Tag Archive | "Politics"

On View in East Hampton: FAPE Fills American Embassies with Art

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"View Points" by William Wegman, with his dog Penny, 2005.

“View Points” by William Wegman, with his dog Penny, 2005. Part of the FAPE collection now on view at Guild Hall.

By Tessa Raebeck

Art needs no language to be understood; it communicates without spoken word.

This is the idea behind FAPE, the Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies, which aims to promote unity and open communication across cultures and countries by putting artwork in United States embassies across the world.

Honoring the long connection between American artists and the East End, the first comprehensive exhibition of FAPE’s collection is opening Saturday, June 28, at Guild Hall in East Hampton. It will be on view through July 27.

FAPE started in 1989 with Frank Stella’s donation of enough prints of “The Symphony” to be sent to every American embassy. It has grown to include the work of noted artists such as Chuck Close, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg.

“For the first time, the public will have the rare opportunity to view works commissioned by and donated to FAPE by some of this country’s most iconic artists in a concentrated setting,” said FAPE Chairman Jo Carole Lauder in a press release. “We celebrate these artists’ generosity and the places they hold in the history of American art.”

“Jo Carole Lauder asked me if I wanted to do something and of course I said yes, because it’s a really good thing,” said William Wegman, a FAPE artist known for his books and photos of his pet Weimaraners, the tall and thin gray dogs that were originally bred and used by royalty for hunting. “Also, Jo Carole is a really good supporter of the arts and anything she recommends tends to be worthwhile.”

Mr. Wegman is currently focusing on geometric shapes and sculpture in his photos.

“One of my dogs, Topper, is such a magnificent piece of sculpture and he likes being on top of things,” he explained. “So, I’m accommodating him—I usually do change according to the dogs.”

The first dog he photographed was Man Ray, who became so popular the Village Voice named him “Man of the Year” in 1982. Since then, he’s photographed Fay, her daughter Batty who “was very narcoleptic and could care less,” and an assortment of other Weimaraner personalities.

Batty, he said, “was willing to do anything, but had this sort of whatever attitude, was very comic where Fay was kind of scary and serious.”

“So, when I was casting my first children’s book, Fay became both the Fairy Godmother and the Evil Stepmother and Batty became Cinderella,” he added.

Fay’s firstborn son, Chundo, resembled a prince, but could also be a wolf, as in Mr. Wegman’s well-known 1993 book, “Little Red Riding Hood.”

Chundo, said the artist, was “named after the biggest person I ever met in the south of Chile on a trip I made back in the ’80s.”

After that came Chip, Batty’s son, who was “incredibly handsome and kind of sad looking, so in a lot of my books he became this kind of wistful boyish figure that things happen to.”

Chip’s son Bobbin was “much more scary looking and looked really quite evil, even though he wasn’t. He just had a very severe, humorless face.”

One of Mr. Wegman’s current dogs, Penny, who is featured in the FAPE exhibition, was on the cover of National Geographic. He was asked to create a photo to accompany a February 2012 article on the dog genome.

Penny, who wore dozens of wigs and costumes for the photo shoot, was his best worker, “probably the only dog I never once had to reprimand,” he said.

“She was really remarkable, very still and had this sort of inner quiet to her,” added Mr. Wegman. “Unless there was a thunderstorm and then she disappeared.”

Throughout the exhibition, Guild Hall is hosting panels with the artists, curators and FAPE personnel. Guest Curator Robert Starr, chairman of FAPE’s Professional Fine Arts Committee and dean of the Yale School of Art, is moderating the opening panel on Saturday, June 28, from 3 to 4 p.m.

Panelists include artists Tina Barney, Lynda Benglis, Mr. Close, Joel Shapiro and Carrie Mae Weems. Two additional panels will be held Sunday, July 20, and Sunday, July 27, at 11 a.m.

Lynda Benglis. Untitled (Half Sphere). 2007. Cast bronze. 37.5 x 36 x 17.5 in. Part of the FAPE collection on view at Guild Hall.

Lynda Benglis. Untitled (Half Sphere). 2007. Cast bronze. 37.5 x 36 x 17.5 in. Part of the FAPE collection on view at Guild Hall.

Ms. Benglis first made waves when she burst onto the art scene in the ‘70s. In an ad for Artforum in 1974, she posed naked with a giant fake penis, aiming to mock both artists and feminists who take themselves too seriously, as well as the idea of sexuality. Needless to say, it caused some backlash.

Today, Ms. Benglis splits her time between several art studios from India to New Mexico, working on different projects at each and returning to her home in East Hampton for grounding.

“This is my thinking place and my home,” she said Friday, sitting with her dachshund Pi surrounded by a green jungle of trees on her back deck in the Northwest Woods.

“Their mission,” she said of FAPE, “is to get arts into the public sphere—particularly for peaceful means—to encourage a kind of communication with other countries and embassies and make things more relaxed.”

“We’re a small world now and art is nonviolent, nonpolitical,” she said, adding, “The art’s really about communication and that’s why we have an embassy project, that’s why we have FAPE.”

The opening reception of FAPE’s exhibition is Saturday, June 28, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Guild Hall, located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information, call (631) 324-0806 or visit guildhall.org.

Southampton Town Proposes Political Party Ban for Committee Members

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By Tessa Raebeck

Hoping to stem what she sees as unbalanced Republican influence, Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming has again sponsored legislation to bar members of a political committee from also serving on the town’s land use boards.

After discovering last year that 10 out of the 21 members on the three influential boards, the planning board, the zoning board of appeals (ZBA) and the conservation board, were members of either the Republican or the Conservative Party committees, Fleming sponsored a resolution to ban members of such a committee from also serving on a board.

“I think,” Fleming said Monday, “it’s a really important measure to advance fairness in land use decisions and to make sure that people in the community feel that all voices are being heard and that land use decisions are being made in a fair and even handed way.”

Both East Hampton and Southold have similar legislation in effect. The resolution would require a political committee member who also wished to serve on a town board to resign from their political post for the time they serve as a board member.

Fleming believes the law would limit the “lopsided representation” of the current boards, noting out of seven members on the ZBA in 2013, five were Republican committee members and one was a Conservative committee member.

There are no members of the Democratic Committee on the town boards, Fleming said Monday

The law, she said, is “in order to open up public participation, so people feel that it’s not an insider’s game, that they can serve, that they can have their voices heard.”

“And,” she added, “in order to remove any conflict of interest that’s created when people are responsible both to the community and to their political parties.”

Fleming first introduced the bill last spring, but it was blocked from having a public hearing. She introduced it again this fall and although it was granted a public hearing, the bill was defeated September 24 by the then Republican-Conservative majority on the board.

At the public portion of the board’s meeting October 8, Mike Anthony of Westhampton, a member of the Democratic activist organization Organizing for America, spoke in support of the resolution, stating that many see government as an insider game and that people in Southampton cannot be part of local government without feeling they have to also be part of a political party.

Also at that meeting, George Lynch of Quogue said the Republican majority on public boards is trampling on proper procedures and stifling public discussion. Residents Dianne Rulnick, Mike Axelrad, Sally Pope and several others called on the board to have a public hearing on the ethics of removing political committee members from land use boards.

On Tuesday, the board hosted a public hearing on the proposal. While supporters voiced their concerns over lopsided legislation and perceived unfairness, opponents said the bill would discourage residents from participating in government and inhibit free speech.

Republican Party committee member Bill Hughes voiced his opposition to the bill at Tuesday’s hearing, saying it limited “freedom of association” and that being elected to a political party committee is a form of free speech.

Republican Councilwoman Christine Scalera has been vocal in her opposition to the bill since it was first introduced. Scalera has called the legislative intent offensive and questioned Fleming’s political motives behind introducing such a bill on Tuesday.

Despite Scalera’s opposition, Fleming is hopeful the bill will move forward and that it will be passed at the next town board meeting February 11.

Southampton Town Council Race Still Too Close to Call

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Heller_LWV Supervisor Debate 10-24-13_7624_LR

By Tessa Raebeck

Over a week after the election, the Southampton Town Council race remains too close to call, with 879 absentee ballots left to be counted, officials said Wednesday morning.

According to the office of Suffolk County Board of Elections Commissioner Anita Katz, counting of the absentee ballots is underway and will not be finished until as late as the beginning of next week.

No matter who wins the two open seats, each of the four candidates would be joining the town board for the first time. Stan Glinka, of Hampton Bays, and Jeffrey Mansfield, of Bridgehampton, ran together on the Republican Party line, facing challengers Brad Bender, of Northport, and Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone, of Southampton, who ran on the Democratic and Independence party lines.

According to the unofficial results released by the Suffolk County Board of Elections, with 42 of 42 districts reporting on election night last Tuesday, Glinka led the town council race with 5,857 votes, or 25.85 percent of tallied ballots. Bender is in second place, with 5,746 votes, or 25.36 percent.

If the absentee ballots do not significantly alter the results, Bender and Glinka will join the town board come January.

With 5,603 votes, or 24.73 percent, Mansfield trails Bender by just 143 votes. Behind Mansfield by 158 votes, Zappone earned 5,445 votes, or 24.03 percent.

In addition to the town council race, the official outcome of the race for five town trustee positions also hangs in the balance until absentee ballots are counted.

If the results hold, incumbents Bill Pell (8,933 votes), Eric Shultz (8,746 votes) and Ed Warner, Jr. (7,161 votes), members of the Independence, Democrat and Republican parties, respectively, will have secured the top three spots. The remaining two spots would go to Republicans Scott Horowitz (6,399 votes) and Ray Overton (5,436 votes).

League of Women Voters Hosts Southampton Town Board Candidates Debate

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Heller_LWV Supervisor Debate 10-24-13_7642_LR

By Tessa Raebeck

In front of a packed room Thursday night, candidates for Southampton Town Board debated experience, integrity and economics. Democrats Brad Bender and Frank Zappone faced Republicans Stan Glinka and Jeff Mansfield in a debate hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Hamptons at Rogers Memorial Library.

Moderated by Carol Mellor, voter service co-chair for the league, the debate included questions asked by members of the audience, as well as by Bryan Boyhan, editor and publisher of The Sag Harbor Express, Joe Shaw, executive editor for the Press News Group, and Judy Samuelson of the league.

Noting that all the candidates would be first time town board members, Shaw asked what issue their first piece of legislation would address.

“Water quality is going to be my number one issue,” replied Bender, mentioning his endorsement from the Long Island Environmental Voters Forum. “The first thing I want to do is really take a look at how we’re going to start saving our town — how do we work regionally with state, local, federal governments to make a difference for our waterways.”

“We have dragged our feet for way too long,” he continued. “We are so far behind in the technology in this community that we should be ashamed.”

Mansfield answered that his top three issues are fiscal responsibility, code enforcement and water quality. He said he fully supports Councilwoman Christine Scalera’s septic rebate program, but that “we need to do more.”

He advocates working with the schools to plant more eelgrass and seed the bays with shellfish.

“That’s nature’s way to filter the bays,” he said. “There’s a lot of nitrogen-reducing technology available in states like Rhode Island and Maryland that have a lot of tributaries and waterways. We don’t have it approved by the county yet — we need to lobby hard.”

Glinka pointed to three things that he would “have to tackle all at once evenly,” economic redevelopment, public safety and the environment. He said it is “vitally important” to have a good relationship with town trustees.

“Many of the small businesses in this town are struggling, making it economically feasible to stay here but also to attract new businesses,” he said, adding that he would also look at further staffing the police force and code enforcement office to increase public safety.

“Although these problems are very important problems for the town, they’re not going to be impacted by a single piece of legislation,” responded Zappone, who serves as deputy supervisor for the town. He said that he and the current administration moved code enforcement into the town attorney’s office, effectively quadrupling the number of enforcement actions due to improved communication.

“My first piece of legislation,” he said, “would be to bring fire marshal and code enforcement into one public safety unit so they could work closely with the town attorney and our court system so that we can effectively prosecute and proceed to getting some compliance issues addressed throughout the town.”

Shaw posed a question from the audience asking the candidates to state their position on the proposed Tuckahoe Center supermarket and retail complex on County Road 39.

“I believe firmly in representative government,” answered Mansfield. “So my job is not to tell you what I think is best, my job is to do what you think is best and my job is to find out what that is by vetting the issue, going out to the community, finding out the pulse of the community then taking action in a cost-effective and timely manner and that’s exactly what I will do.”

Glinka referred to his experience as president of the Hampton Bays Chamber of Commerce.

“I think communication and education are the two foremost important factors in here and making sure that we make the best decision as a group,” he said. “It’s very important to hear what you as a community wants and what the people in the town want, not what I want as town council.”

“We need updated traffic studies,” replied Zappone. “We need updated analysis of the changing demographics of the community and we also need to look at the potential merger of these two school districts [Tuckahoe and Southampton] and how that might impact the community. So there’s a lot of information to gather before we go out communicating and educating the community, which is important to do but we need the information and we need the facts collected as best we possibly can.”

Bender pointed to the numerous vacant lots that are on County Road 39 adjacent to the proposal property.

“We don’t need to build new things when we have things sitting empty,” he said. “We’ve got empty stores up and down County Road 39, we’ve got blight up and down County Road 39 and until we address these issues we have no business then building anything else in that spot.”

Acknowledging Bender’s comment, Boyhan asked the candidates what pressures the town can bring to bear on property owners who have had unsuccessful businesses or let their buildings deteriorate and what can be done to force the repurpose of those buildings.

Glinka advocated streamlining the process by which new businesses can come into Southampton.

“Sometimes we’re anti-business,” he said. “It makes it very difficult for people to come in here and set up businesses. If we could make it attractive for developers to come out here and revitalize those [old motels that have been turned into section eight housing] and make it certain that that’s what they’re going to do and bring the tourism back out here and make it affordable for people to come out here with families, I think that would start a domino effect in attracting businesses,” he maintained.

Zappone said it’s important to take advantage of the business advisory council that resides at the Stony Brook Southampton campus, as well as initiating tax relief elements.

“If businesses are going to be viable on that road,” he said of County Road 39, “something has to be done about the way traffic flows on that road.”

He advocates bringing in low volume businesses such as law offices and consulting firms and called for a regional approach to addressing blighted properties.

Bender referenced his involvement in the Riverside Economic Development Committee and spoke of working together with the International Development Association (IDA) and the Regional Economic Development Council to help small businesses and also ensure they can help themselves.

“The last thing that small business owners need is senseless regulation from the government,” replied Mansfield. “I’m a capitalist. I believe in free markets, I believe in competition. I think if government isn’t helping small business it needs to step aside.”

Mansfield called for the small business office to return to town hall and emphasized listening to small business owners.

Referencing the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Boyhan asked the candidates whether the town is prepared for another major storm and what can be done to improve the town’s response to such an event. All of the candidates applauded the work of the town employees and officials in response to Sandy.

Referring to the fatal traffic accident that stopped traffic on County Road 39 for nine hours July 25, Mansfield said, “There’s still work to be done and we’re vulnerable to a big evacuation. I think we can do a better job of warning our citizens and making sure they can get out if they need to get out.”

Glinka said he would definitely work on “ensuring if we did have to evacuate the area, how would we do this in a timely, safe manner.”

“Our demographic area — it’s very unique and I think we have to approach it in such a way,” he continued. “I think just enhancing and working with what the current administration has in place already, I think we can only improve upon it. And also working with community members and civic organizations and public safety areas and getting their input as well.”

Zappone thanked the other candidates for the recognition of a job well done.

“Yes, we are better prepared,” he said, adding that, with the help of consultants, the chief of police, fire marshals and the fire chief, the administration has completely revised and rewritten its emergency operational procedures and is in the final stages of preparing a hazard mitigation plan that “will give us a better opportunity to be resilient in the case of a storm.”

Bender called for the completion of the Flanders Nutrition Site, which he said is supposed to be a command center.

“If we do have one of these major storms that’s going to make us move off our shore, where are we going to go?” he asked. “What are we going to do? We have a command center that’s not complete, we could finish that.”

Residents of Southampton Town will be able to vote for two of the four town board candidates in the general election November 5.