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Jun 15, 2018 11:42 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Elaine Benson Gallery In Its Second Season At The Children's Museum Of The East End

Jul 2, 2018 10:09 AM

The Children’s Museum of the East End isn’t just for children.

This art museum in Bridgehampton is home to the Elaine Benson Gallery, run by Kimberly Goff, in its second year located at CMEE. All summer, Ms. Goff curates shows featuring local artists.

The Elaine Benson Gallery has been around in some way, shape or form since 1967. It began with Ms. Goff’s mother, Elaine Benson, opening the eponymous gallery with her husband, Emanuel Benson, in a large house across from the Bridgehampton post office. Ms. Benson died in 1998, and Ms. Goff, who worked at the gallery with her mother beginning in 1993, continued to run it.

Ms. Goff considers herself very community minded. “When I came back to work with her in 1993, it was because Bridgehampton is really my home,” she said.

In 2006, that house closed its doors after decades of showcasing local artists and not-so-local artists from elsewhere on Long Island.

However, Ms. Goff wanted to continue her mother’s legacy. “A number of artists with whom we’d worked during the years would, every time they saw me, ask, ‘When are you going to start curating again?’” She found temporary homes for the Elaine Benson Gallery, with brief stints in the Southampton Inn and even an empty warehouse in Southampton.

After taking a few years off to paint in Mexico, where she still lives during the winter, she returned to Bridgehampton. “When the director of the museum asked if I’d be willing to curate a show, I said, ‘You know what, I’d be willing to curate all the shows,’” she said with a laugh.

Ms. Goff said that CMEE was extremely supportive and helpful as she began putting together the gallery. “It’s a marriage made in heaven.”

She curates four shows a season, lasting from May to October. She said the CMEE staff being so positive and gracious has been a huge help, and a big part of the partnership is that both she and the museum love exposing the children to art.

While the gallery is a bonus for parents to see while they visit the museum with their children, Ms. Goff said it is also beneficial for the children to see art that was not curated just for kids. She emphasized how she talks to children as she would anyone else and thinks they don’t need to simply look at paintings of clowns or kids with big eyes.

The exhibition that began the season was called “Whimsy.” It featured seven artists, including Ms. Goff herself.

She spoke fondly of the six other artists featured, Ruby Jackson, Patricia Hadley, Scott Bluedorn, Darlene Charneco, Mike Stanko and especially Eleanora Kupencow, for whom Ms. Goff decided on the theme of the exhibition after falling in love with her whimsical sculpture style.

The next show planned at the gallery is called “Creatures Large and Small,” opening on Saturday, July 7. This is the second time this theme is being used by the Elaine Benson Gallery, as Ms. Goff’s mother did a show of the same name more than two decades ago. Ms. Goff was inspired by a poster created by Milton Glaser, which was featured in the last show and will reappear at the upcoming exhibition.

Another repeat this summer is called “Part II, An Invitational,” opening on August 18. Ms. Goff did the first exhibition of this name last summer to showcase artists who were excluded from other invitational shows by residency requirements. The show proved so successful that she is bringing it back for a second year.

When choosing artists to be shown in her gallery, Ms. Goff wishes to showcase mostly local artists from all walks of life. “My mother always said it’s good to focus on local artists … we have such a wealth of talent here,” she said.

“Creatures Large and Small” will be on display at the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton from July 7 to August 14 during the museum’s regular operating hours. For more information, visit cmee.org.

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