Tag Archive | "Hayground School"

Gifts of Local Creativity at Hayground’s Homegrown for the Holidays

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A pillow by Rachel Foster of "Bizzy Bee Designs," one of the local vendors who will have a booth at Homegrown for the Holidays this Saturday, December 6, at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton.

A pillow by Rachel Foster of Bizzy Bee Designs, one of the local vendors who will have a booth at Homegrown for the Holidays this Saturday, December 6, at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton.

By Tessa Raebeck 

Artisans and creative vendors from across the South Fork will share their crafts, food and ideas at the annual holiday bazaar Homegrown for the Holidays, this Saturday, December 6, at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton. Handmade and custom goods like beach glass jewelry, custom knit hats and ocean inspired pillows will fill dozens of booths.

A fitting follow-up to Small Business Saturday last weekend, Hayground found this year’s vendors through farmers markets held in the summer, its ranks of creative alumni, students and parents, and another local network—artisans who quickly spread the word whenever there’s an opportunity to share their creations.

“The local artisan community is very broad, yet tight-knit,” said Kerri Deuel of Sag Harbor, a Hayground parent and event organizer who reached out to many of this year’s participants.

Over 30 vendors will be in attendance, ranging from 9-year-old Sam and her big sister, Madeline, both Hayground students, to Yu Lu-Bouvier, who is now retired, but began her business, Luluknits, on the train during her daily commute between Westhampton Beach and New York City.

A selection from Ketsy Knits.

A selection from Ketsy Knits.

Ms. Lu-Bouvier, who began knitting with her grandmother as a young child, now sells handmade sweaters and custom hats for babies and children.

“I like those art events because people are so crazy, you always get new ideas and people are so proud of their products,” Ms. Lu-Bouvier said, adding the bazaar and other markets at Hayground are “not like Macy’s [where] the sales person knows nothing about the product—the way to use it, how it comes [as a] specialty—no one knows everything, but in a farmers market, people can give [customers] stories about what they made.”

Mary Jaffe, who has been making pottery on the East End for 35 years, enjoys shows because of the opportunity to teach others about the creative process behind her bowls, vases, platters and other “functional ware.”

“Once the community is involved, they spread the word and it grows very organically,” said Ms. Deuel, adding there will be a “great mix” of new items and favorites from years past.

Madeline, 12, and Sam, 9, started their Etsy store, Ketsy Knits, in August. Sam makes hand-beaded jewelry and Madeline knits colorful hats, scarves and other warm clothes. The girls sell what they make online and give half their proceeds to charitable organizations supporting children in Haiti, Kenya, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

“Everything is made by the two of us, and we knit/make every piece with love,” said Madeline, who has been knitting since she was 8 and was making hats for premature babies in  neonatal intensive care units by 9. Sam learned to make jewelry at Hayground, in an after school program led by alumnus Ella Engel-Snow.

Designs by the Sea.

Designs by the Sea.

“There are a lot of amazing local artists, and one of the reasons we wanted to participate in the bazaar was because of all the incredible work we saw last year,” Madeline said of she and her sister.

Children who won’t be making sales at the holiday bazaar can enjoy face painting, crafts tables and seeing firsthand how vendors’ childhood hobbies have expanded into impassioned business ventures.

Carol O’Connor started collecting beach glass as a teenager, and now combines beads and beach glass for leather bracelets, beach glass chokers and other “one-of-a-kind pieces that just pop into my head,” she said. The “Designs by the Sea” owner teaches classes on her craft at Rogers Memorial Library in Southampton and sells pieces at local yoga studios Ananda and Good Ground and the Sunrise to Sunset and Flying Point surf shops.


Mimi Page Jewelry.

Also inspired by childhood walks exploring the woods searching for “treasures to turn into art pieces or jewelry,” Shelter Island resident Mimi Page will show her self-named jewelry line.

“For as long as I can remember, I have been a ‘gatherer’ type of artist,” said Ms. Page, who has explored various forms, including weaving, ceramics and printmaking, and now makes unique jewelry using sterling silver bezel pendants, stones, pieces of tile, sea glass and “whatever I find interesting,” she said.

“The people who live on the East End of Long Island are unique in that they are drawn to a lifestyle that is more community-centered to begin with, so it’s just in their nature to support the local, homegrown businesses,” said Ms. Page, who added she would rather go cage-diving with sharks in Montauk than anywhere near an outlet center this time of year.

When they support small businesses, added Ms. Page, shoppers are “directly helping someone in your community live their dream and follow their passion.”

There will be plenty of local food on hand, including Lorna’s Nuts, owned by Lorna and Walter Cook of East Hampton, who have doubled their business in the past year and expanded from three flavors to 14 since starting in 2012. Former Hayground parent Anastasia Karloutsos will serve her Old School Favorites, “simple and delicious” chocolate sauce and nuts covered in maple.

A selection of Lorna's Nuts.

A selection of Lorna’s Nuts.

“Really, it is these small shows, speaking with customers, getting to know other vendors that really gets your product out there,” she said. “If you have one enthusiastic person at your booth that person can bring over so many others. The people who want to support and buy local are so very important to our small business.”

“We are very fortunate to live and work on the East End,” added Deborah Lukasik, who founded Southampton Soap Co. with partner Chris O’Shaughnessy. “Local artisans all network and cross promote one another’s brands and products. Everyone thinks about who might be a good contact for someone—I love that.”

Homegrown for the Holidays is Saturday, December 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hayground School, 151 Mitchell Lane in Bridgehampton. For more information or to become a vendor, contact Kerri Deuel at greenmama@optonline.net.

Fire Reported at Hayground School in Bridgehampton

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Heller_BHFD Fire @ Hayground School 3-26-14_4865_LR

Photography by Michael Heller

Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor firefighters overhaul and check for hot spots at a fire that occurred on the exterior of a campus building at the Hayground School on Mitchell Lane at roughly 1:45 p.m. on Wednesday. The fire was extinguished and no injuries were reported.

Eye on Art-The Power of Sculpture

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A Ruin by Matt Jones

“A Ruin” by Matt Jones


by Helen A. Harrison


When it comes to art, the power of playfulness is often discounted. Art should be serious, and we should approach it with respect and even reverence. Well, gravitas has its place, but sometimes art, even great art, can be fun. Alexander Calder may be the best-known artist whose sculpture is both sophisticated and whimsical, and Red Grooms certainly elicits a chuckle with his 3-D caricatures of urban life.

“Powerplay,” the current sculpture installation at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton, aims to take that attitude one step further by engaging children with sculptures peppered around the school’s 13-acre campus. Organized by The City Firm, a Chelsea-based art advisory service with connections to the East End, the project features work by 28 artists using diverse and sometimes unconventional materials.

On opening day, July 14, a series of events and performances enhanced the overall theme of questioning “the value system of power and how it is interpreted within the American psyche.” For those who, like me, missed the occasion, there’s a YouTube video showing some of the day’s happenings. Apparently the idea was to have serious fun, mixing participatory activities with teaching and learning experiences.

Now that the dust has settled, what remains is a mixed bag of outdoor sculptures, some of which have not weathered well. When I visited, only a week after the official opening, many labels were down, and several of the more ephemeral works were no longer in evidence. Matt Stone’s “Xithform” had lost its embellishments, “Pinwheel Park and Whirligigs,” an ambitious installation by Grant Haffner, Carly Haffner and Scott Gibbons (assisted by the Hayground Campers) was in disarray, with several pinwheels broken and other parts missing, and Matt Jones’ “Obelisk #1” had suffered the fate of some of its Egyptian forebears. But Mr. Jones’ other piece, “A Ruin,”(above)  a skeletal art gallery with a single painting on each wall, is paradoxically intact. The artist says that he “wanted to make a space … that is like a gallery and like an unfinished tract house. A space that isn’t in a city but is with nature,” but I take it as an ironic comment on art’s place in modern life, at the mercy of the elements and with little visible support.

The works that have stood up best are those made of durable materials, like welded metal. Joining Bill King’s family group on the main lawn are some witty entries, like Steve Heller’s “Fintasia,” a whacky rocket ship with a car taillight for a nose cone. (Mr. Heller’s “Cadillac,” a miniaturized version of the vintage tail-finned confection, is appropriately placed in the parking lot.) Also on the lawn are Willy Neumann’s “15 Minutes of Frame,” in which visitors can create their own tableaux vivant, Michael Chairello’s “Split Differences,” a linear interplay of calligraphic curves, and Gloria Kisch’s spidery constructions, “Copper Fusion” and “Golden Fusion,” that appear both organic and metallic at the same time. Jason Peters’ “When There Was Nothing, Now There is Something” makes clever use of plastic, a substance that’s all too durable in the environment. It’s a snaking loop of red and white paint buckets that unfortunately needs a lot of support to keep its shape. The crutches and guy wires detract from its graceful form, but the piece nevertheless makes the point that the artist’s imagination can transform even the most unpromising material.

Many of the “Powerplay” works use recycled or found objects, perhaps as a way of highlighting the exhibition’s theme of critiquing American values. What most people discard with impunity, artists often rescue and rehabilitate. But it seems to me that this high-minded purpose is not the project’s most important message. Regardless of what art is made of, what style it is or what idea it expresses, it should be part of everyday life, an essential element of our experience. Rather than teaching about art from secondary sources like books or slides, sculpture on the school grounds allows youngsters and adults alike to interact with it directly, question its meaning and purpose, and play with it in the most rewarding sense.


Changed Lives: Former and Present NYC Families Reflect on 9/11′s Impact

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By Claire Walla

There are few who would say the United States hasn’t seen fundamental change since September 11, 2001. For some who were living in Manhattan and experienced great upheaval at the time of the terror attacks of that day, this far corner of Long Island offered the chance to make a new life. Now, 10 years later, three families reflect on how their lives changed after 9/11.

Beth Troy and Susan Galardi

Beth Troy was working in mid-town Manhattan on the morning of September 11, 2001. She had left her office to go to the Duane Reade on 39th Street when she noticed something odd. She looked up, she said, and “there was the most ominous feeling in the sky.”

When she got back to work, she continued, “everyone was crying and screaming; everyone was freaking out and pouring into the streets.”

An airplane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers.

Troy’s partner, Susan Galardi, was across town in a meeting when news of the catastrophe hit. But the two were able to connect via cell phone and made plans to meet and walk to the apartment they owned in the West Village.

“We all started the scary departure from Grand Central Station… we just started walking,” Troy said. “People were in bars watching the news on TV, and suddenly you’d start seeing people who had been in the mess, walking like zombies.”

“It was like a scary movie you didn’t want to be a part of.”

When the couple reached their apartment, they got their dog and headed to East Hampton, where they owned a home. Though Troy said she and Galardi always planned to settle on the East End once they had a child — and they were beginning to have those discussions — the events of September 11, 2001 expedited that process.

“I’m a native New Yorker, we definitely love the city,” Troy explained. However, “The real issue for me was the fear.”

“New York is a wonderful place, but I wouldn’t want to be worried like that ever again,” she said.

Today, Troy and Galardi have a 9-year old son, Hudson, and live in Sag Harbor full time.

“We still go in and out of the city because it’s a big part of my life. But, what if it happened again? I think we’re more prepared now. And really, these things can happen anywhere. But, as a Mom, I feel safer raising my child here in Sag Harbor.”

Lisa and Laszlo Kiss

For Lisa Kiss, her husband Laszlo and their two daughters, in the years before September 11, 2001 life was concentrated around The World Trade Center. They lived in an apartment in Battery Park City, and she and Laszlo had office space downtown with a view of the towers. Laszlo was at work that day and Lisa had just dropped her eldest daughter off at school when everything changed.

“I watched the first plane go into the tower from my daughter’s playground,” Kiss explained. It was five-year-old Madeline’s fourth day of first grade at P.S. 89. With her infant daughter in her arms, Kiss went back into the school to avoid what she thought might turn into “a stampede” in the streets.

“We just heard a lot of screams outside,” she recalled. “We didn’t even know what was happening.”

Kiss was one of only a few parents who stayed behind at the school that day. She said she was lucky she did. Her husband reunited with them there, and with friend Lesa Tinker — a Bridgehampton homeowner who, ironically, also lived in Battery Park City and had a five-year-old daughter and an infant — the two families joined thousands in a massive migration north.

“We couldn’t go home,” Kiss continued explaining the area was closed to the public.

Luckily, Kiss said she and Tinker each had a friend on the Upper East Side they could stay with.

During their 70-block odyssey, they passed empty baby carriages at the end of the promenade in Battery Park City where parents had ditched them before packing into ferries to get off the island with their kids. They walked past people covered in ash, and passed a line of people waiting to donate blood at St. Vincent’s Hospital in the West Village. They heard snippets of news wafting out of car radios, though they tried not to linger too long lest their kids be subjected to the details of the day’s events.

“We heard all these military jets fly overhead,” she recalled. “We didn’t know if we were under attack or what — it was scary.”

Kiss said their apartment was relatively unharmed by the day’s events, but Lazlo’s studio was badly damaged and her office was destroyed. Kiss knew she wanted to leave Manhattan.

At around 5 a.m. on September 12, the Kisses drove east to Quogue, where Lisa’s mother owned a home. They stayed there four years and then they moved again — this time to Sag Harbor.

“I love living here,” Kiss confided. “There seems to be a lot of people who also used to live in Manhattan, but there are also people out here still living in the houses they grew up in. I like this town because it’s easy to feel a part of.”

Though her husband lived in their apartment while he continued to work in the city, Kiss only returned there once, when a Japanese film crew asked to film the family going back to their former home. Other than that, she said she’s had no desire to go back and they no longer rent the apartment.

“I had been living in the city for 20 years,” she said. “I always wanted to live in the country, somewhere quiet.”

And now that her husband has moved his business to Sag Harbor, she said they’re here for good.

Lesa and David Tinker

On the eve of September 11, 2001, back on the Upper East Side, Lesa Tinker didn’t meet up with her husband until that night, when — by sheer chance — he came knocking on the same friends’ door with their son in his arms. He had been in their Battery Park apartment at the time of the attack and was evacuated aboard a ferry to Liberty State Park in New Jersey where he spent much of the day.

Like the Kisses, the Tinkers quickly drove east. They went to the home they owned in Bridgehampton and enrolled their daughter in The Hayground School, where she completed first grade. Like the Kisses, Lesa’s husband David returned to their apartment in Battery Park to work during the week while the family stayed in Bridgehampton.

However, unlike the Kisses, Tinker said she and her husband were on the fence for a year about whether or not to stay out east permanently.

“We got to the point where we had to make a pros and cons list, and the pros list was quite long,” Tinker explained. “The con list only had one item on it: that David would have to be a weekend dad. That out-weighed all the pros.”

So the Tinkers are back in the city living in the same apartment they were in on 9/11, and their kids have returned to the same schools.

“There’s still a lot missing,” Tinker said of the neighborhood. “But our community bonded to help rebuild the neighborhood, that made a difference. There are some amazingly good things that have come out of such a horrible event.”

Michael Denslow

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web convo Denslow

The co-manager of The Community Farmers’ Market at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton and active member of Slow Food East End talks about working with local schools to create edible gardens, early summer vegetables and the importance of eating local food.

The Farmers Market at the Hayground School is the East End’s first farmers’ market that features collaboration between the community and a school, highlighting produce grown by the children at the Hayground School amongst its two dozen stalls of produce, baked goods, cheeses and fresh seafood. How was this relationship fostered?

We are Slow Food East End leaders, and Slow Food donated money towards the greenhouse at The Hayground School. One of our projects at Slow Food is to raise money to build greenhouses at schools. We elected them for the donation, and helped them construct it after they purchased the greenhouse. Once their plants were established and we just fostered the idea of the farmers’ market based on highlighting the children of The Hayground School and their efforts. They are the keystone of the market as you walk in. They sell produce, but also plants an herbs you can grow at home.

What is in the stalls right now from the Hayground School garden?

Right now, they have chives, nasturtium, a variety of herbs, spinach, lettuces, mesclun salad mix, which they put in biodegradable containers with the school logo on it. They also have a variety of tomatoes from cherries to the beefsteaks, although they are just plants right now, no tomatoes yet. Their strawberries should be up this week. You have seen a lot of early strawberries around, but theirs is just about ready. They also have chickens, which should produce eggs soon. As the season goes on they will have more and more stuff to offer.

Schools throughout the East End have followed Hayground’s suit, creating edible gardens as an educational tool, but also to promote wellness and nutrition. Why do you think this movement has grown in popularity in recent years?

I think people have become much more aware in recent years. Here you have the President’s wife, Michelle Obama, talking about how important this is. You can’t really do much better than that. People are recognizing how important it is to eat healthily. The word is out. You can’t deny its importance in the face of diabetes, childhood obesity. The school lunches have been deplorable, and instead, at Hayground, the kids are really seeing where their food is coming from. Often, kids don’t recognize that a French fry actually comes from a potato. You have to get them in touch with where their food comes from.

A leader of the Slow Food East End movement, and organizing the Hayground Farmers Market – obviously you have an interest in food and organics. Which one initially drew you to slow food?

It’s not so much the organics, although that is important. What we are really about is the local regionalism of our food shed. Here, we have such an abundance – you can find some of the top produce in the world. We are trying to keep heritage products and local growers and fishermen alive, and not succumb to the grocery store.

The Slow Food movement was founded in Italy, where regional foods are very important and they are even protected as P.O.D. — protected designation of origin — where they designate artisanal products as specially protected, such as a cheese or meat specific to the area. Carlo Petrini founded Slow Food in Italy with [chef] Alice Waters supporting Slow Food in the United States promoting the edible schoolyards and eating seasonally, locally. A natural extension of this was to get into the schools and teach the children, make them aware of the abundance of local food we have out here because it is really amazing.

It seems the Slow Food movement has become more popular in recent years. Why?

People recognized the way we have been living is not sustainable. People are aware if we shop and patronize our farm stands, we will keep them in business, otherwise they could become the next McMansion, although I hate to use such words. A prime example of this is the Pike Farm Stand [in Sagaponack]. Without that, that area would look like a suburban subdivision. Towns are even looking at this now. The Westhampton Beach Farmers’ Market was taken over the by chamber of commerce, and they must have 30 vendors. Southampton Village has jumped on board with their farmers’ market. Also, you are enabling the young couple with the small farm, like John and Karen who have a one or two acre farm Sunset Beach Farm in Sag Harbor, to have an outlet to sell their product and hopefully continue their business. We are proud that out market at The Hayground School is almost exclusively a farmers’ market of locals. Pretty much everyone lives within a 10 to 12 mile radius of the school.

What is in your fridge, right now?

Well, [Denslow and his wife, Emily Herrick, also a member of Slow Food East End and co-manager of the farmers’ market at Hayground] do make our own humus. We have mesclun salad mix. We must have four pounds of asparagus. Strawberries are in there right now. We try to make a lot of our own food. We make our own granola, sorbets, ice creams and roast our own coffee. We make almost everything we eat from scratch and as much as possible from local ingredients. We love it, and everything is so readily available here, sometimes it’s just a walk down the street. We are very enthusiastic about what the East End has to offer – our local fish is sensational, and we actually have two fishermen at the market. You can’t find more pristine scallops. And then we have Art Ludlow’s cheese [from Mecox Dairy]. It’s just very special.

What is in the future for Slow Food East End?

Slow Food will continue to raise money for greenhouses. We made a donation to The Seedlings Project at the Springs School and gave money to the Bridgehampton School so they have a greenhouse project going. We have expanded the leadership to include more people from the North Fork, so hopefully our next greenhouse project will be in Mattituck. The parents want it, the kids want it – they see what a benefit it is to the school and the community.

The Community Farmers’ Market at the Hayground School is open Fridays, May 28 through September 10 from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Hayground School, 151 Mitchell Lane in Bridgehampton. For more information, call Michael Denslow at 987-3553 or visit haygroundfarmersmarket.com.

Hep is the Word for Go

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Had they given me more time to think about it, I might have been more afraid. I was only there to interview people. But as it was, I found myself climbing up a narrow ladder to a tiny wooden platform 35 feet above the ground. I had just been given a list of instructions but the only thing I had retained was the fact that “hep” meant jump. From there, I figured I’d just wing it.
Former Ringling Brothers Circus member Peter Gold started Trapeze Experience 12 years ago. For the last two weeks, the company has been giving lessons at the Hayground School in Bridgehampton. They’ll be there throughout Labor Day weekend.
Beth Baldwin was in the same boat I was. She came two weeks ago only to take pictures of her friends when she was talked into filling an empty spot in the class. Baldwin, who works for East Hampton Town, managed to find someone else to take pictures while she took the class. She currently has a photo of herself flying through the air hanging on the wall in her office.
“Climbing the ladder was the worst part,” said Baldwin.
When I got to the top of the platform I could see the tents and stables of the Hampton Classic behind me. But I had no time to enjoy the view. Before I knew it I was strapped in and was told to move forward and let my toes hang off the platform. Sure.
One would think that only a handful of people in the world have been on the trapeze. It’s not your typical recreational sport, not exactly tennis or basketball or even white water rafting. But Randy Kohn, my instructor, estimated that Trapeze Experience alone had probably allowed over 60,000 people to get a taste of the circus sport. A good majority of those turn out to be repeat customers; Diana Blackman was one such person. Kohn said a lot of people find it addicting.
“The rush, it’s just so much fun,” she said.
With the metal bar in my hand I looked below. Yes, there was a net there. “Hep” yelled Kohn and I immediately jumped from the platform. The first thought that went through my head was “I’m moving pretty fast here.” Then I heard Kohn scream “legs up.”
Wait. What does that mean? Oh yeah. I remember.
I pulled up my legs and hooked them like I did on the monkey bars as a kid, all the while swinging backwards in the air at a ferocious rate of speed. Or at least it seemed like it.
Kohn just graduated from Hofstra. He wasn’t a gymnast, or any kind of athlete really. He was a frat guy. But when he was 11 years old he went to a summer camp in Hancock N.Y. and flew on the trapeze for the first time. Every summer since, he’s continued to hone his skills, most recently working with Gold’s company. Kohn said they’ve had blind people, deaf people and even a paraplegic, take the class. He said they go to corporate events because the trapeze is a great way to provide leadership training and teach teamwork. Most importantly, Kohn said the trapeze is a perfect metaphor for life.
For kids he said “it’s a perfect way to face their fears,” and added that they feel proud of themselves once they climb up the ladder. And for adults, though many are afraid of heights, Kohn said the biggest fear is getting hurt and the life lesson is learning to take risks.
Mark Lowicht, a muscular man, runs an investment firm in East Hampton. When he was on top of the platform Kohn turned to me and said, “Watch, he’s going to do a pull up as soon as he jumps off. Big, strong guys always do a pull up.” He was right.
“I could’ve stretched for four days,” said Lowicht after his lesson, “and it’s not going to loosen me up. I’m not a loose person.”
I didn’t do a pull up; I’m not muscular. After I hooked my legs Kohn yelled “hands off!” I quickly let go of the bar and there I was, hanging upside down some twenty feet in the air swinging back and forth.
Lowicht wasn’t so quick to let go of the bar.
“Being upside down and swinging in the air is a little disorienting,” he confessed.

Lowicht eventually did let go, but he was right about the disorienting part. As I hung there swinging, I was told to arch my back, look behind me and I swear I saw the Montauk lighthouse. Okay, not really.
Then I was told to pull myself back up and unhook my legs. I was now back in my original swinging position.
“Okay, now for the back flip,” screamed Kohn. “Kick forward, kick back, kick forward, now let go and grab those knees!”
I was a little over zealous. I let go and grabbed my knees and held them. The only problem was I held too long. Instead of one back flip, I did two. Or really one and third, because before I knew it, I was doing a face plant on the large net below me.
After little 10-year-old Charlotte Cooper finished her lesson, she said she was “a little nervous.” But she was a natural. She had no reservations, no inhibitions and when the time came to try the catch, where another professional opposite you catches you after you let go of the bar, she made it, one of only a few.
“It was like you’re flying.”
Charlotte was dead on. And so was Blackman. It is addicting. Maybe I’ll quit my job and join the circus.

Top Photo: Ten-year-old Charlotte Cooper prepares to get “caught” on the trapeze last Sunday.

Bottom photo: Yours truly hanging on for dear life.

photos by Michael Heller

Telling N’Orleans Story in Brass Band Music

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The Hot 8 Brass Band plays the kind of music that moves feet, body and soul. Founder of the group Benny Pete says it’s music that “makes you remember, makes you hold on, gives you hope and lets you heal.”

The band hails from New Orleans and this Thursday and Friday they will be at the Hayground School and at the Bridgehampton Child Care Center.  Thursday night the band will play a free community concert at the center at 5 p.m.

Since Hurricane Katrina the band has been traveling the country, as part of the Finding Our Folk tour, making sure people remember the storm, the tragic response by the federal government and the devastation that still exists today.

“What happened in New Orleans is something we all need to know about,” said Hayground Camp artist in residence Jon Snow, “and we all need to face it and we all need to help anyway we can, even if its just by listening.”

For the kids at the Hayground Camp, the entire summer revolved around listening closely to music and even closer to the stories behind it. Snow said that’s why the Hot 8 are a perfect way to cap off the camp season. They will teach the kids the story of jazz, of New Orleans and of Hurricane Katrina. After the storm, the band traveled around to cities using their music to reconnect the roughly 400,000 exiled residents with their heritage, their culture and their home and Finding Our Folk was born. They filmed a documentary about time spent at a shelter in Baton Rouge capturing how they were turned away by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at first, only to be let in when actor Danny Glover became involved.

The tour began months after the storm and in the two-and-a-half years since, they have never stopped touring This summer they have been to Martha’s Vineyard and to Boston, meanwhile holding an 8-week workshop for young musicians in their home city. Le’Kendra Robertson, tour organizer, said, “It is a tremendous project that we enjoy doing. The band all has their own personal stories of their evacuation and what they went through. They saw this as an opportunity for healing, but its main focus is educating people on the culture and the significance of what music means to New Orleans. It is the heartbeat. It’s what keeps a lot of people going.”

Co-foudner of Hayground and local poet Kathy Engel is responsible for bringing the Hot 8 to the East End. A year ago the band came to a class she was teaching at New York University. The class focused on the intersection between art, intellect and activism. Engel said after the band played, it left her and her students speechless, and in tears.

“I think through their music they tell the stories of real people and struggles and courage with dignity, humor, pathos and honesty,” she said. “ Music cuts across boundaries, barriers and languages and grabs your soul when it’s good, in a way that almost nothing else does.”

“The authenticity of their music is inescapable. You would have to put some heavy duty earmuffs on not to be moved.”

“I can’t say I’m making an overt, political point to the kids, but the New Orleans story is a big, American story,” said Snow. “And it’s going to remain a big American story and we can’t bury it or forget about it.”

Executive Director of the Bridgehampton Childcare Center Bonnie Cannon sees a parallel between that story and the story of the center. She mentioned the people of New Orleans who were stranded in places like the Superdome or the city’s convention center for days after the storm.

“When they were there for five days,” said Cannon, “the federal government was everywhere else, but they weren’t at home. They weren’t helping out their own victims.”

“We are here at the center, and you would think that with all the wealth surrounding us we would not have a need for anything,” she continued. “But everyone turns their head.”

Cannon also sees a semblance in what the Finding Our Folk tour is trying to do and how her center got its start some 50 years ago. On a November day in 1950 an abandoned chicken coop housing 14 migrant workers, three adults and 11 children, burned to the ground after an oil lamp tipped over. Two children were burned to death. Cannon said that shocked the community into realizing something was terribly wrong. A local doctor rented his home for migrant housing and another resident offered a plot of land with a large barn, a garage and a cottage, the current grounds of the childcare center.

Cannon said she hopes by hosting the Hot 8, not only will much needed light be shined on the tragedy of the Crescent City, but also on her center, and make people realize they are in need as well. Much like the city the band calls home, she said the center has a history that is “some good, some bad, some ugly.”

“But we’ve sustained and some people have come through here with good intentions, some bad, and some bridges have been burnt,” she continued. “But at the end of the day who is really suffering? It’s the kids, it’s the community. We have to get back on track and I can’t look to the past.”

Cannon remarked on how so many people out here donate money to worthy causes, how there seems to be a different fundraiser every week. While those people have admirable intentions, there is a very worthy cause right in their own backyard.

“There are too many resources out here for us to be – well, we’re not struggling, but it shouldn’t be this hard,” said Cannon.

She said maybe the Hot 8’s concert will wake people up, especially those who drive down the Bridgehampton/Sag Harbor Turnpike in the summer, passing through the idyllic village of Bridgehampton and ending up in the idyllic village of Sag Harbor.

“The people that drive by everyday and don’t even know we live here,” she said. “They don’t know that there is a place here that they need to know about.”

Also at the Childcare Center will be the KatrinaRitaville Express. Robertson described it as “in your face” exhibit. It’s a FEMA trailer, identical to the over 100,000 that were placed in the city after the storm. The trailers themselves are a tragedy that nearly equals the storm. Since they were inhabited, levels of formaldehyde have been found to be in some cases 40 times the average. The high level of toxins has poisoned numerous inhabitants and the effects of living in the trailers are still being studied.

There are still roughly 40,000 trailers in the greater New Orleans area, but recently the city and FEMA ordered all inhabitants to vacate the trailers. Robertson said the result can be seen beneath the Interstate-10 bridge in the heart of the city, where those forced to leave the trailers are now being forced to live in tents, essentially homeless.

The KatrinaRitaville Express has been traveling around the country and Robertson said in some places people walk into the trailer and say, “Oh this isn’t so bad. What are they complaining about?”

What’s “bad” said Robertson is when a 65 year-old grandmother and family of five have been living in the cramped trailers for nearly three years. This August 31 will mark the three-year anniversary of the storm.