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Wet Paint Festival

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Gallery North, 90 North Country Road, Setauket will present its annual Wet Paint Festival from June 5 to June 13. 

Now in its 17th year, this annual, outdoor event is a celebration of plein air painting. The Wet Paint Festival provides the community with the unique opportunity to observe some of Long Island’s top plein air painters as they capture the area’s historic and natural beauty. Like last year, Gallery North will slightly modify plans for the festival. In an effort to maintain both the goals of the event and continued social distancing guidelines, the Gallery invites participating artists to create works in public or in solitude during the week of the festival. 

Gallery staff will also visit featured locations to arrange a few, optional recorded “virtual visits.” Participating artists will have the option (not required) to work with staff to record a discussion of their process or an informal interview. These “virtual visits” will then be posted on social media and on Gallery North’s website to both promote the event and to allow the public to understand and experience the process of plein air painting.

All participating artists will be featured in a pop-up exhibition at the Studio at Gallery North on June 18 from 3 to 7 p.m. The public is invited to attend the exhibition in person in small groups. Artists will be on hand from 5 to 7 p.m outside the Studio in Gallery North’s courtyard, to discuss their work, their experiences, and their approach, answering questions from the public.

Registration is required for the artists participating in the festival. The exhibition will be free and open to the public. For more information visit www.gallerynorth.org.

Above, a painting of Frank Melville Memorial Park in Setauket by artist John Koch at a previous Wet Paint Festival. Photo courtesy of Gallery North

By Melissa Arnold

It’s been a tough season for the plethora of local events that have either been canceled, postponed or restructured. Thankfully, technology like livestreaming and video chat have made it possible for some events to go on as scheduled, albeit a bit differently.

For the past 16 years, the Wet Paint Festival has given Three Village residents and visitors an up close look at the creative process of local artists as they work. The event was founded to honor the memory of beloved Long Island painter Joe Reboli, who died in 2004.

But inviting artists and community members to gather for creative fun and conversation doesn’t exactly fit in this quarantined, socially distant time. So what to do?

It’s been a baptism by fire of sorts for Ned Puchner of Gallery North in Setauket, which has sponsored the event from its beginnings. Puchner, who became the gallery’s executive director in December, was looking forward to his first Wet Paint Festival. Now, he’s been called upon to dream up an alternative.

“It’s been one of those unique experiences where you get to know people really fast,” Puchner joked. “But I’ve also learned very quickly how much support there is here for the arts and the art community, even despite the pandemic and its challenges. It’s been very encouraging for me to see that outpouring.”

Originally founded by former Gallery North director Colleen Hanson and the Reboli family, the Wet Paint Festival invites artists from Long Island and beyond for a relaxed weekend of plein air (outdoor) painting. The artists paint at the same location from vantage points of their choosing, allowing each put their own spin on well-known scenes and landmarks.

In the past, the festival has been held at West Meadow Beach and the adjoining Old Field Farm, Frank Melville Memorial Park, the Stony Brook railroad, the Thompson House, and Avalon Park & Preserve, among other places.

This year’s event will celebrate each artist’s originality as Wet Paint goes virtual. Painting sessions will be either livestreamed online or pre-recorded from a location the artist selects, whether it’s their own backyard or a public spot. During each session, the artist will talk about their creative process and take questions from viewers, just as they would in person.

To accommodate for the new format, the artists will paint for an entire week, from July 18 through July 25. The completed artwork will then be on display on the Gallery North website throughout the month of August.

The virtual festival is the latest in Gallery North’s ongoing effort to provide engaging online experiences during the pandemic.

“We had the Wet Paint Festival completely planned and were starting to gather sponsors and registrants when we had to close the gallery on March 14. When we closed, we decided to postpone the event, not realizing how long we would be unable to function and be outside,” Puchner explained.

“As time went on, we took it as an opportunity to get creative not only with Wet Paint, but with everything we do,” he said. The gallery began to share daily art activities, host “virtual open studio” events, film screenings, lectures, and opportunities to give and receive feedback on work in progress. As the staff grew more comfortable with video chat platforms such as Zoom, they knew they had to find a way to present the Wet Paint Festival, too.

Angela Stratton of Selden has enjoyed painting at the festival for the past 15 years, and while she’ll miss the connection and camaraderie of the typical event, she’s excited to see what comes of the online version.

“I’m the kind of person that likes to be outside anyway, so getting to paint at the same time is really a double treasure,” said Stratton, an oil painter. “Of course, there can be issues with painting outdoors ­— the sun goes in and out, it can be windy, it can rain — but it gives you the real depth of color you just can’t get from a photo.”

Stratton is still up in the air about where she’ll be painting, but she enjoys the challenge provided by the Old Field lighthouse.

Annette Napolitano, a realist painter who works in both watercolor and oil, would normally go out once a week to paint with a group of friends. She’s participated in Wet Paint for several years now.

“The first time I did the festival, I was so excited to be with the other artists, all of us working in the same place. The world is so big, and it can be a challenge to grab just a piece of it,” said Napolitano, of Rocky Point.

“I think bringing the festival online is a good solution because it’s like a pop-up event — people can come and go as they please. It’s also nice that we have a whole week to work, and it’s going to be fun to see people share their work from different parts of Long Island,” she said.

Puchner hopes that the event will inspire creativity not only in the participating artists, but people at home as well.

“At the center of the arts is expression. Everyone has had different experiences during the pandemic, but it has been significant for all of us,” he said. “There’s a fundamental need to discuss how we’re feeling, and the arts are a safe space for expression of all kinds.”

Livestreamed and recorded artist visits will be available for public viewing the week of July 27 at www.gallerynorth.org. Then, all completed works will be on the site for viewing and purchase throughout the month of August, with commissions split equally between the artist and the gallery. A virtual reception will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. Aug. 8 via Zoom; registration is free but required.

For further information, visit www.gallerynorth.org or call 631-751-2676.

*Article from TBR News Media’s Summer Times 2020, free on newstands today.

Setauket artist Jim Molloy paints the Gamecock Cottage plein air at a previous Wet Paint Festival Photo by Jeff Foster

By Melissa Arnold

For many, spending time outdoors is a great way to de-stress and recharge. And for the artistically inclined, it’s easy to feel inspired when you’re face-to-face with a profoundly beautiful scene.

These ideas are at the heart of the annual Gallery North/Joe Reboli Wet Paint Festival, which kicks off its 12th year this weekend in Stony Brook. The festival, hosted by Gallery North in Setauket, was launched to honor the memory of beloved Long Island painter Joseph Reboli. Since then, artists from across the island have gathered to paint outdoors in a variety of Three Village locations.

Stony Brook artist Barbara Siegel has painted at the festival for almost a decade now, and she said there’s nothing quite like “plein air,” or outdoor, painting. “Plein air painting gives you a beautiful opportunity to truly capture a moment — you see with your own eyes the lighting, shadows and detail of a place, in real time — you just don’t get that being inside,” she explained.

This year, the artists are headed to the historic Gamecock Cottage on West Meadow Beach in Stony Brook. According to Brookhaven town historian Barbara Russell, the cottage was purchased in 1876 by William Shipman for hunting and fishing. It earned the name Gamecock from either its bird-shaped weather vane or Shipman’s love of raising wild birds. “It’s really an interesting place,” Russell said. “And it defies understanding how it still exists, considering it’s been hit by every major storm and hurricane in our area since (the 1800s).”

Participating artists:

Rose Barry

Renee Blank

Sheila Breck

Yow-Ning Chang

Robin Clonts

Anthony Davis

Denise Douglas-Faraci

Greg Furjanic

Jim Kelson

Kathee Shaff Kelson Junee Kim

Elizabeth Kolligs

Arntian Kotsa

Lee Ann Lindgren

Esther Marie

Linda Davison Mathues

Eileen A. McGann

Muriel Musarra

Paula Pelletier

Linda Prentiss

Joan Rockwell

Stephen Rosa

Joseph Rotella

Oscar Santiago

Barbara Jeanne Siegel

Angela Stratton

Rita Swanteson

Natsuko Takami

Susan Trawick

Rae Zysman

Artist Muriel Musarra of Stony Brook has been a part of the festival from the beginning, and the Gamecock Cottage is a familiar subject for her artwork. “I’ve painted the Gamecock Cottage several times before from different angles — everyone loves it,” she said. “I’m looking forward to painting it again because something about the scene is always different. You never see the same thing twice.” The cottage was built out of solid wood in a Carpenter Gothic style and includes ample ornate trim, Russell said. Restoration has been underway for some time now, and historians at the festival will give visitors a rare look at the interior.

Gallery North Director Judith Levy said the festival will feature nearly 30 artists painting throughout the weekend, beginning Friday morning, July 15. On Saturday at 10:30 a.m., Russell and Bev Tyler of the Three Village Historical Society will lead a historical walking tour beginning at the West Meadow Beach Pavilion. The tour will move down Trustees Road and end at the cottage. Along the way, the group will learn how the beach and surrounding area was used by a variety of civilizations, from the Native Americans to the Colonials and beyond. A selection of artifacts from various time periods will be on display inside the cottage.

Following a weekend of painting, the finished artwork will be available to view and purchase at Gallery North from July 19 through July 24. An exhibition reception will be held on Thursday, July 21 from 5 to 7 p.m. “It’s a lot of fun,” Levy said of the festival. “There’s a lot of camaraderie among the artists and they all enjoy getting together to paint.”

The 12th annual Gallery North/Joseph Reboli Wet Paint Festival will be held at the Gamecock Cottage, Trustees Road and West Meadow Beach, Stony Brook. Painters will be on-site from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, July 15, and Saturday, July 16, and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 17. Gallery North is located at 90 North Country Rd., Setauket. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 631-751-2676.