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Hamptons Life

Mar 6, 2018 11:15 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Hamptons Arts Network Plans Inaugural South Fork-wide THAW Fest March 23-25

Andrea Grover, the executuve director of Guild Hall, at the THAW Fest info session at the Madoo Conservancy in Sagaponack on February 28.  RICHARD LEWIN
Mar 6, 2018 12:38 PM

It was the legendary ambient light that began drawing artists to the East End in the late 19th century.

Over time, the South Fork became home to a thriving community of creative masters like Elaine and Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. Eventually, the kinship of creative minds became as much of a draw for artists as the natural environment.

Today, the East End continues to foster a thriving community of artists, from playwrights and actors to sculptors and painters. The wealth of creative output they produce has in turn spawned an equally rich community of galleries, museums and theaters where aficionados can enjoy that art.

And while some collaboration has always been the norm among these venues, the newly formed Hamptons Arts Network (HAN) is seeking to formalize those connections and promote partnerships and shared programming among its 19-member consortium.

Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming applauded the effort, noting that while the artists who call the East End home “have always formed tribes and communities,” among themselves, “the institutions supporting the artists—because fundraising is such a challenge—have often seen each other as competitors. This is really transformational that they’re working in collaboration. They have an opportunity to celebrate and amplify the rich history of arts that we have here.”

HAN’s first big foray will be The Hamptons Arts Weekend Festival, or THAW Fest, a Hamptons-wide, weekendlong festival to celebrate spring and promote the broad diversity of cultural programs and institutions that make the South Fork of Long Island unique.

From March 23 to 25, THAW will feature exhibitions, theater performances, film, music, garden tours, workshops, community engagement and family-focused events.

“These organizations all used to exist like little fiefdoms,” said Alejandro Saralegui, the executive director of the Madoo Conservancy in Sagaponack, where an information session on THAW was held on Wednesday, February 28. “The goal of the Hampton Arts Network is to bring them all together a little bit. With THAW, we want to create an off-season event to showcase what a great place the Hamptons are to visit in the springtime.”

Madoo will be exhibiting “Florilegium: Flora Paintings” by Madoo founder Robert Dash. “These are Bob’s flower paintings from 2001, and they haven’t been seen very much,” Mr. Saralegui said. “These are single-flower paintings, very large, very modern, very pop art.”

In the spirit of collaboration, some participants with space to spare are partnering with others who don’t have a physical presence to showcase special performances or exhibitions.

The Southampton African American Museum, which will soon break ground on a permanent location, has two special events planned for THAW at the Southampton Historical Museum. Jazz vocalist Taylor Burgess will perform on Sunday, March 25, at 1 p.m. followed by the Showers of Blessings choir from Kings Chapel at 2 p.m.

“All of the arts are important,” said Nancy Stevens-Smith, the Southampton African American Museum secretary. “Everything that each organization brings to the community is important and worthwhile, and the hope is that by coordinating these events and collaborating with each other, we can showcase what we all have to offer instead of cannibalizing each other by competing for visitors.”

“The reality is, if you were to combine all our schedules on any given weekend, it would probably look a lot like this,” said Amy Kirwin, the director of programs at the Southampton Arts Center. “We’re all very busy, and we’re all doing things year-round.”

“We’re partnering with two of the other member organizations that don’t have a brick and mortar location,” she added. “We’re doing a film with the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival on Friday at 8 o’clock. Saturday we’ve got an artist tour, and Saturday night we’re bringing out Amy Poehler’s Upright Citizens Brigade for a live improv show. Sunday we’re doing a screening of “The Breadwinner,” an Academy Award nominee for animation, with the Hamptons International Film Festival. Plus, we have our exhibition: ‘A Radical Voice: 23 Women.’

“The idea is to really showcase that the Hamptons are a vital cultural destination year-round, and to have something for everyone,” she continued. “Prices range from free to very affordable. Hopefully, visitors will come for the festival and stay at one of the inns, eat at the restaurants. Our plan is to kind of oversaturate the market for a weekend so we can collectively demonstrate how much is going on here—not just in the summer, but off-season as well.”

Andrea Grover, the executive director of Guild Hall, explained, “We conceived THAW as a way to celebrate spring, and to celebrate all the creative people who live and work in our region.”

She said the idea came about through casual discussions with Elka Rifkin, the director of the Watermill Center, and Terrie Sultan, the director of the Parrish Art Museum. “We talked about this a little over a year ago came up with this idea. We meet once a month, and it’s been a very productive experience.”

“This kind of collaboration is the wave of the future—working together instead of competing,” Ms. Grover added. “Humans like to work in groups naturally, and with so many arts and cultural institutions in a small region, it makes sense that we would share our resources and our ideas and grow stronger by working together.”

Guild Hall has several events planned for THAW, including a gallery talk by artist Alice Hope, named the 2018 “Woman to Watch” for New York by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Guild Hall will also hold performances of a post-punk rendition of “Romeo and Juliet,” directed by Josh Gladstone and featuring both professional actors and local high school students.

“One of the unique things about the South Fork of Long Island is the historically rich, deep arts community that exists here year-round,” Ms. Fleming said. “As our area has gotten busier and more affluent, and just bigger in general, the arts community has naturally gotten less coverage. I feel as though there’s so much pressure to lure the very affluent, but we need to maintain our cultural integrity and recognize that what makes this community tick is the kind of thinking and feeling and creating that is happening by these artists. I’m delighted that these institutions have joined together, it will make them all stronger.”

“Especially at a time that’s so stressful, where our public discourse is so full of division and anger,” she added. “It’s heartening to note that so many people are thinking carefully about truth and beauty, and expressing that to us. It will absolutely benefit the entire community to continue to cultivate that kind of thinking.”

For a full list of THAW Fest participants and events, visit hamptonsartsnetwork.org

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