Tag Archive | "Parrish Art Museum"

Salon Series Returns to the Parrish Art Museum

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Pianist Assaff Weisman will perform at the Parrish Art Museum Friday.

Pianist Assaff Weisman will perform at the Parrish Art Museum Friday.

By Tessa Raebeck

Back by popular demand, Salon Series, a series of concerts by award winning and internationally acclaimed young Classical pianists, will return to the Parrish Art Museum Friday.

At the first show in the four-concert program, on consecutive Fridays this month, Assaff Weisman, who had his solo debut at age 12, will perform.  A graduate of the Juilliard School, Mr. Weisman was reviewed by the Palm Beach Post as having a “purity of approach” and a style that “is clean and free of posturing, the kind of pianism that allows the listener to admire the architecture of the works under consideration while also appreciating the poetry of the flourishes.”

On Friday at 6 p.m., Mr. Weisman will perform classics such as Beethoven’s “Sonata in D minor, Op. 31, No. 2,” as well as pieces from modern composers, like the French Olivier Messiaen.

The upcoming concerts in the series are Russian pianist Daria Rabotkina on April 11, winner of the 2008 Pro Musicis International Award, Tanya Gabrielian on April 18, and Taiwanese pianist Ching-Yun Ju on April 25.

Tickets for all concerts, which begin at 6 p.m., are $20 for the general public and $10 for Parrish members. For more information, visit parrishart.org or call 283-2118 ext. 142.

Local Winemakers to Share that Delicious Creativity

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Event photo courtesy of Parrish Art Museum.

Event photo courtesy of Parrish Art Museum.

By Tessa Raebeck

Coming off one of the best vintage years Long Island wine has ever seen, three of the region’s leading winemakers will share what inspires them – and allow others to taste that inspiration.

On Friday, the Parrish Art Museum presents “How Do You Bottle Creativity?” a winetasting and interactive conversation with Barbara Shinn, owner/viticulturist at Shinn Estate Vineyards in Mattituck, Kareem Massoud, winemaker at Paumanok Vineyards in Jamesport, and Christopher Tracy, winemaker/partner at Channing Daughters in Bridgehampton.

Long Island’s moderate maritime climate, long growing season, concentration of small growers and proximity to the giant wine market of New York City have enabled the farmers in pursuit of their primary goal: making delicious wine. Long overlooked by connoisseurs and locals alike, Long Island wine is proving itself in tasting tests and on restaurant menus; three of the last four years have seen exceptional vintages across the island.

“It was really a beautiful year and we’re seeing that right now in the barrel,” said Ms. Shinn of the 2013 vintage, which many local winemakers heralded as the best they’ve seen.

“I think the adjective ‘epic’ really applies here,” agreed Mr. Massoud. “It was a truly epic vintage here, it was amazing. I already bottled six wines from 2013 and they’re all delicious. They’re all some of the best we’ve made.”

“Both the science and the hedonistic sides line up in a region like ours to allow for great diversity of varieties and styles of wine, which is somewhat unusual in North America,” explained Mr. Tracy.

Mr. Tracy came to Channing Daughters from a family “that drank wine and food and traveled and exposed me to those things,” and eventually purchased a California vineyard. Having attended school for performing arts and philosophy, he changed direction after exploring the Long Island wine region in the mid-‘90s, returning to wine via “life’s crazy circuitous route.”

A background in art and philosophy may not seem relevant to winemaking, but Mr. Tracy’s love for creativity and appreciation of beauty have enhanced his craft.

“The two things are deliciousness and reflection of our place,” he said of his priorities. “It’s important that we make things that are delicious that people want to drink and enjoy and excite them and their senses. And that it reflects the climate, terra, the place, the culture where we’re growing our grapes and making wine.”

“If we can provide that something that’s actually delicious and actually tells the story of the little piece of land where we exist and where we grow grapes and make wine, that’s pretty awesome,” he added.

The island’s first second generation winemaker, Mr. Massoud learned the trade from his parents, Ursula and Charles, who founded Paumanok Vineyards in 1983 and still own and operate it today. Named after the Native American name for Long Island, Paumanok Vineyards is “very much a family affair,” Mr. Massoud said, with his brothers Nabeel and Salim also working at the vineyard.

“My orientation as a winemaker, in terms of what inspires me, is not unlike what a chef probably experiences in a restaurant – and that is to just produce the most delicious wine that I can, it’s pretty much that simple,” he said. “It’s always about making the best wine and what does that mean? It means the most delicious.”

His inspiration also stems from the excitement of being a winemaker on Long Island these days, when recognition is rising for the region’s wines.

“Honestly, the quality of the wines in many cases has been there for quite some time already, but more and more people, I think, are beginning to sort of catch on to the reality that world-class wines are being made right in their backyard,” he said.

“We fancy ourselves artists as winemakers,” he added. “We basically have, on Long Island, a very broad palette of colors to choose from…It’s a lot of fun to be able to do all these different varieties and different styles and pair them with the local produce that the East End is so rich with.”

Having earned a master’s degree in fine art, Ms. Shinn also views her craft as an extension of her art, farming using holistic practices and keeping the farm “in tune with the subtleness of nature.”

“When David [Page] and I moved to New York City,” she said of her partner and co-owner at Shinn Estate Vineyards, “I was beginning to question making art and hanging it on a wall. When we brought this land and were deciding to plant a vineyard, I was so inspired by these 20 acres of land that had not been planted in vines yet. And the moment the first vine went into the ground, I was so inspired and this huge creative rush has just stayed with me ever since.”

“Quite frankly,” she added, “my art is now off the wall…it’s in the vineyard and it’s in every bottle of wine that we produce. It’s just incredibly inspiring to me.”

Hosted by the Parrish Business Circle and co-presented with Edible East End and Long Island Wine Council, “How Do You Bottle Creativity?” is Friday, March 21 at 6 p.m. at the Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. $20 for members and $25 for non-members, tickets include a one-year subscription to the Edible title of your choice. Space is limited. To make reservations, call 283-2118 or visit parrishart.org.

How Do You Bottle Creativity? Local Winemakers at the Parrish Art Museum

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By Tessa Raebeck

Three of the East End’s premiere winemakers will be at the Parrish Art Museum Friday, March 21 at “How Do You Bottle Creativity?” an interactive talk and tasting presented with Edible East End and the Long Island Wine Council and hosted by the Parrish Business Circle.

Long Island is one of the world’s most up-and-coming wine regions. Guest speakers Kareem Massoud of Paumanok Vineyards, Barbara Shinn of Shinn Estate Vineyards and Christopher Tracy of Channing Daughters will explain what inspires their art – and then let the audience taste that inspiration.

“How Do You Bottle Creativity?” is Friday, March 21 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 for non-members, $20 for members and include museum admission. Reservations are recommended and can be made here. For more information, call 283-2118.

Southampton Students Show at Creative Partners Exhibition at the Parrish Art Museum

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By Tessa Raebeck

Featuring this year’s work from its longstanding collaboration with the Southampton and Tuckahoe Schools, the Parrish Art Museum will present the Creative Partners Exhibition, on view from Saturday, March 8 through April 14.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is “This Is Us,” a photo-documentary created by the Parrish Art Club, the Southampton High School’s after-school group, taught by Southampton art teacher Gail Altomare with help from Cara Conklin Wingfield, education director at the Parrish. Being shown in the gallery through video projection and also via an interactive website, the film is a digital portrait image-and-text exploration of the community at Southampton High School, including students, teachers and staff. Inspired by the Humans of New York project in New York City, the photo-documentary provides a candid view of the everyday lives of Southampton students through the unique, individual portraits they shaped of the people in their world.

The Creative Partners exhibition will also feature work by the schools’ pre-kindergarten, fourth, fifth and sixth grade students, including relief sculptures reflective of an art history curriculum focused on ancient Egypt and paintings inspired by the master landscapes of the museum’s permanent collection.

For more information, call 283-2118 x121 or visit parrishart.org.

Eclectic Music in a Cafe Setting at “The Lounge” at the Parrish Art Museum

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Singer/songwriter Sophia Bastian (photo by Helena Kubicka de Braganza).

Singer/songwriter Sophia Bastian (photo by Helena Kubicka de Braganza).

By Tessa Raebeck

From folk music to Brazilian-infused Jazz, the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill will resonate with tunes this winter during The Lounge, its new eclectic music series presenting an unconventional line up of accomplished singers and musicians in an intimate café setting.

Rather than a traditional auditorium style concert, the Lounge invites the audience to be part of the performance and hear the music up close and personal. The audience is encourages to enjoy drinks at café tables, set up alongside the musicians.

“The cozy atmosphere allows audiences to experience music in a cordial, living room-like setting.” says Andrea Grover, Curator of Special Projects at the Parrish who organized the event with Museum Events Associate Amy Kirwin.

The series kicked off January 31 to a sold out performance by Edith and Bennett, a husband/wife folk and roots music duo.

On Valentine’s Day, the soulful singer/songwriter Sophia Bastian will perform at the Lounge. A New York native, Bastian recently opened for the Grammy-award winning band The Roots. Guitarist Ben Cassorla accompanies Bastian’s strong, sultry voice. Truly contemporary, her original music blends classic soul, jazz, blues and hip-hop.

The third and last act of the series will be the frequent Parrish performer, Richie Siegler All-Star Quartet, on March 14. The organizer of last summer’s highly popular Jazz en Plein Air series at the Parrish, Richie Siegler is the founding director of Escola de Samba BOOM and plays “jazz shot through with Brazilian beats” with his quartet.

The Lounge performances are at 6 p.m. in the Lichtenstein Theater at the Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Highway in Water Mill. Tickets include museum admission and are free for members and students and $10 for the general public. Space is limited. For more information, call 631.283.2118 or visit parrishart.org.

Annual Exhibitions Showcase the East End’s Young Artists and Their Teachers

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The opening of last year's Student Art Show at the Parrish Art Museum.

The opening of last year’s Student Art Show at the Parrish Art Museum. (Photo provided by the Parrish Art Museum).

By Tessa Raebeck

A giant beehive you can crawl into, a field guide to Sag Harbor’s ponds and the surrealism of Salvador Dali captured on a plastic plate are just some of the projects to look forward to at this winter’s student art festivals.

If you attended public school on the East End, chances are you were featured in the student shows at East Hampton’s Guild Hall or the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill. A new batch of young artists are now getting their turn; the Student Art Festival at Guild Hall opened January 18 and the Parrish will exhibit local students starting February 1.

“The annual Student Exhibition is an important tradition for the Parrish,” said Cara Conklin-Wingfield, the museum’s education director. “It’s a way we honor the work of regional art educators and connect with children and families in the community.”

The tradition started over 60 years ago, although the exact date is unknown. Conklin-Wingfield knows it’s been a long time, as her 70-something year old aunt remembers being in the show as a kid.

In addition to fostering local talent, the student shows aim to support and showcase art educators and highlight the work they’re doing in classrooms across the East End.

At the Parrish, teachers for pre-Kindergarten through eighth grade students submit group projects, as a single work or individual works assembled into a mural.

The third and fourth grades from Sag Harbor Elementary School (SHES) will be featured at the Parrish.

Led by art teacher Meg Mandell, “Sag Harbor Ponds – A Child’s Field Guide” incorporates the work of the 3D, 3GK, 3K and 3SC third grade classes. The large mural includes an information key and “other fun facts about our local ponds,” Mandell said, assembled onto a 3D two by four foot replica of the guide, which is now available in the school library.

A 3rd grader hard at work on "Sag Harbor Ponds - A Child's Field Guide" in Meg Mandell's art classroom at Sag Harbor Elementary School.

A 3rd grader hard at work on “Sag Harbor Ponds – A Child’s Field Guide” in Meg Mandell’s art classroom at Sag Harbor Elementary School. (Meg Mandell photo).

“The SHES art department,” Mandell said, “understands the importance of using art as a learning tool for other subject areas…We often collaborate with teachers to help our students understand the curriculum better and make the learning fun.”

Mandell worked with science teacher Kryn Olson and librarian Claire Viola in developing the project and visited the local ponds to collect reference materials.

The fourth grade, led by art teacher Laurie DeVito, has created a large 3D sculpture for the Parrish, made of plates inspired by various art disciplines.

DeVito taught each class about a different style of art, used a game to decide the individual subject matter (animal, vegetable, mineral, etc.), and led the group in creating mixed media pieces on plastic plates, which resemble stained glass windows when held up to the light. The plates will be displayed on pretend cardboard brake fronts supplied by Twin Forks Moving.

After learning about Van Gogh, the 4LS class made impressionistic plates. 4C read a book about Salvador Dali and created plates with surrealistic subjects like flying pigs and other “really imaginative subject matter,” DeVito said. 4S did realism plates and after looking at work by Picasso, 4R made cubist designs.

“I think it makes it more special for them,” DeVito said of the Parrish show. “It makes it more grown up and I think it applies a good kind of pressure.”

Having done a micro biotic organism last year, this year the Hayground School evolved to insects and is assembling a giant beehive on site.

“It’s a beehive that you can go in,” Conklin-Wingfield said, adding Hayground’s projects are always “really ambitious.”

One of Laurie DeVito's 4th grade classes at Sag Harbor Elementary School with their Surrealist Plate Cupboard.

One of Laurie DeVito’s 4th grade classes at Sag Harbor Elementary School with their Surrealist Plate Cupboard.

In its 22nd year, the Student Art Festival at Guild Hall is separated into two parts, high school students and those in Kindergarten through the eighth grade. Sag Harbor is only participating in the high school show.

Highlights include farmland paintings from Wainscott students, Japanese Manga drawings from Shelter Island, Cityscape Line Designs from Bridgehampton and a Monet water lilies triptych made by the Liz Paris’ Kindergarten class at Amagansett.

“That’s really exciting to see,” said Michelle Klein, the Lewis B. Cullman Associate for Museum Education at Guild Hall. “And again, because it’s Kindergarteners, it’s really amazing.”

When you first enter the show, a large 68 by 72 inch nature print made by Montauk students using leaves, sticks, bark and other natural materials is on display.

“It’s our opportunity to really give back to the community and for us to be able to exhibit our local young talent, the possible artists of the future,” said Klein.

“It’s really great,” she added, “to provide an outlet and a space for this exhibition. It’s exactly what we’re here for and why we do it.”

The 2014 Student Exhibition at the Parrish Art Museum will be on display from February 1 to March 2. For more information, call 631-283-2118 ext. 130. The Student Art Festival at Guild Hall is being shown January 18 to February 23 for younger students and March 8 to April 20 for high school students. For more information, visit guildhall.org.

Helping the Museum Grow

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web Two Forks Crowd 1

By Emily J. Weitz

The mission of the Parrish Art Museum is to bring art and people together, and as the space expands, so too will the mission’s reach. There are obvious ways that the museum serves as a forum for these connections, from gala events to workshops for children. But one way that the Parrish has really embedded itself in the fabric of the local community is through the Business Council. Established in 1998 by former director Trudy Kramer and trustee Donald Sullivan, the Business Council brings local business owners and managers together under the name of the Parrish.

“Trudy Kramer made it a priority to reconnect with the local and regional business community,” says Sullivan, who in addition to being a trustee of the Parrish and Chairman of the Business Council, owns the Southampton Publick House. “It helps the Parrish get its mission out to the business managers and owners, who are normally very busy people and are continually asked to support a myriad of associations and charities.”

Creating the Business Council has allowed the Parrish to be an integral part of the local business community.

“It’s a way to create an identity for the Parrish as a member of the community that reaches all audiences including students, student parents, 2nd homeowners and summer visitors,” he said.

In addition to the benefits the Parrish gleans from the support of the community, the businesses have a lot to gain from joining.

“The Business Council is designed to give members the opportunity to increase their visibility by linking their name with the Parrish,” says Melissa Gatz, membership manager at the Parrish. “Business Council members receive recognition for their support on the museum’s web site, through a listing in the Midsummer Gala Journal, and in ads.”

The support they lend is used for educational programming at the Parrish.

“Plus,” adds Gatz, “Business Council members receive free or discounted tickets to our three networking events per year. And the events are fun!”

One of these events is coming up. Two Forks and a Cork, the Business Council’s annual wine tasting and networking event, is a chance for business leaders to get together.

“This event is important to the Parrish,” says Gatz, “because it gives local business professionals the opportunity to reconnect. I’m always surprised to see who attends our events… Don Sullivan always emphasized the importance of these events, and he thinks the reason they are so successful is they are short and sweet, and that appeals to the busy professional trying to do it all.”

This year, the event will showcase seven wineries from the North and South forks. Channing Daughters, Croteaux Vineyards, Duck Walk South, Jampesport Vineyards, Peconic Bay Winery, and Wolffer Estate will all participate. The Riverhead Project will provide hors d’oeuvres and Mali B Sweets will provide desserts.

“A few of the wineries will actually be debuting some of their 2011 creations,” says Gatz.

In the meantime, the construction of the museum’s new home in Water Mill is proceeding “apace,” says Mark Segal, marketing director at The Parrish.

“Wiring, plumbing, insulation, framing… much of the roof has been finished, including a large section of the south roof visible from Route 27,” he said. “The parking lot is being laid out, the floors have been sealed, and landscaping is underway. All glass has been installed except for the café’s window wall. We are anticipating a mid-October opening, though we do not have a specific date as of yet.”

Other noteworthy aspects of the design of the new building include “the presentation of art in naturally skylit galleries, which replicate the conditions of the artist studios that inspired the design,” says Segal. There will also be “on-site amenities, including a café,” says Segal, “and the opportunity to enjoy the landscape from both within and outside the building.”

As the Parrish Art Museum grows into the new space on Route 27, their visibility will inevitably increase.

“The most obvious change,” says Segal, “[is that] due to the tripling of our exhibition space to 12,000 square feet, [we will be able to] present the first-ever installation of our permanent collection at the same time as temporary exhibitions.”

xIn addition, programming will grow as they make use of “a state-of-the-art multipurpose space for films, lectures, performance, and other public programs. Galleries will be designed to enable the presentation of the full range of contemporary art, including time based and high tech media. The building will allow for an expansion of all our programs,” says Segal.

Students Offer Their Take on Portraiture

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By Emily J. Weitz

For the past six weeks, the Parrish Art Museum has showcased “American Portraits: Treasures from the Parrish Art Museum.” With portrait paintings spanning the 19th and 20th centuries, the museum delves deep into the riches of its own collection.

But on the tail end of this exhibit, another body of work will be revealed. Inspired by American Portraits, school age children across the East End have created their own portraits, and these wildly colorful and energetic pieces will be on display in Students View American Portraits, with an opening reception this Saturday, December 3 from 3 to 5 p.m.

Laurie DeVito, art teacher at Sag Harbor Elementary School, adores this opportunity to work with the Parrish.

“We have such a rich artistic community here in Sag Harbor,” she says. “And it’s a great opportunity to tap into some of our resources.”

DeVito believes that when the students go to the Parrish and other cultural institutions on the East End, they are inspired in their own work to then go back to the classroom and create; the creative juices flow.

It’s one thing to go to a museum and look at the work on the walls. But with an effort like Students View American Portraits, “The experience is interactive,” says DeVito.

After visiting the museum, Sag Harbor Elementary students went back to the art room to make their own portraits. Each grade tackled a different assignment. Kindergarteners utilized shells and seaweed and other treasures that Meg Mandell, the other art teacher, had gathered on the beach.

Mandell gestures to the dozens of giant clam shells on one table in the art room.

“I’ve been going to the beach to collect things since the summer, knowing we would use them for our projects,” she says.

The students decorated the clam shells to make little faces, complete with seaweed hair, stone noses, moustaches, and googly eyes. Older kids worked on more traditional portrait paintings, or sculptures, or collaborative pieces. All the projects fall under the umbrella of portraiture, and the students were able to explore different interpretations of that idea.

In the art room at Sag Harbor Elementary, students’ work is bursting from the walls, filling the tables, and standing in the middle of the room. Their work is displayed throughout the school.

“And at the end of the year, we also have an opportunity for the kids to show their work in the school, when we invite parents to see what they’ve been doing,” says DeVito.

But this is different. The Parrish is a real museum, where work of some of the greatest artists in history has been showed.

For the students, “This is a real sense of pride,” says DeVito. “When they see their work displayed in the museum, it gives them a lot of confidence.”

Mandell chimes in that “It’s an affirmation of what they’re doing.”

Students’ work will be carefully shipped over to the Parrish in time for opening day, at which time students, families, and friends will be invited to a free reception to view the work on display for the first time.

“The kids always run right over to see their work, first, of course,” says DeVito.

In addition, there will be food, drinks and entertainment, including a juggler, face painting, and other kid-friendly activities. This event is open to the public, and it’s a chance to see the work that Sag Harbor students are doing as well as kids from other districts.

“We definitely get ideas from other schools,” says Mandell.

“And they get ideas from us,” adds DeVito. “I think it’s a great time to see the amazing work our students are producing. We’re a very artistic community and that is evident in the work.”

This exhibition was open to all Pre-K through 8th grade students in Riverhead, Southampton, East Hampton, and Southold townsips. In another upcoming exhibition, high school students from Brookhaven, Riverhead, East Hampton and Southampton will have work on display, and there will be a competition for high school seniors.

The student art show is “one of my favorite exhibits that the Parrish does,” says DeVito. She adds slyly that she’s “not at all biased. But seriously. It is so incredibly colorful and creative. It’s a lot of fun.”

Sicilian Marionettes Have a Story to Tell

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By Emily J Weitz

As long as there has been language, there have been stories. Passed down from generation to generation, these stories are the legacy of our ancestors. One family, which came from Sicily and thrived in New York, became remarkably good at telling stories in a unique way, and therefore, they kept their heritage alive.

Since 1918, the Manteo family has told and retold their stories through meticulously constructed marionettes. These nearly-life-sized puppets, some of which stand five feet tall and weigh 125 pounds, come to life under the guidance of a skilled puppeteer.

The stories they tell are the universal tales of good and evil.

The values that the marionettes demonstrate are about “fighting the demons of the world, fighting for love or honor, the triumph of good over evil,” says Tony DeNonno, award-winning TV producer-writer-director and historian who has studied and worked with the Manteo family extensively. “The elements in these stories are timeless.”

DeNonno points out that the puppeteers who created these marionettes and who told these stories again and again were “Not only great actors; these marionettes are also works of art. The puppeteers could carve and paint faces, they could draw scenery and bring characters to life. Audiences were enchanted with the characters and the believability and the drama.”

The stories were told again and again by several generations of the Manteo family in Little Italy, from 1918 until the late 1990s. The family has since dispersed to Florida and other locales, but historians at the Italian American Museum and devoted folklorists and filmmakers like DeNonno have committed themselves to keeping the tradition alive.

“The marionettes are part of the Italian American Museum now, and we are in the process of preserving the tradition,” says DeNonno. “We’re preserving the librettos, and translating these timeless priceless stories. These are the only librettos in the world of this amazing Sicilian marionette tradition, and we are working with folklorists and historians to learn to translate these librettos and re-present them.”

In the meantime, DeNonno devotes himself to making the Manteo story known. His award-winning documentary, “It’s One Family: Knock On Wood,” was nationally broadcast on PBS and captures the story of five generations of the Manteo family making marionettes and performing together in New York City. He travels to museums and other venues around the country sharing the story.

Even though the Manteos started performing in New York in the early 20th century, the tradition reaches back centuries earlier.

“The origins are from Charlemagne,” explains DeNonno. “He was a legendary emperor known for his benevolence, and the legends of Charlemagne (Carlo Magno in Italian) became part of Sicilian tradition. The stories were told by troubadours in rhyme and verse, and they captivated people. The troubadours brought these stories to life up until the emergence of Sicilian marionettes in the 18th century.”

DeNonno will be coming to the Parrish Art Museum on Saturday, September 24 at 3 p.m. to share his film, “It’s One Family: Knock on Wood,” to do a short marionette presentation, and to speak about the subject. His presentation is made possible by the Speakers in Humanities Program of the New York Council for the Humanities.

“It’s not a lecture,” he explains. “It’s geared towards young children. I engage them in the process by bringing the marionette to life.”

The marionette he’ll bring with him on Saturday is one that was made by the Manteos in the 1980s, although some of the marionettes in the Italian American Museum are up to  120 years old.

“If there are young people in the audience, I bring little marionettes for them to manipulate and work on,” he said. “I engage the audience to make them a part of the story.”

The goal is really to make people aware of this precious form of storytelling that has carried stories through generations.

“The European Union just designated marionettes as a priceless art form and treasure and they are preserving them,” says DeNonno. “I am trying to get this preserved in America too. To bring these sagas to life because they are timeless stories that tell aspects of great works: the stories are eternal. The marionettes are captivating.”

Parrish Art Museum at the Halfway Mark

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By Claire Walla

I’m standing with Terrie Sultan, director of the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, on top of loose soil, while wearing a hard hat and close-toed shoes. No more than 30 minutes prior, the ground beneath our feet was a shallow ditch where electrical conduits had recently been placed.
“Things change so quickly here!” Sultan exclaimed.
It’s Tuesday, July 19, one year to the day since the Parrish Art Museum broke ground here in Water Mill at the site of its future location.
With a skeleton largely in place and concrete walls and flooring already poured, Sultan said construction is “more or less” where they had planned for it to be by now. Though she admitted this winter’s prolonged bout of snowstorms halted construction longer than site managers had projected, the project is still on-track for completion by summer 2012.
The grounds are still more dirt than anything else, and stray pieces of building materials — wood, nails, concrete slabs and Styrofoam — lie in piles waiting to be placed. But, the steel frame of the 12,300-square-foot long structure hints at what the final product will eventually look like.
Sultan takes me on a tour of the barren building while narrating form onto its steel ribs with a description of what the museum will entail.
“One of the points of the design is to actually show the process of how the building is put together,” she said.
Once we step around to the long, northern wall and stand where the main entrance to the structure will be, Sultan points to where the inside walls meet the ceiling. This is where the construction crew is placing light-colored perlins, practicing with ways to transition from what will be white, sheet-rocked walls to a ceiling composed of exposed wooden rafters and the corrugated metal that makes up the roof.
In addition, Sultan explains that a long, rectangular window inside the main entryway will not only peer into the museum, but will create a view that bisects the center of the structure and continues through the south wall and out onto Route 27 and the fields beyond.
“One of the major directives of the building design was to continue to emphasize the relationship of the inside to the outside, which was a major part of the architecture of the early East End because the light and the atmosphere is so beautiful here,” Sultan continued.
The original blueprint for the project called for several smaller buildings, all of various shapes and sizes, a concept that finds its roots in the potato barns that were once almost superfluous here, but eventually came to function as studios for many artists. Sultan said members of the museum’s board traveled to the working studios of such local artists as Fairfield Porter, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Chuck Close, Eric Fischl and Julian Schnabel.
“We wanted to absorb the atmosphere of how these artists work,” she said.
While the original concept of building several separate studio spaces was largely quashed by the down-turn in the economy (it included 64 walls of varying sizes — the current plan only has four), Sultan said the same concepts are still present throughout.
Plus, with this new model, the new Parrish will have what’s now being referred to as The Spine Gallery. This long corridor — literally, the spine of the museum space — will be used as the main artery channeling people and paintings through the museum, but it will also be used for exhibition space. In all, the museum will have about 12,300 square feet to use for gallery space, as opposed to the 4,500 it currently has in Southampton Village.
“The real dream has been to have the opportunity to work with the [museum’s] permanent collection and to demonstrate to this community just how much a part of this community we are,” Sultan continued. “And it’s happening.”
For her part, Sultan cannot seem to begin to express the level of enthusiasm she has for this project.
“This is better than everything I’ve ever done,” she exclaimed. “I’ve been in the museum business for more than 25 years and I’ve worked with some of the world’s great artists; and I have to say, nothing compares to this project, for the joy of the creativity involved. There are all these great minds … and I don’t just mean the architects or the landscape architects. It includes the builders and the structural engineers and the concrete people, everyone came to the table and talked about how this building was going to go up.”
“It’s a large-scale work of art,” she continued.
“This is every museum director’s dream, somehow: to have the opportunity to realize something that’s lasting,” she added with a smile and an air of appreciation. “Long, long after I’m gone, this building will still be here. And it will still be a part of this community.”