There was a time when the white-draped figure of Arlene Bujese was a familiar sight in East Hampton. For nearly a decade, Ms. Bujese ran her self-named gallery on Newtown Lane. With a soft spot and passion for the work of area artists, she ran the Arlene Bujese Gallery as a nexus for artists of quality and the collectors who appreciated them.
Rents skyrocketed and then rose some more. In 2007, Ms. Bujese sold the gallery. Since then, she’s been wearing the hat of art dealer, guest curator and chief curator for the Box Art Auction benefiting East End Hospice.
Now Ms. Bujese has walls to fill with art again. This time, they belong to the Southampton Cultural Center (SCC). Her first group show as curator-in-residence will be unveiled at an opening reception on Saturday, June 12.
The exhibition, “F-Stop,” features four contemporary photographers and brings together four distinctive styles that still manage to “speak” to each other visually, Ms. Bujese said. The photographers are Walter Schwab, Ann Sager, Warren Padula and Marcel Bally.
Ms. Bujese quietly moved in to her new role as the SCC’s curator-in-residence in January. So far, she’s lent her expertise to a group show to celebrate Black History month and a solo show of Calvin Albert’s drawing and sculpture. The Black History month show was already being put together when Ms. Bujese came on board.
The Calvin Albert (1918-2007) exhibition was her official first selection for SCC. Mr. Albert was a renowned artist and art professor and the author of “Figure Drawing Comes To Life,” a book that became a classic text for students of drawing.
Mr. Albert exhibited with Ms. Bujese at the Benton Gallery in Southampton, which she closed before moving on to East Hampton. Mr. Albert’s work is exhibited only infrequently on the East End, so Ms. Bujese thought area art lovers would enjoy seeing his art.
It is this eye for art and her judgment that made Ms. Bujese the first choice when the SCC decided to add a curator-in-residence to the blossoming center for culture, said Don Sacco, a sculptor who heads the SCC art committee. Having a curator-in-residence is the logical next step in the group’s efforts to make the Levitas Center for the Arts a place where interesting and quality-driven art shows can be found.
The quest for consistent quality began in 2008 when Mr. Sacco had a solo show at the renovated gallery, he said. An art committee was formed and an open call for artists was issued. Solo shows were awarded to those with strong bodies of work as determined by the committee.
Abstract painter Margaret Garrett of Shelter Island, photographer Marilyn Stevenson of Southampton and New Jersey, and landscape painter Joanne Rosko of Southampton were among the artists who had shows at SCC.
With Ms. Bujese at the helm as curator, the center board expects to continue increasing the quality of art exhibited under the auspices of the SCC.
“We started to have better shows when we formed the art committee,” Mr. Sacco said. “We want to continue by having a curator-in-residence. Ms. Bujese has a lot of experience and brings the know-how of a curator. She’s familiar with the area and has contacts to bring different artists to the Southampton Cultural Center than would apply to show here. Arlene knows the people; she knows their work.”
The gallery will hold four curated shows each year: a Black History Month group show and exhibitions in spring, summer and fall. Artists or the artwork will have connections to the East End in keeping with the SCC mission. They may be solo or group shows.
This year’s fall show will feature three painters showing different views of abstraction, Ms. Bujese said. A theme of “Autumn Light” connects to a new Fall Festival month being mounted in Southampton.
In addition to the curated shows, the center will continue to host Southampton Artist Association exhibitions. The artist group makes its home at SCC and member shows include a Midsummer Art Show, Art in the Park and a Thanksgiving Show. The Student Artist Invitational, now run by the SCC, will continue each winter. The winner of the high school invitational receives a solo show at the SCC.
Ideas for next season’s shows are already in motion, Ms. Bujese said. Working with SCC and the art committee’s openness to new ideas and directions is an exciting prospect. So is having walls to fill with artwork yet to be discovered.
“I missed working with artists directly,” Ms. Bujese said. “Selling art from my website or to the former client who may call for a work is not the same as fitting names to an exhibition concept, visiting studios to see what artists are doing, selecting works, organizing and installing the show—hopefully to everyone’s satisfaction.”
“F-STOP: 4 Contemporary Photographers” will open with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 12, at the Levitas Center for the Arts at the Southampton Cultural Center, 25 Pond Lane, Southampton. The show remains on view through July 5, with the gallery open Monday through Saturday. For information on SCC exhibitions and programming, visit www.scc-arts.org.
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