Tags Posts tagged with "Allan Varela"

Allan Varela

A scene from 'We Feed People' Photo courtesy of National Geographic

By Melissa Arnold

When Russia first began its major assault on Ukraine earlier this year, the whole world turned its eyes on the conflict. As days turned into weeks and scenes of destruction played out on screens everywhere, it seemed like everyone had the same questions: How will this end? What can we do?

Among them was Lyn Boland, co-director of the Port Jefferson Documentary Series (PJDS). “I must ask myself at least once a day what more I could be doing, because this situation is so heartbreaking,” she said.

A scene from ‘We Feed People’
Photo courtesy of National Geographic

Boland, co-directors Barbara Sverd and Wendy Feinberg, and board members Honey Katz, Lorie Rothstein and Lynn Rein put their heads together to create an inspiring event to support Ukrainian people in need. On Monday, May 9, they will host a screening of the film We Feed People, a family-friendly documentary about generosity, food and its power to heal.

Directed by Ron Howard, the National Geographic film tells the story of chef Jose Andres, the Spanish-born founder of World Central Kitchen. The not-for-profit organization is dedicated to feeding communities impacted by natural disasters and humanitarian crises around the globe. 

“I have found that in the most challenging moments, food is the fastest way to rebuild a sense of community,” Andres said in the film. “A humble plate of food is just the beginning … there is no limit to what we can achieve when we come together and just start cooking.”

The documentary was already completed when Ukraine was invaded, but World Central Kitchen has been on the ground there ever since, helping to provide food and other basic needs.

Boland said that a contact from National Geographic reached out to the arts council recently, offering the film for consideration in the Port Jefferson Documentary Series. The spring lineup was already planned, but Boland asked if they’d be willing to screen the film as a benefit instead. All proceeds from the screening will be sent to World Central Kitchen to provide immediate support to Ukrainians in need. 

“Getting to see Jose Andres in action, and the embrace of humanity that he has, is incredible. He has a way of pulling everyone in,” Boland said.

A scene from ‘We Feed People’
Photo courtesy of National Geographic

Andres started from the bottom in various kitchens when he arrived in America in the 1990s. Over time, he worked his way through the ranks and eventually became a restaurant owner and cookbook author with his own massive following. He founded World Central Kitchen in 2010 in response to the earthquake in Haiti, and since then, it’s been his way of giving back through his greatest passions.

We Feed People takes viewers inside planes, trucks and kitchens as Andres and his team deliver food over a 10-year period. 

Following the movie screening, there will be a live Q&A session via Zoom with the film’s producer Meredith Kaulfers and Ukrainian singer Olha Tsvyntarna, who fled her country for safety a month and a half ago. Tom Needham, host of “The Sounds of Film” on 90.1 WUSB-FM radio, will serve as moderator.

“What’s happening in Ukraine is an abomination, and the people there need the whole world to step up and help them,” said Allan Varela, chair of the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council, which sponsors the Port Jefferson Documentary Series. 

“Our mission at the arts council is to bring joy to our communities and expose people to ideas and subjects they may not otherwise know about. For us, we can use our artistic mission to raise awareness, create a fundraiser and ultimately do our part to assist the Ukrainian people.”

Varela also expressed gratitude to Lori and Tom Lucki of Riverhead Toyota for covering all expenses for the screening.

We Feed People: A Fundraiser for Ukraine will be held at John F. Kennedy Middle School, 200 Jayne Blvd, Port Jefferson Station on May 9 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10.69 per person online at www.portjeffdocumentaryseries.com ($10 from each ticket will be sent to World Central Kitchen, and the remaining $0.69 will be used to cover Paypal fees for the donation) or $10 at the door (cash only). 

For more information about this event, email to [email protected].

Pat Darling ran Santa's Workshop in Port Jefferson Village. File photo

By Allan Varela

The very successful 25th celebration of Port Jefferson’s Charles Dickens Festival has come to a close for this year, with energetic plans already in the works for the 26th celebration in 2022. Sadly, one of the many bright spots of the event, Santa’s Workshop, will not be returning. The historic Phillips Roe House, aka the Drowned Meadow House located on the corner of Barnum Avenue and West Broadway, which has played host to the workshop all these years, is officially becoming a year-round museum.

For the last seven Charles Dickens Festivals, Santa Claus and his elves came to life through the tireless work of the acclaimed confection artist Pat Darling. The whimsical workshop has welcomed both the young and young at heart to step back in time and reflect on the storybook charm of cherished memories of an era that has quietly faded. 

Snowflakes glistening high above the elaborate confection nutcrackers and giant turrets that have adorned the beautiful displays throughout the workshop area set the mood, while children were greeted by sugar trees and toy soldiers.

The wonderment continued into Hollyberry’s bedroom, an elaborate vignette that featured Hollyberry anticipating the night before Christmas as she busily wrapped presents. The nightscape background featured Santa in his sleigh high in the night sky, coming to visit the workshop. 

And visit he did, as the third room presented the real live Santa in all his glory, sitting in a giant arched chair as he greeted families. Smiles and happiness are the legacy of this special exhibit.

Pat Darling has charmed literally thousands of people over the years with her creative vision, inspiring execution and attention to detail that made Santa’s Workshop such a very special happening for the Dickens Festival. The workshop will be sorely missed, but the community at large will be eternally grateful for Ms. Darling’s resolute efforts.

Allan Varela serves as chair for the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council which hosts the Port Jefferson Charles Dickens Festival.

File photo by Kyle Barr/2019

By Allan Varela

Welcome to Dickens in December! The 25th annual Charles Dickens Festival has been gently extended with activities on Saturday, Dec. 11 and 18. The Village will present two concerts per day, one in the Masonic Lodge and one in the Village Center’s Skip Jack room. The not-to-be-missed Festival of Trees will delight all those who visit the Village Center’s second floor and the streets will once again play host to a host of Dickens street characters.

Saturday the 11th features Dave K at the Masonic Lodge at 1 p.m. and Sweet Melody Music Studio with the Blue Music Company and Sterling Sax at the Village Center at 3 p.m. Saturday the 18th features the Dorian Consort string trio at the Masonic Lodge at 1 p.m. with Songs of the Season returning at 3 p.m. in the Village Center. The concerts are free and masking up is highly recommended.

Come on down to say ‘happy holidays’ to our beloved Chimney Sweeps and hear caroling groups perform throughout the Village. The restaurants have all prepared a holiday repast, while the stores are ready to fulfill those special holiday gift requests. So, come one, come all — a splendid time is in store for everyone.

Allan Varela serves as chair for the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council which hosts the Port Jefferson Charles Dickens Festival.

The annual Charles Dickens Festival in Port Jefferson was canceled in 2020 out of an abundance of caution. Photo by Glenn Tinnie

By Allan Varela

We are living in strange times with the political upheaval and the terrible, deadly pandemic hanging over our lives. Every day we are literally battered with controversy and bad news. 

There is one place of comfort, however. We find it in the arts. We listen to music and watch music videos. We turn on movies old and new and stream over the top shows that offer constant variation. We might even look at a book of visual art or search for fine art online. The arts are present when we sing a song together, when a family member plays the piano or guitar or draws a picture. Yes indeed. The arts are alive in our lives. But there is so much more to this cultural picture than the obvious I just stated.

Every day, in every way we live, our lives are surrounded by the work of artists. Look down at the chair you are sitting in while reading this story. That’s right, it was designed in part by an artist and created by artisans. Look around the room you are in. If you see wallpaper, it was designed by an artist. The color palette of the paint scheme in your home was created by an artist. The ring on your finger and the jewelry you wear were all designed by artists. 

Your clothes — designed by an artist; your home — designed by an artist; the car you drive — designed by an artist. You see, everything you live with and in was designed to some degree by an artist. Everything you use to express yourself to the world was designed… well, you get it!

I am writing this as a reminder that the arts and artists of all types are hurting right now. It is easy to say “So what?” but remembering the impact the arts have on our lives should lead to “How can I help?” There are numerous not-for-profit organizations that need our help. Those of us fortunate enough to financially weather our current storm need to reach out to support these groups as they support artists, the arts and the cultural life of our communities.

These organizations have found ways to present engaging concerts online, to show documentary films that include a Q&A with the director online or make reservations to see an exhibit whilst keeping to community health standards. But the revenue stream for ticket sales has dried up and I fear that some of the groups will begin to fall apart. 

The arts organizations have wonderful financial impact on our communities. Property values remain stable or increase in communities that offer arts programming. Every dollar invested in an Arts Council program brings back some four dollars in revenue from simple things like an audience buying gas to get to a show, to visiting a local restaurant for a meal before or after a show.

Cultural engagement is needed to keep our communities enriched and interesting. Financial engagement is what is needed to keep our cultural organizations alive. Please make a difference and donate, as you are able, to a local not-for-profit arts organization or museum. Even a small amount can make a big difference.

Allan Varela serves as chair for the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council which hosts the Port Jefferson Documentary Series, Charles Dickens Festival, WinterTide Concert Series, Sunset Concert Series and Fiddle & Folk Festival. To support or sponsor the Greater Port Jefferson-Northern Brookhaven Arts Council,  please visit www.gpjac.org/sponsor.