan Meehan, Eleanor Meier, Olivia Menghini, Jim Molloy, Riley Mulligan, Annette Napolitano, Rhoda Needlman PSA, Gail Neuman, Susan Oliverio, Cynthia Parry, Mel Pekarsky, Alicia R. Peterson, Doug Reina, Brianna Sander, Oscar Santiago, Lori Scarlatos, Kate Schwarting, James Slezak, Judith Stone, Angela Stratton, Schery Markee Sullivan, Paul Thomas, Joanne Touch, Joe Ventimiglia, Mary Waka, Marlene Weinstein, Gil Yang, Patricia Yantz, Nicole Zinerco, and Stanley Zucker.

The Holiday Market will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Nov. 28, Dec. 5, Dec. 12 and Dec. 19 on the grounds of the Three Village Historical Society, 93 North Country Road, Setauket and Gallery North. Please note: Masks and social distancing will be required, and there will be no public restrooms.

For questions about the market or to register as a vendor, call 631-751-2676 or visit www.gallerynorth.org/holiday-market.

 

Ava Della Pietra
Three Village teen talks Broadway experiences, new music release

By Melissa Arnold

Ava Della Pietra

Fifteen-year-old Ava Della Pietra says she started singing as soon as she could speak. She loves performing no matter what form it takes, and her talents in music and theater have already given her incredible platforms. The Three Village local has toured with national theater productions and made her Broadway debut in School of Rock in 2015. These days Ava is focusing on her own music. Her new lyric video featuring her current single, ‘Optimist’, showcases her bright spirit and catchy songwriting skills, along with natural, powerful vocals. While she’s not quite sure yet what she’ll do after high school, one thing’s for sure: Ava’s future is a bright one.

Were you interested in music from an early age?

Yes, definitely. Everyone in my family played an instrument at some point -— I play piano, violin, guitar, bass and ukulele. My mom is also very musical, and I got involved in theater when I was very young. People would come up to my parents when I was 4 years old during a community theater production and they would say, “You need to get an agent, you need to try to get on Broadway.” After hearing it a couple of times, my parents started to take it more seriously, and my mom reached out to an agent. Eventually I got my first audition when I was six, and then when I was seven I got my first professional role as Little Cosette in the national tour of Les Miserables. Things kind of skyrocketed from there.

Where did you get your start? What local groups did you perform with?

My first performance was with a local community theater company called Performing Arts Studio in Port Jefferson (PAS), and then with Productions Over the Rainbow.

Why do you enjoy performing?

I really love seeing people’s reactions in the audience. As a songwriter, I appreciate being able to interact with the audience and look straight at them. I also love meeting people after shows and hearing what they have to say about my music. It inspires me to keep writing.

Who are some of your favorite singers?

I love Ariana Grande and Ed Sheeran. Lately I’ve also been enjoying Conan Gray.

What was it like being on Broadway and touring nationally at such a young age?

It was a great experience to have early on because it gave me a big boost of confidence in my abilities and taught me you can do anything you put your mind to. One of my favorite parts of that time was that celebrities would often come to see the show, then come backstage to meet the cast. I’ve gotten to meet Barbra Streisand, Stevie Nicks, and Jack Black. They each had their own perspectives to share. On Broadway, I played a swing in School of Rock, which meant I needed to study several roles and be ready to go on with sometimes a minute’s notice, even in the middle of the show. It’s really exciting and gives you such a rush of adrenaline.

You’ve written dozens of songs. Is it an easy process for you? Do you have a songwriting routine?

Songs tend to come to me at random moments, or when I’m feeling a strong emotion. Sometimes a melody or verse will come to me while I’m out writing my bike, and finish it up when I come home.

Where do you get your ideas from?

I like to write on themes that people can relate to — friendship, self-confidence, supporting one another, positivity, looking on the bright side. A lot of pop music today is negative, and I’m looking to make the kind of music that will make people feel good, and want to get up and dance.

What inspired you to write ‘Optimist’?

I wrote “Optimist” because there are a lot of problems that face society today. Optimism is about realizing that we are one community, and together, we can have hope for a better future. With everything going on in the world, we all need a little optimism right now.

What is your favorite line from the song?

My favorite line from my song is “Every cloud has a silver lining; look up, and we will find it.” This line captures the essence of my song since it talks about how we must take action, rise above, and know that we will be alright.

What type of response is the song getting?

I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback! A bunch of radio stations are playing my song, and I’m getting notes from fans on social media or through my website talking about how much my song means to them. One guy sent me an audio recording of himself crying. He told me how my song brought him to tears because he really needed to hear some positivity. I love it when people reach out to me because songwriting is about spreading a message. Seeing how much my music impacts people’s lives makes me really happy!

How did you get to work with producers who have also worked with Ed Sheeran, Avril Lavigne, and other celebrity musicians?

Honestly, I just looked up who produced songs I really loved and reached out to them with a demo. It’s been very successful so far and I feel very fortunate to have gotten to collaborate with them.

Do you enjoy writing songs with others?

Yes, I really enjoy the collaborative process. It’s important for me to work with people who truly value my thoughts and opinions about where I want my music to go, and are willing to ask, “What do you think?” instead of changing a song into something that doesn’t fit with who I am.

How do you juggle school with your music ambitions?

It’s important to remember that it’s supposed to be fun and not get overwhelmed or stressed out about the opportunities that come. Before the pandemic, I would travel over my school breaks to where a producer was located and we would record a song over the course of a few days. Lately I’ve been doing a lot of songwriting from home by Facetiming producers and recording in my bedroom studio. The only difference is I’m not actually there with them!

What are you working on now?

My latest project has been reviewing popular songs. They are featured on a website called Teen Kid News and I also post the reviews on my socials. Also, I appear on a new cast album called “Secondhand Lions” — I sing several songs, including “You Have To See It To Believe It.”

Is music something you’d like to pursue for a career?

Music will always be a part of my life — I’m looking forward to releasing an album soon. I’m also very interested in science and medicine, so I can totally see myself being some kind of doctor or a surgeon. My hope is to continue releasing music to connect with others even if I pursue a different career.

To learn more about Ava Della Pietra, visit her website at www.avadellapietra.com. Follow her on Instagram @avadellapietra, on Facebook @avadellapietraofficial, and check out her latest videos on YouTube.

Patricia Paladines. Photo by Carl Safina

By Leah Chiappino

The Center for Environmental Education and Discovery in Brookhaven has been connecting Long Islanders with nature since its inception in 2015. Setauket resident Patricia Paladines, who recently joined the board of directors, pledges to continue fostering that connection and hopes to expand the organization’s outreach to traditionally underserved populations.

Patricia Paladines

“Patricia is a naturalist, environmentalist, photographer and educator who has taught science and nature to students of every age from elementary school to college,” said Tom Pelletier, CEED board chair, in a statement. “Paladines’ photographs of people, wildlife and landscapes have been exhibited all over Long Island, she has a master’s degree in educational psychology, and she brings a wealth of skills and experience to CEED’s mission.”

Born in Ecuador, Paladines moved to Chicago with her parents when she was 3 years old. She relocated to New York in 1985 where she began a career in photography and design. Paladines worked as a research assistant in the Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architecture at the New-York Historical Society, while doing some graphic camera work for Estée Lauder.

“I used to do a lot of black-and-white photography back in the ’80s and ’90s,” she said. “I did work in the darkroom, so I think my background as an educator kind of stems from that: Finding images, and finding things that interest me to share with others.”

Her work has been featured at the Islip Art Museum, The Art Guild of Port Washington, Tabler art gallery at Stony Brook University and the New-York Historical Society.

In 1995, Paladines took a job as executive assistant to the vice president of ocean conservation at the National Audubon Society in Islip, where she said she discovered the true beauty of Long Island’s outdoors, as well as a general appreciation
for nature.

“When I started working for the Audubon Society, I realized that Long Island was much more than shopping malls and expressways, which is what a lot of people think when they live in the city,” she said. “[My work] showed me the wild side of Long Island, and the birds and the ocean. Having grown up in Chicago, this was very different for me.”

Her enthusiasm led her to work at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead, first through the Cornell Cooperative Extension, where she developed a program called Aspiring Latin American Scientists in 2000. She was responsible for leading naturalist tours, coordinating with college interns and giving public presentations. Having worked in environmental careers for some time, Paladines noticed Hispanic/Latinx communities were largely underrepresented in the field, even within the large environmental community in activities such as birding or hiking. She also coordinated presentations on various types of marine life to be done in Spanish.

She went on to initiate a partnership between the aquarium and Blue Ocean Institute after the aquarium decided not to renew an education contract with CCE a few years later. While managing the BOI program she received a grant from National Grid for an ocean literacy project. Paladines said with the grant she was able to develop workshops for teachers and schools, and one of the collaborations was with an English Language Learner class at Longwood High School filled with students from various countries who spoke different languages. She said it gave students the opportunity to “strengthen their English while learning about wildlife and the ocean.”

It is this kind of outreach Paladines wants to bring to CEED, encouraging the Hispanic community along the South Shore to utilize the facility and working on deploying “teams” from Bellport High School to build environmental leadership and to teach students how to bring it into their own communities.

In addition to her chosen fields, Paladines is married to ecologist and author Carl Safina. She also has a daughter, Alexandra Srp.

Pelletier said Paladines is an asset to the board.

“I mean, to put it bluntly, the environmental movement and nature center movement and all that tends to be pretty white,” Pelletier said. “We’re trying to do our part to change that. One of the reasons that we thought Patricia would be a really good fit for our board is that she’s done that kind of thing before. I’m kind of excited about having her on our board because that is one of our goals to do that: Make that kind of outreach and bring more people of color to our programs.”

Paladines’ appointment to the board comes as CEED attempts to get off the ground with expanding programming. A little more than three years ago, the nonprofit signed agreements with the Town of Brookhaven and with Suffolk County to use over 60 acres of nature preserve and green-space land, which includes the Washington Lodge estate where CEED is located.

By Melissa Arnold

With cooler weather on the horizon and a bit of normalcy returning to Long Island, there’s no better time to get out and enjoy some fresh air. If you’re looking for a fun and safe outdoor activity that’s out of the ordinary, a trip to Rottkamp’s Fox Hollow Farm in Baiting Hollow is just the ticket.

This year, the farm has planted a sunflower maze for the first time. Following the success of sunflower mazes grown earlier this summer, co-owner Jeff Rottkamp has planted a new series of mazes that will bloom in the fall.

The family-owned farm has been in business for more than 50 years now, with centuries of agriculture in their blood. Fox Hollow is currently run by Jeff, his parents and brother, with help from other relatives.

In recent years, people have flocked to the farm to enjoy the season’s bounty along with hayrides and corn mazes, but this year, the Rottkamps were excited to try something new.

“I’ve been seeing sunflower mazes popping up online from places all over the country, and I liked the way they looked,” Rottkamp said. “I knew it was something we could do and I thought people would find it fun. We did a brief trial run last summer and the feedback was extremely positive, so we were happy to do it again officially.”

Photo courtesy of
Rottkamp’s Fox Hollow Farm

Setting up any kind of crop maze is a process that requires an imagination and a lot of planning in advance, Rottkamp said. First, you have to select the right field — not too large, not too small, and in just the right spot on the sprawling grounds. Planting begins two months ahead of when they want the maze to be ready.

“Sunflowers need a lot of maintenance and careful watering,” he added. “I come up with the pathways at random each time we plant a field, so it’s a new experience every time.”

There are several varieties of sunflowers in different colors and sizes. In addition to the familiar golden petals, you’ll see sunflowers in shades of pink, maroon and white. Most of the sunflowers will grow to be 4 to 6 feet tall, but there will also be scattered sunflowers around 10 feet tall.

Of course, a maze made of living things can only last so long — sunflowers are only in bloom for about two weeks. To counter this, the farm is planting three different fields of sunflowers at staggered times. When one dies out, the next will be ready to go, and each one is different from the last.

The three fields are also different sizes. In order of growth, they are 1 acre, 4 acres, and 3 acres. But don’t worry about getting lost. “It’s not that kind of maze, it’s not a puzzle. It’s more of a wandering path that you can take your time going through, to take pictures and have a little bit of fun,” Rottkamp explained. “No one will get lost, and this is appropriate for all ages to enjoy.”

Before or after your trip through the maze, be sure to stop by the farmstand and pick up fresh, seasonal produce. Autumn will bring in the last of the sweet corn and tomatoes, as well as pumpkins, winter squash and zucchini, among others.

There are treats for sale as well, including local honey, Tate’s Bake Shop cookies, and fresh pies and donuts from the Jericho Cider Mill.

The mazes will be open for wandering throughout September and into October if the crop and weather permit.

Admission to the Rottkamp’s Fox Hollow Farm sunflower maze is $5 per person. Children ages 5 and under are free. The farm is located at 2287 Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow. For further information, please call 631-727-1786.

This article first appeared in Harvest Times 2020, a supplement from TBR News Media.

All photos by Heidi Sutton

By Melissa Arnold

It’s been a long year of Netflix binges and Zoom meetings for all of us, and these days, nothing feels better than getting out a little. You don’t have to go far to find interesting places to explore, either.

Most Long Island locals are probably familiar with the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum and Planetarium in Centerport, with its sprawling grounds, elaborate mansion and impressive collection of marine life. But be honest: When was your last visit? If it’s been a while — or even if it hasn’t — their 70th anniversary year is the perfect time to stop by.

“The Vanderbilt is unique, a don’t-miss slice of American history. When you take a guided tour of the mansion and its galleries, it’s a time machine trip to a remarkable era of privilege,” said Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan, executive director of the museum. “At one point in the past, there were more than 1,200 mansions on Long Island’s Gold Coast. This is one of the few that remains.”

The Vanderbilt Mansion as we know it today had relatively modest beginnings. William K. Vanderbilt II, a son of the famed Vanderbilt family, had just separated from his first wife in the early 1900s. “Willie K.,” as he’s affectionately known, was looking for a place to get a fresh start, away from the public eye. So he came to Centerport and purchased land, where he built a 7-room, English-style cottage along with some outbuildings.

The cottage, called Eagle’s Nest, was eventually expanded into a sprawling 24-room mansion in the Spanish Revival style. From 1910 to 1944, Eagle’s Nest was Vanderbilt’s summer hideaway. He and his second wife Rosamond hosted intimate gatherings of Vanderbilt family members and close friends, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, legendary golfer Sam Snead, and the Tiffanys.

Of course, that was just the beginning. According to Killian Taylor, the museum’s curatorial associate, Vanderbilt developed a fascination with all kinds of animals, the sea and the natural world from a young age. He had the opportunity to travel the world on his father’s yachts as a child, and longed to see more as he reached adulthood.

“Later, Willie K. inherited $20 million from his late father. One of the first things he did was purchase a very large yacht and hire a team of scientists and a crew,” Taylor explained. “With them, he began to travel and collect marine life, and by 1930, he had amassed one of the world’s largest private marine collections.”

With the help of scientists and experts from the American Museum of Natural History, Vanderbilt created galleries at the Estate to showcase his collections which contains more than 13,000 different marine specimens of all kinds and sizes, from the tiniest fish to a 32-foot whale shark, the world’s largest taxidermied fish, caught off Fire Island in 1935.

After Vanderbilt died in 1944, Rosamond continued to live in their Centerport mansion until her death in 1947. The 43-acre estate and museum – which remain frozen in time, exactly as they were in the late 1940s – opened to the public on July 6, 1950, following instructions left in Vanderbilt’s will. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1985.

The museum also features a 3,000-year-old mummy, which Vanderbilt purchased from an antique shop in Cairo, Egypt, Taylor said. The mummy even had an X-ray taken at nearby Stony Brook University Hospital, where they determined the remains are of a female around 25 years old.

“She doesn’t have a name out of respect for the fact that she was once a living woman with her own identity,” Taylor added.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought its share of difficulties to every business, and while the museum has had to temporarily close some of its facilities, including the mansion’s living quarters and planetarium, they’ve also added new opportunities for visitors.

“Like many other museums, we had to get creative virtually very quickly,” said Wayland-Morgan. “Our Education Department created the ‘Explore’ series for children — fascinating facts about the lives of birds, butterflies, reptiles, and fish, with pictures to download and color. The Planetarium astronomy educators produced 11 videos on topics including How to Use a Telescope, Imagining Alien Life, Mars, Black Holes, and Fitness in Space. We’ve received very positive responses.” The planetarium also offers online astronomy classes.

The museum is also offering new outdoor programs on the grounds, including walking tours, sunset yoga, a popular series of bird talks by an ornithologist James MacDougall and are currently hosting the third annual Gardeners Showcase through September. On Fridays and Saturdays, movie-and-picnic nights are a popular draw at the outdoor, drive-in theater.

Even without a specific event to attend, the grounds are a perfect place to wander when cabin fever strikes.

“The best reason to visit right now is to stroll the grounds and gardens and visit the open galleries. We’ve also become a very popular picnic destination with a great view of Northport Bay,” Wayland-Morgan said. “We plan to reopen the mansion living quarters and planetarium later in the fall.”

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport. As of Sept. 17, hours of operation are from noon to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The mansion’s living quarters and the planetarium are currently closed. Please wear a mask and practice social distancing. Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for children under 12, and $7 for students and seniors. Children under 2 are admitted free. For questions and information, including movie night passes, visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org or call 631-854-5579.

The film festival kicks off tonight with a screening of 'Dreamfactory.'

If the pandemic of 2020 has done anything, it has made us realize how small the world truly is – and how alike we all are in our hopes, dreams, fears and failings. This year, more than ever, thought-provoking and innovative films introduce us to inspiring characters and transport us to new worlds, all from the comfort and safety of our homes.

For the first time in its 25-year history, the Stony Brook Film Festival, presented by Island Federal, moves from a 10-day live event to a 12-week virtual festival starting tonight, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. and closing with a live Awards Ceremony on Dec. 15.

The films, which can be watched on all platforms and devices in your home including FireTV, AndroidTV, AppleTV, Roku, Chromecast and GooglePlay, feature 24 new and independent premieres from a dozen countries including the United States, Israel, Germany, Hungary, Poland, France, Switzerland, New Zealand, Canada and Portugal. Each feature is preceded by a short film.

The exciting lineup offers stories of every genre: comedy, coming of age, romance, drama and documentaries with many of the films sharing a theme of life interrupted, a universal topic many can relate to as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In these very uncertain and precarious times we find ourselves in we hope the mix of these socially conscience films balanced with uplifting, often fun and joyous stories, with spectacular performances, will provide the stimulation and entertainment we are all so desperately craving,” said festival director Alan Inkles.

The Festival kicks off tonight with the American premiere of Dreamfactory, the romantic story between two movie extras who are torn apart when East Germany closes its border and erects the Berlin Wall. An epic tale told against the backdrop of history, this film is part comedy, part musical, part romance, and a pure joy from beginning to end.

Tickets are available as an all-access, 12-week pass for $60 or may be purchased as a single ticket for each film for $6. The pass for 24 films allows 72 hours each week for viewers to watch and re-watch the weekly line-up. It also includes exclusive filmmaker interviews and Q&As with directors, cast and crew, as well as behind-the-scenes footage and back stories. For more information, visit stonybrookfilmfestival.com or call 631-632-ARTS [2787].

Film schedule:

September 10

FEATURE: Dreamfactory (Germany)

SHORT: Extra Innings (United States)

September 17

FEATURE: The Subject (United States)

SHORT: Corners (United States)

September 24

FEATURE: Those Who Remained (Hungary)

SHORT: Sticker (Macedonia)

October 1

FEATURE: Of Love and Lies (France/Belgium)

SHORT: Generation Lockdown (United States)

October 8

FEATURE: When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit

(Germany/Switzerland)

SHORT: Walk a Mile (New Zealand)

October 15

FEATURE: The Art of Waiting (Israel)

SHORT: Waterproof (United States)

October 22

FEATURE: Higher Love (United States)

SHORT: A Simple F*cking Gesture (Canada)

November 5

FEATURE: Long Time No See (France)

SHORT: Touch (Israel)

November 12

FEATURE: Submission (Portugal)

SHORT: They Won’t Last (United States)

November 19

FEATURE: Relativity (Germany)

SHORT: Forêt Noire (France/Canada)

December 3

FEATURE: On the Quiet (Hungary)

SHORT: Jane (United States)

December 10

FEATURE: My Name is Sara (United States)

SHORT: Maradona’s Legs (Germany/Palestine)

December 15

CLOSING NIGHT AWARDS CEREMONY LIVE 7 p.m.

* Please note: All films in the Stony Brook Film Festival are premiere screenings and have not been rated. Viewer discretion is advised. Films are available to begin streaming at 7 p.m. on Thursdays.

By Melissa Arnold

After a long, eerily quiet spring that forced the majority of public places to close, life is getting back to normal on Long Island. Slowly but surely, area libraries are opening their doors to patrons eager to browse and borrow.

“At 10 a.m. on July 6 when the first person walked through our doors and said, ‘It’s good to be back,’ I felt wonderful,” said Carol Albano, director of the Harborfields Library in Greenlawn. “One of our regular patrons walked over to our new book area and put her arms out and said, ‘I just want to hug all the books.’”

It’s a sigh of relief shared by librarians around the Island, especially given that when they closed their doors in March, there was no telling how or when they’d be able to open them again.

“Closing the building during the New York State shutdown felt surreal; it was new territory for everyone involved,” recalled Debbie Engelhardt, director of the Comsewogue Public Library in Port Jefferson Station. “The staff and I immediately set about establishing work-from-home stations so we could maintain strong services, programs, and communication with the public and with each other in our day-to-day operations.”

Throughout history, libraries have continually needed to broaden the scope of their services to keep up with the community’s habits and interests. For example, in addition to books and periodicals, libraries offer community programs, tutoring, music, movies, video games, museum passes, audiovisual equipment and much more.

During quarantine, many libraries made their first foray into the world of livestreaming and video conferencing. From read-alongs and book discussions to cooking demos, yoga hours and gardening lessons, library staff continued to bring people together in socially distant ways.

And while this technology will remain a part of the new normal — e-book borrowing numbers are higher than they’ve ever been in Suffolk County, and many events remain virtual for now — the libraries are thrilled to welcome patrons back to their brick-and-mortar homes.

Of course, things are going to look a little different, and local libraries have new rules and policies in place to keep everyone safe. Here’s a breakdown:

Emma S. Clark Memorial Library in Setauket is the oldest library in Suffolk County to provide service from its original location. Managing a collection of more than 200,000 items isn’t easy, and director Ted Gutmann said they started planning for reopening almost immediately after the shutdown.

“It was quite an interesting time,” Gutmann said. “It was all I thought about for weeks — how we were going to reopen safely and what it might look like. The state had certain parameters that all public places had to follow, so we used that as a guide as we planned.”

So far, they’ve opted for a conservative approach, allowing patrons to browse and check out materials, but limit activities that promote lingering. Patrons are asked to limit their visit to under 30 minutes. Public seating, some of the computers and all toys in the children’s library have been temporarily removed. Visitors can move throughout the aisles between the book shelves, but should follow directional arrows on the floor similar to those in use at grocery stores. Staff will offer assistance from behind plastic shields.

“Right now, we don’t want to encourage people to spend an extended time here for their own safety,” Gutmann explained. “They are welcome to browse and borrow, then bring their things home to enjoy.”

At the Comsewogue Public Library, reopening has occurred in phases with extensive planning throughout. It’s all been worth it, Engelhardt said,

“Opening the doors again felt like great progress. It was exciting, a big step toward more normalcy,” she said. “Our experience in reopening the building was overwhelmingly positive. We worked hard on our reopening plan, which met all state safety requirements and was approved by the county.”

Curbside pickup of borrowed materials will continue, as it’s a convenient, preferred option for some, but Engelhardt noted the number of in-person visitors has grown in recent weeks.

“Most come in to pick up items they’ve requested, and many are excited to once again enjoy browsing the shelves. Other popular draws are our computers, copiers, and fax services,” she explained.

Some changes: The lounge and study area furniture isn’t available right now, and clear plastic dividers are in place at service desks.

“Other than that, we have the same great circulating collections in print and online, from the traditional (think hot summer bestsellers and movies) to the more innovative (hotspots, Take and Make crafts, Borrow and Bake cake pans),” Engelhardt added.

At Harborfields Public Library, reopening plans began back in April as the staff met for regular Zoom meetings with other area libraries. “Step one was to develop a building safety plan — we met with our head of maintenance and went over each aspect of the building, from the mechanical systems to the physical layout of the furniture and library materials, to ordering personal protective equipment for the staff,” Albano said.

At this time, there is only one chair at each table, every other computer has been removed, and toys and games were temporarily taken out of the children’s area. 

You’ll also find plastic shields at the service desks, and that public restrooms have been installed with automatic faucets and automatic flushing toilets, Albano said.

“All areas of the library are open to the public, including all library materials. The only exception is the public meeting rooms are closed, because at this time we are not holding any in-house programming or meetings,” she added. “Computers are still available in the adult, teen and children’s departments, and soft seating and tables are in each department as well.”

As for borrowed materials, there’s no need to worry about catching COVID-19 from a library book, DVD or CD. Once materials are returned, they are kept quarantined for 72 hours.  Research from the global scientific organization Battelle has shown the virus is undetectable on books and similar items after just one day.

So rejoice, bookworms, and browse to your heart’s content. Your local librarians are ready to welcome you back — masked up, of course.

Individual library policies, event schedules and hours of operation vary and are subject to change — contact your local branch for the most current information. For contact information, database access, and to borrow electronic media including ebooks and audiobooks, visit www.livebrary.com. Please remember to wear a mask and practice social distancing while visiting any library.

All photos by Heidi Sutton

By Melissa Arnold

In 1867, August Heckscher left his native Germany and, like so many others of that time, embarked on a journey to start a new life of prosperity in the United States. He immediately set to work mining coal for his cousin’s business, all the while studying English. Heckscher’s efforts led him to a lucrative career in iron and zinc mining, and he ultimately became a multimillionaire.

Heckscher was well-known for his philanthropy, and in 1920, he gave back to the town of Huntington with the establishment of Heckscher Park. The beautiful setting of the park became home to the Heckscher Museum of Art, which was founded with a gift of 185 works from Heckscher’s personal collection including art from the Renaissance, the Hudson River School and early modernist American art.

The museum has since weathered the Great Depression, eras of war and peace and changing artistic tastes in the community. That early collection has blossomed to include more than 2,000 pieces that include many styles, media and historical time periods from artists all over the world.

Today, the Heckscher Museum of Art is looking ahead to 2020 and honoring its home with a museum-wide exhibit entitled Locally Sourced: Celebrating Long Island Artists.

At the helm for this exhibit is the Heckscher Museum’s new curator, Karli Wurzelbacher, who joined the staff in August. Wurzelbacher studied art history in college and spent the better part of a decade in and around Manhattan before coming out to Long Island.

“We wanted to take a broad view of all the artists who have visited and worked on Long Island at some point in their lifetime,” she said. “In this exhibit, we’ve represented more than 130 years of art in all styles, from very abstract to very representational. It’s about all the different perspectives that Long Island has inspired. I think everyone here has been looking forward to our 100th anniversary and wanting to commemorate it in a special way. The museum has always been so supportive of artists who have lived and worked here, and it’s part of our mission to preserve and share the history of Long Island through art.”

The process of planning Locally Sourced was already underway when Wurzelbacher arrived on Long Island. She acknowledged that an exhibit that encompasses the whole museum was quite the undertaking, but it allowed her to dive deep into the Heckscher’s permanent collection.

“Curating gives the opportunity to tell stories and create narratives visually using objects, and to help people make connections between artists,” said Wurzelbacher. “Some of the artists in this exhibit were teachers or students to other [artists], and you can see that in their work.”

The exhibit is divided into four sections, each offering a unique view of Long Island. They include Huntington’s Own featuring the works of renowned painters George Grosz, Arthur Dove, Stan Brodsky, Mary Callery and many more who live or lived and worked around Huntington; East End Exchanges which explores the connections and influences of artists of the East End, including Fairfield Porter and Jane Wilson; Women Artists which features the work of female artists who have made a profound impact on their field, such as Miriam Schapiro, Betty Parsons and Esphyr Slobodkina with a nod to the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, allowing women the right to vote; and Landscapes that trace the changes in environment and in art throughout the Island’s history. This gallery includes 19th-century images from Thomas Moran, to modern works by Ty Stroudsburg who interpret Long Island’s land, sea and air.

The exhibit includes work in a variety of media, including painting, photography, sculpture and mixed projects. In all, more than 100 pieces represent the work of 89 artists — just a fraction of the museum’s permanent collection, Wurzelbacher said.

Visitors to the museum will have a chance to weigh in on the places and things that they believe make Long Island special. Stop by and leave a pin on the 15-foot graphic of Long Island in the Huntington exhibit. The graphic will also show where the exhibit’s artists lived.

“Artists have been escaping the city to come out to the country and take part in the natural life here from very early on. To see the rugged terrain and vegetation of the North Shore, it’s easy to understand why artists would be drawn here,” said Michael Schantz, the museum’s president and CEO. “Ultimately this collection belongs to the community, and everyone should be proud that there are so many artists that have called Long Island home. We want to celebrate that.”

The Heckscher Museum, 2 Prime Ave., Huntington will present Locally Sourced: Celebrating Long Island Artists from Nov. 23 through March 15, 2020. The museum is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission discounts are available for children, students, members of the military, first responders and residents of the Town of Huntington. For more information, call 631-351-3250 or visit www.heckscher.org.

By Melissa Arnold

Brittany Schiavone has a long list of things she loves to do, including acting, singing, dancing and riding horses. But these days, her biggest passion is giving back to others.

Schiavone, 30, is among more than 400,000 people in the United States living with Down syndrome. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by an extra copy of chromosome 21. Down syndrome can lead to learning, muscular, cardiac and digestive problems, to name a few.

Today, one in every 600 babies in America is born with Down syndrome. Since 2016, Brittany has sent care packages to families around the country that welcome babies with Down syndrome to let them know they’re not alone. Her organization, Brittany’s Baskets of Hope (BBOH), has delivered more than 800 baskets to families in 49 states and Puerto Rico.

Brittany’s mother, Sue Schiavone, remembers struggling firsthand with the reality of Brittany’s diagnosis and uncertain future.

“Everything about my pregnancy and delivery with Brittany was typical,” said Sue, who lives in Huntington and also has an older son. “At the time, screening for Down’s wasn’t as advanced as it is today, so I didn’t have a diagnosis for Brittany prior to her birth. I knew something was wrong right away — she was adorable, but very floppy.”

Sue added that while she worked as a special education teacher, she had limited experience with Down syndrome at the time. “We learned pretty quickly that Brittany had Down’s, and it put us on a totally different road. I want to say we weren’t devastated, but we were. We took some time to come to terms with it, but ultimately we rallied and worked to help Brittany be the best person she could be.”

The Schiavone family became a part of the broad-reaching but tight-knit Down syndrome community, where Brittany was connected to early intervention therapies and other resources. As time went on, she blossomed into an outgoing, bright and happy girl who loved performing. Later on, as part of her own self-directed care program, Brittany went to work part-time at a clothing boutique. She liked the job, she said, but would soon be inspired to try something new.

“I was on a break at my job and I watched a video about people helping babies with Down’s. I wanted to do that,” Brittany said.

At home, Sue said Brittany became insistent about doing something to help families like theirs. “She just wouldn’t let the idea go.”

In 2014, Brittany founded BBOH as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. With help from talented family and friends, legal paperwork was filed and social media websites took shape — all with Brittany calling the shots.

Each care package is either personally delivered or mailed by Brittany and contains a hand-crocheted baby blanket, a Down Right Perfect onesie, some pampering products for new parents, Brittany’s story in her own words and educational material about Down syndrome.

 BBOH has exploded in popularity recently, primarily through word of mouth. Thanks to a nomination from family friend and BBOH team member Ashley Asti, Brittany was selected as one of 10 finalists in the L’Oreal Paris Women of Worth national competition. The internationally known makeup company, L’Oreal Paris, began the Women of Worth event to honor those who go above and beyond, selflessly volunteering their time to empower others. 

Asti got to know the Schiavone family when Brittany hired her to work on healthy eating and good nutrition. “Brittany was 25 at the time, and I really admired how driven she was,” Asti said. “How many people at 25 know their purpose and have the courage to live it so fully?” 

She eventually stopped working for Brittany, but the two remained close friends. Earlier this year, Asti saw an ad for Women of Worth while scrolling through her Facebook news feed. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is a big deal,’ and I really felt called to nominate Brittany. When I stopped to consider what a Woman of Worth should be, she immediately came to mind,” she said.

Brittany received a $10,000 prize for being chosen as a finalist and is now enjoying some time in the spotlight.

“I was so excited when I found out,” she said. “There were lots of interviews, and L’Oreal sent a camera crew. I wasn’t nervous about it; I just said, ‘Let’s do it!’ We got our makeup done, it was a lot of fun.”

Now, Brittany is looking for the community’s support to help her win the grand prize of $25,000 by voting for BBOH online now through Nov. 14. The winner will be announced on Dec. 4 at a star-studded gala in New York City.

All of the prize money will be used to benefit BBOH by covering the cost of care package materials and shipping, as well as the creation of a dedicated office space for BBOH in the Schiavone’s home. They are also working toward helping families outside of the U.S. receive baskets, which is in great demand but still too costly for the organization, Sue said.

“Brittany’s Baskets of Hope gives people that have babies with Down syndrome hope and joy, and it makes me really happy to help them,” Brittany said. “I want everyone to know that people with Down syndrome can do anything — really, really anything.”

To vote for Brittany, visit www.lorealparisusa.com/women-of-worth. To learn more about Brittany’s Baskets of Hope, donate to the cause or to request a care package, visit www.brittanysbasketsofhope.org.

Photos by Nilaya Sabnis