The Long Island Museum (LIM) in Stony Brook a Smithsonian affiliate dedicated to American history and art with a Long Island connection, announced May 5 that Executive Director, Neil Watson, will retire in October of 2022. During his nine years of dedicated leadership to the LIM, Watson introduced visitors to award winning exhibitions and educational programs, increased Museum membership, and enhanced musical programs. Along with Watson’s retirement, the LIM’s Board of Trustees also announced that the LIM’s current Deputy Directors, Sarah Abruzzi and Joshua Ruff will succeed Watson as Co-Executive Directors of the LIM.
“Neil Watson’s contributions to the Long Island Museum have been beyond measure,” said Thomas M. Sullivan, the LIM’s Board of Trustees Chair. “His leadership and vision transformed the Museum into a more dynamic and representative reflection of our history and art. By assembling a fantastic group of talented people who shared his vision for how the museum serves the community, it is without question that Neil Watson had a transformative impact on the Long Island Museum.”
Since 2013, under Watson’s distinguished leadership, the LIM reopened the History Museum, initiated a new outdoor sculpture program and partnered with local organizations, such as the Sunday Street singer/songwriter series and North Shore Pro Musica, to bring a chamber music series to the community. During Watson’s tenure, the Museum’s annual operating budget has grown to nearly 3 million dollars and the Museum’s Endowment funds have doubled to over 40 million dollars. He also created a new level of membership to enhance and support the rich artistic talent on Long Island, entitled LIMarts: A Collaborative Arts Group, which currently has over 125 active artist members and offers the opportunity and space for the exhibition and sale of artwork.
“Retirement is never an easy decision, but it is even more difficult when you love what you do,” said Watson. “Here at LIM we are all dedicated to the idea that a museum can tell stories about who we are, through art, craft, history, music, and film. I could not be prouder of our accomplishments over the past nine years. Part of a director’s job is to imagine the future, and I felt strongly that we had two people in place who had the vision to take on the dual leadership model. Creative solutions make for creative outcomes, and the LIM culture is about trust, respect, and innovative thinking. I’m thankful to the Board, who were open to implementing a different model of museum leadership. I have the utmost confidence that Sarah and Joshua will bring their enthusiasm and expertise to guide the Museum into the next phase. As I take my exit, I can only thank them, the Board of Trustees, the gifted staff, and the community for giving me the most fulfilling years of my career.”
Sarah Abruzzi is an accomplished executive and fundraising professional with over 20 years of experience in the non-profit sector. Throughout her career, she has worked in all aspects of museum operations, including education, interpretation, collections management, volunteer coordination, fundraising, finance, HR, communications, and government relations.
Abruzzi grew up in Port Jefferson and remembers with great fondness her childhood visits to the LIM with her family. She first worked at the LIM in the late 2000s before spending eight years outside of the museum field serving as the lead fundraiser for Dr. Richard Leakey’s Kenya-based human origins research project at Stony Brook University. Abruzzi jumped at the chance to return to the LIM in 2017 as Director of Major Gifts and Special Projects. Abruzzi’s amiable management style and thoughtful approach to leadership paved the way for her promotion to Deputy Director/Director of Advancement & External Affairs in February 2019. Additionally, she previously served as Director of Raynham Hall Museum in Oyster Bay, and The Three Village Historical Society in Setauket.
Entering his 25th year at the LIM, including the last three as a Deputy Director and the last nine as the Director of Collections & Interpretation, managing both the Curatorial and Education departments, Joshua Ruff has a proven track record of strong leadership, excellence, and versatility as well as years of expertise in all facets of museum operations.
A lifelong resident of New York State, he is a graduate of Syracuse University with BAs in Broadcast Journalism and in History, and Stony Brook University with a MA in History. After curating or co-curating nearly 70 exhibitions of a variety of scale and scope and many publications, Ruff is a recognized scholar of Long Island art and history, two crucial components of the Museum’s mission. In addition to co-authoring several books and exhibition catalogs, his articles have appeared in publications including the Magazine Antiques; American Art Review; New York Archives Magazine; and American History magazine. Beyond his work at the Long Island Museum, Ruff has served in a variety of service capacities for outside organizations, including as Grant Reviewer for NYSCA’s Museum Program (2015-2018) and as an incoming member of the Board of Directors for the Museum Association of New York (2022-2025).
“Neil Watson has been such a dynamic and collaborative leader for this museum, and we have learned and gained so much from him. We will miss him,” said Joshua Ruff, Deputy Director and Director of Collections & Interpretation at the LIM. “Sarah and I are thankful to the Board for this leadership opportunity and we are really excited for this new chapter. We’ll work hard with all our talented colleagues to take the LIM to new and exciting achievements,” Ruff continued.
“Neil’s humility and humor have helped shape the LIM into the treasured community resource it is today,” said Sarah Abruzzi, Deputy Director and Director of Advancement & External Affairs. “Josh and I are honored to be a special part of Neil’s legacy and look forward to continuing his tradition of honest, inclusive, and transparent leadership in service of the Museum, our colleagues, and the community we all care so deeply about.”
The new organizational structure builds upon the strong and collaborative work environment that Watson cultivated at the LIM during his tenure. Over the past several years, the three have worked closely with the rest of the LIM’s talented Senior Staff to create a culture of equability and opportunity among the entire LIM staff of 39 people. Watson’s visionary plan of streamlining LIM’s work flow into two main areas will take place in October with Ruff responsible for Collections and Programming, and Abruzzi responsible for Operations.
“I can’t stress enough how supportive and instrumental Neil was to the expansion of the LIM’s Education Department,” said Lisa Unander, Director of Education at the Long Island Museum since 2013 and at the Museum for the past 16 years.
“His unique non-hierarchical and highly creative approach can be credited for how the LIM has been able to push the boundaries of our programs and become the even more inclusive community centered organization it is today. It won’t be the same without him, but he has instilled a welcoming, positive and vibrant workplace culture that I know Sarah and Joshua will continue to build upon as they continue the museum’s mission,” Unander continued.
Exhibitions during Watson’s career at the LIM include the groundbreaking Long Road to Freedom: Surviving Slavery on Long Island, the first major museum project to examine slavery from a Long Island regional historical perspective, Walt Whitman’s Arcadia: Long Island Through the Eyes of a Poet & Painters to mark the American bard’s 200th Birthday, and Fire & Form: New Directions in Glass, a visually striking exhibition featuring more than 50 works from nine contemporary artists.
Watson is known for his community engagement and charismatic style, and while serving as the Executive Director of the Katonah Museum of Art for nearly eight years, he also served on the Board of the Katonah Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Board of Arts Westchester, and as a museum panelist for the New York State Council for the Arts (NYSCA). Prior to joining the LIM, Watson was the former Chief Curator of the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington and the former Curator of Contemporary Art at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, FL.
About the Long Island Museum
Located at 1200 Route 25A in Stony Brook, the Long Island Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate dedicated to enhancing the lives of adults and children with an understanding of Long Island’s rich history and diverse cultures. Regular museum hours are Thursday through Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $5 for students 6 -17 and college students with I.D. Children under six are admitted for free. For more information visit longislandmuseum.org.
By Tara Mae
The Long Island Museum (LIM) in Stony Brook unveils three exciting new exhibitions — Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light, Fire & Form: New Directions in Glass and the 8th annual LIMarts Members’ Exhibition, Fragile — this Friday, Aug. 20. All three will be on view through Dec. 19.
Peace may be found in both the practice and presence of art. Fragile explores how art enriches our lives, particularly during times of stress and strife. On display in the recently renovated Cowles Gallery in the History Museum and Visitors Center (pictured on the right), the show features works by 92 members of LIMarts, both amateur and professional, working in different formats and mediums including sculpture, printmaking, oil painting, watercolor, etc.
“LIMarts is a collaborative arts group designed for artists dedicated to creating a new forum within our cultural community,” said Neil Watson, Executive Director of the LIM. “The group offers space for the exhibition and sale of artwork, varied programming events, lectures and opportunities for social gathering with other artists and the public.”
All LIMarts members were invited to submit one piece for the exhibit, which enables the museum to introduce or amplify the art of local artists to its audience. Although a few of the artists have works already in the museum’s permanent collection, the art included in Fragile is being exhibited for the first time.
Thanks to a sponsorship by Maryellen and Michael Lubinsky, the museum was able to waive its normal commission; all proceeds from art sales will go directly to the artists.
There were no confines put on the artists’ interpretations of the theme, but they were constrained by space; each participant’s work had to fit on 12″ x 12″ canvas boards. This restriction enabled creative solutions and unique results.
“When everybody’s work is the same size, it distills a different type of beauty…they are all on the same panel and figuring it out,” said Joshua Ruff, Deputy Director of the LIM and the show’s curator. “The diversity of approaches and how the exhibit was interpreted are amazing: fragile, as an idea, departure point, and concept.”
During the past 19 months, emotional and physical fragility have been ideas arguably at the forefront of the collective conscience. Most of the submissions were created during this time frame, and these ideas are recurring subjects, especially as they relate to the delicate nature of both the environment and human condition. Yet fragile does not equal weak, and the exhibit is also a testament to how fragility can be infused with fortitude.
“This is not an exhibition of 92 different ways of suffering; rather it shows there is an inner reserve of strength in all of us. You can be vulnerable but have other positive qualities of strength. I think some of the artists were trying to say that you can be fragile but be strong or have a fragile environment that produces great beauty and great strength,” said Ruff.
Certain artists chose to explore the intersection of fragility and vulnerability by experimenting with new painting styles or artistic techniques. “Some artists were trying new things and you can be vulnerable when you are trying new things,” Ruff explained. “It’s really impressive to see how many ways people approached the subject and how many different points of view and perspectives you see.”
Organized by the Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass in Queens, Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light will be the first exhibition of its kind at the LIM. This compelling exhibition will include five windows, twenty lamps, and several displays showing how Louis C. Tiffany’s lamps were assembled, and how collectors today can distinguish between authentic lamps and forgeries.
The exhibition features some of the most celebrated of Tiffany’s works. Chosen for their masterful rendering of nature in flowers or landscape scenes, they exemplify the rich and varied glass palette, sensitive color selection, and intricacy of design that was characteristic of Tiffany’s leaded-glass objects. This exhibition also highlights some of the key figures at Tiffany Studios who made essential contributions to the artistry of the windows and lamps— chemist Arthur J. Nash and designers Agnes Northrop and Clara Driscoll.
Fire & Form: New Directions in Glass , organized by the Long Island Museum, will feature nearly 50 works from nine contemporary artists, all reinforcing that glass is a sculptural material of near-infinite artistic and narrative possibilities. The artists included in this exhibition represent some of the most renowned names in American contemporary glass: Joseph Cavalieri, Deborah Czeresko, Trefny Dix, Bengt Hokanson, Beth Lipman, Judith Schaechter, Andy Stenerson, Marianne Weil, and Toots Zynsky. These exceptional artists all demonstrate a variety of approaches, methods, and inspirational starting points. Fire & Form will inhabit more than 2,500 square feet in LIM’s History Museum and Visitor’s Center and will be accompanied by a richly illustrated 30-page catalogue that will be printed as a takeaway for visitors.
“Fire & Form and Tiffany Glass are two of the biggest and most beautiful exhibitions we have ever mounted here,” says Joshua Ruff, Deputy Director the LIM and one of the curators of Fire & Form. “The comparison between Tiffany’s approach with some of the striking other work people will see — modern stained glass, blown glass, and cast glass — will really give people some perspective on how versatile a medium it really is.
IF YOU GO
The Long Island Museum is located at 1200 Route 25A in Stony Brook. It is open Thursday to Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $7 for seniors (62 and older), $5 for students (including college students with IDs), $3.50 for people with disabilities (personal care assistants admitted for free), and free for children under the age of six. For more information about the above exhibits or orther programs at the LIM, call 631-751-0066 or visit longislandmuseum.org.
The Long Island Museum (LIM) in Stony Brook has announced that they will be holding their annual LIMarts Art exhibition virtually.
Every Day: Transforming Crisis into Art will be online from Dec. 18 until Feb. 14, 2021. The 7th annual exhibition by members of the Museum’s collaborative arts group, LIMarts will be presented on the Museum’s website and across LIM’s social media.
“2020 has been a year like no other,” said Neil Watson, Executive Director of the Long Island Museum. “The LIMarts exhibition has always been a year-end highlight of the LIM. While we will miss the excitement of gathering in the gallery this year with local artists, the LIM is committed to continuing to bring the community together through the arts by offering this virtual experience.”
Over 70 LIMarts members have used their creativity and talent and submitted their artwork that answers the questions “What has your every day looked like? How has it changed? How have you been spending your time? Has every day been the same or are you finding ways to make your days feel different? What have you been doing to cope or perhaps you’re not just coping but thriving?”
The LIMarts collaborative arts group embraces the goal to enhance and support the rich artistic talent on Long Island. Designed for artists dedicated to creating a new forum within our cultural community, LIMarts offers space for the exhibition and sale of artwork, varied programming events, lectures and opportunities for social gathering with other artists and the public.
Doug Reina, an LIMarts member and frequent participant of the Museum’s previous exhibitions will be presenting his artwork, Isolation. Reina, a local artist from Setauket who recently received his second Pollock-Krasner grant, is enthused about the online exhibition. “Bravo to the LIM for putting this virtual show together! Using art as a way to connect us is needed now more than ever,” he said.
Presented artwork that is listed for sale will be handled by the individual artist and not by the Museum. The LIM is sensitive to the current circumstances faced by artists during these challenging times and is committed to supporting them and the arts community, therefore all proceeds will support the individual artists and the Museum will not retain a commission.
For more information on LIMarts membership or if interested in purchasing any of the artwork that is listed for sale, please contact Alexandria D’Auria at [email protected]. To view the gallery of art go to the homepage of www.longislandmuseum.org and follow the links to the exhibition.
The Long Island Museum (LIM) announced on June 30 its award of a $59,713 grant from The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to help fund the Museum’s new online educational programs that will be offered in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are thrilled and honored that the NEH is supporting our proposal of a new virtual educational program,” said Long Island Museum Executive Director Neil Watson.
“Since closing our doors in mid-March, the LIM staff has been working both creatively and tirelessly at meeting the needs of our community, particularly our school children and teachers,” he explained.
As so many of the museum’s standard offerings have transformed over these past four months, the need to dynamically adapt is ever apparent. After only a few weeks of their temporary closing, the LIM Launched the successful At Home With the LIM, a series of online family art and history activities, based on the Museum’s collection, historic buildings and grounds.
With school visits from many local districts in the fall likely to be greatly constrained, the LIM has since been making plans to redesign what they can offer schools with the use of technology.
“We believe objects from our collections provide uniquely visceral connections and learning opportunities,” said Joshua Ruff, Deputy Director, Director of Collections and Interpretations. “Realizing we are unable to bring school audiences to our collection, this project plans to bring the collection to them through remote field trips.”
The LIM will establish a “portable virtual classroom unit”, a mobile virtual studio with live streaming capability, to broadcast interactive classes from their unique historic buildings and museum galleries. To accommodate the virtual classrooms, the museum’s data network will be upgraded and expanded to teaching-critical areas museum wide by facilities/IT personnel.
Funds received from the NEH grant will enable the Museum’s Education Department to address the challenges schools will face in the 2020/2021 school year and allow the purchase and installation of essential upgrades to the data network of the LIM campus.
“In what is certain to be a school year filled with many firsts and changes, with this funding we can offer enriching new ways to make sure schools do not lose important connections to our museum,” said Lisa Unander, LIM’s Director of Education.
The Long Island Museum, located at 1200 Route 25A in Stony Brook, is one of 317 humanities projects in this round of funding. The $40.3 million in total grants nationwide will support vital research, education, and public programs in the humanities.
By Melissa Arnold
Running a museum is far from simple. Consider this: The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook is home to more than 2,500 pieces of artwork done on paper, 500 paintings and 100 pieces of three-dimensional art. Each piece must be catalogued, maintained, protected and stored. It’s a delicate and meticulous process that takes a lot of work.
Recently, the LIM received a grant from the New York State Council on the Arts to expand and upgrade its storage facilities. They’ll need to clear out some of their existing storage space to prepare for renovation, and fortunately its visitors will reap the rewards of the process.
From Feb. 22 to June 26, the museum will present Off the Rack: Building and Preserving LIM’s Art Treasures, an exhibit of approximately 90 works of art from its permanent collection, in the main gallery of its Art Museum. Many pieces in the exhibit are only put on view rarely, if at all.
“We could have taken the artwork to off-site storage, but we thought, ‘Why not put it on display?’ In order to make more space, we thought this would be a great time to assess the state of the collection and share its history and highlights with our visitors,” said LIM Deputy Director and Curator Joshua Ruff. “This is an opportunity for people to see things they may not have seen before.”
Ruff said that choosing pieces for Off the Rack was a team effort by the museum staff, who sought to put together a cohesive story of how the museum’s collection has grown and evolved over the years.
Visitors will be able to explore a time line of the LIM’s conservation efforts. In addition, each work in the exhibit will include its accession number, which will help teach visitors how the museum keeps track of each piece.
Off the Rack is divided into loose sections celebrating particular themes and standout artists. Not to be missed is a section dedicated to one of the museum’s “anchor” artists, William Sidney Mount. Among Mount’s included works are an 1841 painting of Crane Neck Marsh, which Ruff says is “an example of his extremely detailed craftsmanship while creating a natural setting,” and “Dance of the Haymakers,” a painting of a fiddler playing music for dancing farmhands, which made Mount a household name in 1845.
Other high-profile artists with dedicated spaces in the exhibit include Arnold Hoffman, Samuel Rothport, Winslow Homer, Joe Reboli and Helen Torr, among others.
There are also sections of artwork focused on coastal and marine environments, abstract work and contemporary artists, including some local Long Islanders like Janet Culbertson, Bruce Lieberman and Dan Pollera.
Ty Stroudsburg of Southold also has artwork at the LIM — her 2000 oil painting on linen “Pumpkin Field at Sunset” is one of many views that have caught her eye on the North Fork.
“I love color. I used to drive around with a sketch pad in my car, and it was always color that would lead me to pull over and either do quick sketches with pastels or take a photograph to use for later,” said Stroudsburg, whose work has hung in exhibits and museums throughout New York and New Jersey for more than 60 years.
“I didn’t strive for notoriety, I just painted because I love to paint and it keeps me going. I feel extremely fortunate that curators believe my art is worth being a part of their museums,” she added.
For LIM Executive Director Neil Watson, Off the Rack provides the chance to see their continuously evolving collection in a new light.
“As we began to do the work required for the renovations and take pieces out of storage, there were things in the collection I hadn’t seen in several years, and even some pieces I didn’t even know we had,” he recalled.
“That’s the beauty of this exhibit -— we get to share parts of our collection that people may have never even seen before. Of course, there will be plenty of ‘old friends,’ like the work from William Sidney Mount, but there is so much more to see. Ours is a living collection — it’s not sealed or stagnant, and it continues to grow.”
The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook presents Off the Rack: Building and Preserving LIM’s Art Treasures, from Feb. 22 through June 26. The museum is open Thursdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m. Admission for adults is $10; discounts are available for children, college students, seniors and the disabled. For more information, visit www.longislandmuseum.org or call 631-751-0066.
In celebration of its 80th anniversary, The Long Island Museum hosted a Mount House Summer Soirée at the Hawkins-Mount House in Stony Brook on June 28. The Americana-themed party featured signature cocktails dinner, live music and tours of artist William Sidney Mount’s childhood home, which had been closed to the public for three decades.
Photos by Karen Romanelli
The Long Island Museum is turning 80 this year, and the celebration kicks off on Friday, June 28 with a Summer Soirée at the Hawkins-Mount House on North Country Road in Stony Brook from 6 to 9 p.m.
Held rain or shine, the Americana-themed party will feature signature cocktails, dinner catered by Villa Sorrento, live music by Johnny Cuomo and Brian Chabza, tours of William Sidney Mount’s boyhood home and a presentation of W.S. Mount and the Mount/Hawkins families with Joshua Ruff, deputy director, director of Collections & Interpretation at the LIM.
Guests are invited to wear their summer whites (or reds or blues). Parking is available at the Long Island Museum with shuttle service to and from the Mount House.
“The Mount House has been closed from the general public for three decades! This is such an exciting opportunity to be the first group of museum supporters through the door. We are thrilled with this new enhancement to the museum’s programming,” said LIM’s executive director, Neil Watson.
“It’s an exciting time for The Long Island Museum,” added Barbara Gottfried, member of the LIM board of trustees and co-chair of the 80th Anniversary Events Committee.“Through exhibitions, programs and events, the museum offers the community a broad range of cultural and learning experiences. I’m proud and pleased to join in the celebration of their milestone year.”
The Long Island Museum’s 80th anniversary event series continues on July 18 with Puttin’ on the Ritz, featuring dinner in the Carriage Museum and an outdoor concert with Tom Manuel and The Jazz Loft All Stars. The final event in the series is Behind the Runway, featuring dinner in the Cowles Gallery, a discussion by a noted fashion historian and guided tours of the Mary & Philip Hulitar Textile Collection.
Tickets for each event is $150 per person, $250 per couple. Guests may purchase tickets for all three events for $400 per person, $700 per couple. For reservations, call 631-751-0066, ext. 247 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org/events.
By Heidi Sutton
The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook unveiled its annual juried art competition last Friday to rave reviews.
Designed to complement one of the museum’s current exhibits, Walt Whitman’s Arcadia: Long Island Through the Eyes of a Poet & Painters, this year’s theme encouraged amateur and professional artists to take inspiration from the written word — whether it be a poem, a quote, a song or a passage in a book, and turn it into something visual. The resulting exhibit is a wonder to behold.
Titled I Sing the Body Electric after a poem by Walt Whitman from his 1855 collection, “Leaves of Grass,” the show features 78 exquisite pieces of art in a variety of mediums including watercolor, pastel, oil, acrylic, sculpture, mixed media and photography, all beautifully displayed in the museum’s Visitors Center.
The exhibit was judged by Ripe Art Gallery President Cherie Rexer; Jessica Valentin, artist and owner of Muñecca Arthouse; and artist Beth Giacummo. The winners were announced at an opening reception.
“I’ve been [at this museum] six years and this is the best juried art show I’ve seen here and I’m so proud to be a part of it,” gushed Neil Watson, executive director at the LIM.
“From the start we all felt this [exhibit] was going to be something really spectacular,” added Lisa Unander, director of education at the LIM, before sharing the judges’ comments and presenting the awards.
Cliff Miller of Seaford captured first place with his oil on gesso panel piece titled “The McDivits,” which was inspired by Anthony Robbins’ quote, “The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.” Second place was awarded to Marsha Solomon of Baldwin for her acrylic on canvas piece titled “Orion’s Sapphire.” Melissa Imossi of Madison, Connecticut, won third place for “Shadowlands,” an oil painting on aluminum, which was inspired by the film of the same name about the relationship between C.S. Lewis and poet Joy Davidman. (See the judges’ comments under each image.)
In addition, each juror individually selected a piece for honorable mention. Giacummo’s choice was “Passerine,” a diorama by Ellen Wiener of Southold. “The main element perched like a passerine reminds the viewer that our relationship with art can strengthen our stance,” she explained. Rexer chose Helena Weber of Bay Shore’s “A Noiseless Patient Spider,” created in soft pastels. “I love it because it feels like it could belong in the Long Island Museum’s collection,” she said.
Valentin selected James Keller of St. James’ delicate abstract photograph “Sinuous,” which was inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s quote, “Moonlight is sculpture …”
“This work … spoke to me so strongly. The mood and light are stunning. I’m in love,” she said.
While the artists were inspired by the written word, visitors to this exhibit are sure to be inspired by their achievements. Don’t miss this wonderful show.
WHEN TO GO: The Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook will present I Sing the Body Electric through July 7. The museum is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 adults, $7 seniors and $5 students ages 6 to 17. Children under 6 and members are admitted for free. For more information, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.
Art reception photos by Julie Diamond/Long Island Museum
By Heidi Sutton
At 80 years young, it is an exciting time for the Long Island Museum. With a collection of mostly 19th- and early to mid-20th-century art and artifacts, the museum has recently turned its attention to building on its small but growing selection of contemporary art.
Enter internationally acclaimed silver artist Michael Izrael Galmer whose career includes collaborations with Tiffany & Co., Gorham and Lenox, as well as creating his own designs that have been exhibited at museums including the Cooper Hewitt, Renwick Gallery and Newark Museum of Art.
Galmer, who emigrated to the United States from the former Soviet Union in 1981, specializes in sculpture, jewelry and decorative pieces carved in silver using repoussé, a technique in which metals are shaped and adorned by hammering and pressing the reverse side of the piece. He then decorates the front of the piece using a technique called chasing or engraving.
In addition to enjoying a challenge, the artist, who works out of his studio in Queens, chose to work with silver “because it is identified with both a sense of fineness and the idea of tradition. Of quality, there is no more beautiful material to see, touch or feel.”
Examples of Galmer’s work were first viewed at the museum last fall as part of the Shaping Silver: Contemporary Metalsmithing exhibit. The artist then decided to donate two of the handcrafted pieces, a silver pitcher titled “Hops Blossom Pitcher” and a 41-inch tall silver sculpture titled “Lust for Life,” to the museum’s permanent collection.
A special unveiling and reception was held at the museum’s Visitors Center on April 11. The event was attended by Galmer’s family, friends and the museum’s staff and board.
“Wow, it looks better than in my studio!” exclaimed Galmer as he viewed the display. “I want to thank all the members of this wonderful institution who gave me a chance to share my artwork with all the future visitors to this museum. I am so honored.”
Both inspired by nature, the handcrafted pieces are stunning. The pitcher, designed in the classical style, is adorned with delicate flowers. “My goal was to create something that, when displayed on a table, makes you feel like a garden is all around you,” Galmer explained.
“Lust for Life,” which the artist calls “a speaking sculpture,” depicts a large stone with a small seed that has sprouted underneath and, finding the tiniest cracks in the rock, breaks free, grows strong branches and, as a grand finale, blooms. It is based on the philosophy that good things can come from even the direst circumstances.
“It’s talking, it wants to say something,” said an emotional Galmer in describing this piece. “Life is full of ups and downs. I want to encourage people to never give up … I want them to be strong. I survived, I came here with nothing, and I made something of myself for my family, my community, for America. To be successful you have to be strong, you have to fight. Never give up, ever. Try, try and you will always find an exit from a bad situation. It is important to remain optimistic.”
Both pieces will be prominently displayed in the Visitors Center through 2019.
“The museum is so pleased with this significant gift,” said Neil Watson, executive director of the LIM, after the unveiling. “For the most part, a museum is built over time. This is our 80th anniversary and it started with the generosity of Ward and Dorothy Melville … and how these collections grow is through that generosity and it all comes back to the makers. What Michael has given to us here is so beautiful … our collection is better for this and now we can go in a new direction.”
Joshua Ruff, chief curator at the museum, agreed. “Michael Izrael Galmer has gone through journeys in his life. The Long Island Museum is going through a journey right now. We have, in our 80 years, changed our name on numerous occasions. We were once the Suffolk Museum. We were once a small collection of natural history items and carriages and William Sidney Mount paintings and we have grown to be able to include contemporary art and the future is boundless for us.”
“We’re looking to, in the next 5, 10, 15 years down the road, really growing on what we are but [also] growing in new directions and making this place successful going into the next 80 years and beyond,” he added.
The Long Island Museum, located at 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is $10 adults, $7 seniors and $5 for students ages 6 to 17. Children under 6 and museum members are free. For more information, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org.