Tag Archive | "Stony Brook Southampton"

Small Batch Food Producers Get a Kitchen of Their Own

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Carissa Waechter at work baking bread in new South Fork Kitchens at Stony Brook Southampton. Stephen J. Kotz

By Stephen J. Kotz

Imagine a farmer searching for ways to get the most out of a bumper crop of strawberries this June. Besides selling them by the quart, along with every other farmer whose crop has just come in, he might want to try his hand at making jam to sell at the farmers market later in the season. The same might be true of a cook who wants to use local tomatoes to sell the sauce her friends have been raving about for years.

Typically, one of the biggest logistical roadblocks for such entrepreneurs is a place where they can produce their small batch food products and not run afoul of state agriculture and markets law or county health department regulations.

That changed this week when Stony Brook Southampton and Amagansett Food Institute announced that the college had reached an agreement to rent the sprawling commercial kitchen in its Student Center to the institute. The institute, in turn, will rent it to entrepreneurs as well as provide them with other assistance to help them bring their foodstuff dreams to the table, as a business incubator known as South Fork Kitchens.

“Many producers told us there was no commercial kitchen on the East End where they could go and produce their product in a professional way,” said Kathleen Masters, executive director of the food institute, part of whose mission is to provide economic development support to farmers and other small scale local producers. “Many have been renting restaurant kitchens at night, or using church kitchens.  It might be a nice kitchen, but there is no storage space” for both their raw ingredients or finished products.

Carissa Waechter, the owner of Carissa’s Breads, who has baked for Amber Waves Farm and Garden of Eve, and is a founding board member of the food institute, will be the kitchen coordinator.

Part of her job will be to help provide schedules for the different entrepreneurs who are expected to start using the kitchen in the coming weeks.

“The people who plan to be working out here are such a cool mix of professionals,” she said. “I’m really excited to be working with them.”

Ms. Waechter said the kitchen, which once served the college cafeteria, is so spacious and well equipped, with a six-burner Garland stove, Blodgett pizza oven, industrial-sized Hobart mixers, and refrigeration galore, that as many as four different people could be using it at any one time, provided they don’t need to use the same mixer or other equipment at the same time.

“This space was the perfect find,” she added.

Ms. Masters said the facility will provide ample storage space and afford those who use it a place to accept deliveries. The size of the kitchen will allow them to work more efficiently and in larger batches than they could elsewhere.

Another selling point. “The law prohibits you from doing it in your home, with very limited exceptions,” Ms. Masters said. To that end, those using the kitchen must be licensed by the state. Ms. Waechter said a class would be held for the dozen or so producers who have expressed interest in using the facility.

The institute will also be available to do “co-packing,” according to Ms. Masters. So, if a farmer does not have the time or staff to take on the cooking, “we are available to production for you,” she said. “It’s a process. You have to have your recipe approved by the Department of Agriculture and Markets.”

As part of its rental agreement, the food institute will also reopen the student cafeteria on a small-scale basis as a “farm to table” café serving students, staff, and campus visitors.

“There is an audience out here for everything” South Fork Kitchens will produce, said Ms. Waechter. “Something the AFI says is everyone should have access to good food.”

Julie Sheehan

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Star Black photo

Star Black photo

By Stephen J. Kotz

The director of Stony Brook Southampton’s MFA Program in Creative Writing talks about this summer’s upcoming Writers Conference, the deadline for which to enroll is Tuesday, April 1.

Can you give us an overview about what the Writers Conference is?

It is an intensive experience that centers on taking part in a writing workshop. When you apply you are applying for a specific workshop. And we offer them in poetry, fiction, memoir writing, playwriting. The workshop meets five times for two and half to three hours per day. The rest of your day you will take part in embarrassing and enriching readings, panels, performances, talks. It’s nonstop and we’ll have some really impressive authors coming in.

The whole vibe is beach. You won’t have much time to actually go to it—maybe you’ll get a chance to slip away one afternoon and stick your toe in the water. People work extremely hard, but it has a relaxed feel; it’s very soul enriching to be among 120 to 150 other writers. Plus, the dorms are available, so it’s cheapest 12 days you’ll ever get in the Hamptons.

Are there any new or special faculty members this year?

One of the great things about this is we’re in the Hamptons. From the faculty members’ view, it’s a paid vacation. This year we were able to get Terrance Hayes, a fantastic poet, very laid back, but  also a genius. Julia Glass is a terrific novelist. Libba Bray writes young adult novels. It was a coup to get her. She’s a big deal in the YA field. Two other new faces are Peter Lerangis, who also writes young adult fiction, Dan Yaccarino, who is known for his picture books and illustrations. A new face in playwriting is David Adjmi.

Then we have faculty who come every year: Billy Collins, Meg Wolitzer, Roger Rosenblatt, Matthew Klam, Patricia Marx, who collaborates with Roz Chast, The New Yorker cartoonist, on children’s books, Frederick Tuten, a novelist and short story writer who also writes art criticism, and Annette Handley Chandler, who teaches screenwriting.

What’s new this year?

There’s an introductory writers workshop that will be taught by an MFA student. It will be a chance to try your hand at range of genres. You can sign up and come and enjoy a writing workshop and not have any of the stress that come with the more intensive offerings.

I think there’s something about signing up that just sort of commands your muse. There is something about the mental act of signing up. You might not write anything beforehand, but when you get into that small group of 12 to 15 people, you get your work done.

There is a 12-day conference, from July 9 to 20, and a five-day “intensive” conference from July 9 to 13. Why do you do that?

We started doing that a couple of years ago. For some people finding 12 days, where you essentially have to take two weeks off from whatever you are doing, is difficult. We just found the five-day version of events would allow people to come who just can’t take that much time out of their lives.

 What does having this program do for the community and what does the community do for this program?

We try to make sure we keep our ties to the community strong. We have regular reading series on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Masha Gessen, who just wrote the book on Pussy Riot and blogs on events in Russia is coming this Wednesday, April 2 [at 7 p.m. in the Radio Lounge, as part of the Writers Speak series.] We want there to be a constant interchange between us and the community.

In turn the community is a great resource for us. There is a great community out here of writers, artists, filmmakers, playwrights, and actors. That’s where our guest list comes from. They have really enriched our students’ lives.

For more information, visit stonybrook.edu/southampton/mfa/summer.


Regional Healthcare System Praised by Officials Touting Stony Brook and Southampton Hospital Affiliation

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Flanked by government leaders at a Monday morning press conference, officials from Southampton Hospital and Stony Brook University Medical Center lauded plans for an affiliation between the them. It’s the beginning of what both facilities hope will become a regional healthcare system for the East End of Long Island.

At the press conference, leadership from Stony Brook University, the State University of New York and Southampton Hospital announced they have signed a non-binding letter of intent in which Southampton Hospital will join Stony Brook University’s medical system and construct a new hospital building on the Stony Brook University Southampton campus.

For Robert Chaloner, the CEO of Southampton Hospital, the opportunities presented in an affiliation with Stony Brook will allow the hospital to grow in a positive direction.

“It’s hard for me to walk anywhere in this community without hearing the role the hospital plays,” said Chaloner. “We are the largest employer, we are an economic engine for the community, we are the organizing force for keeping doctors here in the community and we are the developer of services. And many people, especially as you go further east into East Hampton communities and out to Montauk, are frightened at the fact that we may move or any change we have made because we are an isolated community that is aging in its demographic.”

“We need to partner as we move forward,” said Chaloner, “because when all is said and done we are still a small community hospital entering an era of unprecedented change in health care and an era where hospitals of all sizes will be stressed and challenged.”

“We need a partner we can work with to ensure the long term survival of this organization,” he added. “And I can’t think of a better partner than Stony Brook University Medical Center.”

According to a press release issued the morning of the press conference, Southampton Hospital’s 125-bed facility would provide care under Stony Brook University Hospital’s New York State operating license. As the affiliation between the hospitals moves forward, Stony Brook and Southampton officials will comply with the collective bargaining agreements with public unions at Stony Brook University Hospital and the private sector unions at Southampton Hospital.

Southampton Hospital employees will maintain their status as private sector employees along with all of their collective bargaining rights, according to the release.

The letter of intent calls on Southampton Hospital to continue clinical services on the South Fork with a joint advisory committee made up of members appointed by both hospitals advising on strategic and community issues for the East End facility.

The letter of intent also calls for launching a Southampton Hospital led philanthropic campaign to raise funds to build a new state-of-the-art hospital on Stony Brook University’s Southampton campus. Southampton Hospital’s current facility on Meeting House Lane opened in 1909.

According to Congressman Tim Bishop — who joined New York State Senator Ken LaValle and New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele at the press conference — this affiliation will lead to expanded educational opportunities for the hospitals and serve as an economic driver allowing the college campus to realize its potential.

“It is so important from so many different vantage points not the least of which is the educational opportunities which will give rise to the economic possibilities that will solidify that college and solidify the role we have always wanted it to play on eastern Long Island,” said Bishop, who has had four generations of his family born at Southampton Hospital and who also served as the provost for Southampton College when it was owned by Long Island University. “Let’s go forward and make this happen.”

Like Bishop, Thiele has roots in both the hospital and the college. Born at Southampton Hospital and a graduate of Southampton College, Thiele noted his life literally would not be what it is today without both institutions.

“And to see those things brought together and married together into something that is going to benefit so many people in this community is just something I couldn’t be more proud of,” said Thiele.

According to the terms in the letter of intent, the next step in the process is for the two hospitals to enter “a due diligence phase,” during which they will exchange business, financial and legal information. Final agreement would also require the approval of numerous New York State regulatory and legislative authorities as well as the Southampton Hospital Board of Trustees.

For LaValle, Monday morning’s press conference was the first step in realizing a 20-year dream. The concept of a regional healthcare system for the East End has been on LaValle’s mind for two-decades, since he passed a bill allowing loan deferral for medical students who agreed to work in a medically underserved area like the East End for as long as five years.

“That was the first recognition that the community I represented was medically underserved,” said LaValle.

He would later talk to former director and CEO of Stony Brook University Medical Center, Michael Maffetone about a vision where Stony Brook was the center of a regional healthcare system for the whole of the East End, including Southampton Hospital, the Peconic Bay Medical Center and Eastern Long Island Hospital.

“It is all about the delivery of quality care and as was mentioned not only will people be getting quality care but within the environment we are increasing job creation because what will happen is more doctors will come out here, open office and they have to hire people,” said LaValle. “It is a win-win.”

“Initiatives like this are going to help us provide better medical care to the people of the East End of Long Island,” said Stony Brook University President Dr. Samuel Stanley. “And it is also going to help Stony Brook University fulfill its mission as an academic medical center to train the next generation of medical care providers.”

Stony Brook University Hospital’s new CEO and vice president for health systems Dr. L. Reuven Pasternak comes to Stony Brook from the Inova Health System in northern Virginia, which Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, the senior vice president of health sciences and the dean of Stony Brook University School of Medicine said has given Dr. Pasternak the tools necessary to help develop another successful health care system on the East End.

“This is truly a great day for the residents of eastern Suffolk County,” said Dr. Kaushansky. “It is a day that marks a new era in health care on Long Island — regional health care.”

Musings on Kenya

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The Southampton Review (TSR) is as thick as a verbose novel, and in its bound pages readers can find everything from poetry and photography,  to lectures and fiction. Now in its sixth year, the literary anthology tied to Stony Brook Southampton’s Writers Conference and its fast-growing MFA program will celebrate the newest edition this Friday at Stony Brook Southampton’s Avram Theatre.
This issue of The Southampton Review includes a 75-page homage to last winter’s Kenya Writers Conference, during which about 15 students and faculty traveled to the Turkana Basin Institute in northern Kenya to study poetry with Julie Sheehan.
“The Turkana Basin is the cradle of language,” says Lou Ann Walker, editor-in-chief of The Southampton Review, “and what’s important to us is indeed celebrating language and art. That’s what they found there with the poetry workshop, with the lectures by Richard Leaky. What a wonderful chance to get Richard Leaky into TSR talking about language and paleo-anthropology in a way that writers and readers can really respond to.”
The Turkana Basin Institute was founded as a collaboration between the Leaky family and Stony Brook University, and as Stony Brook Southampton expands its programming, Kenya offered an exciting leap. First, the MFA program opened a campus in Manhattan, then it began a conference in Florence, Italy and this past year, brought writers to Kenya.
Julie Sheehan, who led the poetry workshop in Kenya, found a common thread between the writers’ contributions to the anthology that went beyond the subject matter and the place.
“I guess it’s what you would call in theater, breaking the fourth wall,” says Sheehan. “It’s when reality can’t be contained by the box. So if you open the Turkana section, you look at the words and see a lot of sprawl. There’s an expansiveness. A lot of our contributors usually write tight little poems, and these are uncontainable.”
The new Southampton Review is 260 pages, and of those pages, about 75 are devoted to the Kenya Writers Conference.
“Elsewhere in the magazine, you’ll see the kind of white space that you’d expect when you encounter a poem,” says Sheehan. “In Kenya, you’ll see the page is filled and probably started before the page and continues long after. There’s a sense of bursting out. And you look at the images and see the landscape. That sense of space that you rise to meet and fill.”
Like any intense experience, the writers’ response to Kenya was anything but simple. Christian McLean, director of the Kenya and Florence Writers Conferences, contributed several photographs and a personal essay to The Southampton Review. He explores the struggle he felt in photographing in Kenya.
“The piece deals with the difficulty in photographing people without feeling like you’re intruding on  their lives,” says McLean. “The dilemma is that with every 12 or 15 or 30 people we bring there, every action will change the Turkana culture slightly. The more they see iPhones, it will change, and I can’t say it’s for better or worse, but it will change their lifestyle and their perspective of the world.”
Other pieces in the magazine also depict the exchange between cultures, from an image of a Southampton student and a Turkana resident sharing a doum palm date to a piece by Adrienne Unger about the two groups singing to one another.
“There’s a lot of lyricism in those sections,” says Walker. “It was a chance for the people who were there to muse on language. To hear their own language in a foreign place. You think more about each word as you’re processing the language, and writing about fresh experiences that are so different from what you’re writing back home.”
McLean notes Stony Brook Southampton values the relationship between travel and writing, which is why the program abroad presence continues to grow.
“We’re planning on going back to Turkana in a few years,” says McLean, “but first we’ll be taking our students to Florence this year, and hopefully to Cuba in January of 2014.”
The general public is invited to hear readings and see images from The Southampton Review this Friday, July 27 at the Avram Theatre. The afternoon will be devoted to the Kenya Writers from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. That evening, Poet Billy Collins and Essayist Roger Rosenblatt, who have both been included in every issue of The Southampton Review to date, will read.
“Roger will be reading from his new memoir,” says Walker, “a work in progress called ‘The Wanderer. ‘It’s a delightful tour of his childhood in Manhattan. His work is always so full of humor, and so thoughtful. Billy Collins as well is incredibly fun to listen to: following his thought processes in the poems, thinking about the use of language.”
The Southampton Review is an undertaking. Walker notes that every year, hundreds of pages of work by established and emerging artists and writers are edited, printed, and bound. But feeling the volume in hand is a priority.
“We really feel that it’s important to have books as objects,” says Walker, “and we really care about the design of it, that it be a book that is worthy of the art that’s in it …  I like the idea that people can physically connect with these writers and these works of art.”

Christine Vachon

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Christine Vachon, co-founder and CEO of Killer Films, whose films include “Boy’s Don’t Cry,” “Far From Heaven,” “Happiness, I’m Not There,” “One Hour Photo” and “Mildred Pierce” for HBO has joined the Stony Brook faculty on the Southampton Arts Campus.

By Candace Sindelman


What is your goal for the program?

The film industry is changing so radically our goal is to a put together a program that really reflects the times.


How long have you been teaching for?

On and off for about 20 years.


How has your experience been teaching?

The experience has obviously been pretty good.


What has been your favorite experience about teaching?

Working with filmmakers just starting out makes you realize what an exciting business it can be. It really prevents cynicism and that’s a great thing.


How did you get the idea to team up with Stony Brook?

I was originally approached by Magdalene Brandeis. I sat down with Bob Reeves and we started talking about different strategies. We were both frustrated with how film production careers were being taught in a traditional setting. We wanted to do something different.


What are some of the biggest mistakes that film schools tend to make?

Honestly it comes back to film schools are still dealing with the idea that the end goal has to be a theatrical feature film. It needs a radical overhaul in that most people consume media in completely different ways in how we actually tell stories and the stories we actually film; new filmmakers need to be thinking about that in much more innovative ways.


What makes a great film?

Everyone has a different answer. Ultimately, the film takes you to some place you have never been and the experience of watching the film has been directed by a terrific journey in incredibly safe hands. (Pause) Some people’s idea of a great film is “Weekend at Bernie’s,” and that is fine.


What advice would you give to filmmakers just starting out?

Be as open as possible to new opportunities and be as flexible as possible how you tell stories and where people see them and think about who the audience is for your work.


What is something you wished you knew when first starting out in film?

I don’t think about stuff like that.


What type of stuff do you think about?

Oh, where I am going to get my next meal.


Where do you see the program in the next five years?

That’s a tough one. I don’t even think about next week. Ideally we’ll create something self-sustaining that’s really relevant. I’ve made over 70 films; I love what I do. I managed to stay in business and listen to the times. I hope that there will be a new generation of filmmakers to tap into and really collaborate with.


What about Stony Brook Southampton’s facilities appealed to you?

It’s a beautiful campus and a beautiful place with a lot of possibilities that I am just beginning to explore.


How do you stay current in today’s industry?

The answer to that question is longer than I have time for. Come to my master class.  Ultimately the short answer is to watch as much content as you can. Find the good stuff and support it.





Emma Walton Hamilton

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Executive Director of The Young American Writers Project at Stony Brook Southampton

What exactly is The Young American Writers Project (YAWP)?

The Young American Writers Project was created by the MFA program at Stony Brook by Southampton MFA Director Robert Reeves in the spring of 2009. The program is dedicated to mentoring high school students and middle school students in the art of writing, through whatever medium that might be. In part of the program we send out teams made up of MFA graduate students to various high schools and middle schools around the East End to lead writing workshops. But we also do school break workshops, summer workshops and retreats.

The next event coming up is YAWP Spring Workshop on Friday, April 9. What goes on at these workshops?

Well, the spring break workshop is a five day program dedicated to script writing for plays as well as film screenplays. Professional writers teach the students how to think visually, how to incorporate conflict and character, as well as develop a work in progress. By the end of the week the students will have completed a one-act play or one short scene of a movie.

Have there been any memorable pieces to come out of the YAWP program?

Something that jumps immediately to mind was one piece written during a high school program. This school was going through some budget cuts and one of the first departments to be cut was theater. A student in our playwriting classes wrote a play about lobbying a school board to restore funding to a theater program. That was just a really wonderful and powerful play that had a message that echoed beyond that evening. One of the important things about this program is that we don’t censor what the students write about. We ask them to write from their own experience and to write in their own words. That sometimes results in some eyebrow raising material.

Who are the teenagers who sign up for this writing course?

For the school break courses the students are already interested in writing and want to improve their writing skills. They are usually already interested in writing and want to experience a type of program that they could not get at school. What we are trying to do is cultivate voice. What we are really focusing on at the program is individual voice, what is important to say, and how it is said.

What have you learned looking at the writing of these YAWP students?

Kids go out on limbs and take chances when they write.  We have had plays about discrimination, plays about abuse, plays about substance abuse, as well as essays and poetry about just being different. This program gives the teenagers an opportunity to write about how they truly feel.

To find out more about YAWP or the upcoming workshops please call 632-8000.

Conference on Peconic Sustainability Institute Announced

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and New York State Senator Ken LaValle this week announced they will host a meeting on Wednesday, November 30 to discuss the establishment of the Peconic Sustainability Institute.

The meeting will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. at Duke Lecture Hall-Chancellors Hall on the Stony Brook Southampton campus.

According to Thiele, the Peconic Sustainability Institute is envisioned to sponsor research, educational programs and policy discussion in an effort to encourage a more sustainable future for the Peconic Bay region.

“The Institute could tackle many of the critical economic and environmental issues affecting the East End such as agriculture, public transportation, climate change and sea level rise, affordable housing and alternative energy,” said Thiele. “This kick-off meeting provides an opportunity for all interested parties to come to the table to voice their ideas. We want to be sure we have the right input from the right people from the very start.”

“The goal is to preserve the East End’s unique quality of life and to do so we must gather input from all of the region’s stakeholders,” added LaValle.

The Southampton Campus Vision: Making Artists and Writers

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By Emily J. Weitz

On the sprawling campus of Stony Brook Southampton, a steady buzz can be heard. While many who drive past on Route 27 wonder what’s to become of the campus, the truth is it’s already on its way. With 300 students freshly sated from a summer of creating everything from novels to short films, the secret is leaking out. With another hundred enrolled in the year-round MFA Program, the campus promises to keep buzzing deep into the winter months.

“Part of the excitement,” says Associate Provost Robert Reeves, “is that a program like ours shows that the promise of the campus can be realized.”

Utilizing the brand new housing, the state-of-the-art library, the spacious theatre, and all the other newly updated facilities, the Stony Brook Southampton team plans to grow from the already-successful MFA in Writing and Literature to a Graduate Arts campus that encourages the pursuit of creative work from novels to films, from poetry to theatre.

“We’re expanding the MFA model to enter arenas of theatre and film and ultimately the visual arts,” says Reeves. “What the model is and why we’ve been successful is that we have the most distinguished faculty as part of our MFA program because people want to be a part of this.”

He gestures to the walls of his sunny office, adorned with photos of Billy Collins, Roger Rosenblatt, Meg Wolitzer, and the late Frank McCourt, and decorated with sketches by Jules Feiffer, all beloved faculty members.

Just as the programs in writing have drawn in some of the brightest writers of our time, Reeves is confident the programs in the arts will as well. Indeed, in the realm of theatre, it’s already been done. With Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Marsha Norman and Pulitzer Prize Nominee Jon Robin Baitz on faculty, the Playwriting Conference is firmly established. This past summer was the debut of the Directing Conference, and featured five of the most successful directors in the country, including Oscar, Emmy, and Tony-award winner Tony Walton. In the realm of filmmaking, Emmy Award-winner Mitchell Kriegman led the inaugural conference.

“The short films that resulted,” says Reeves, “had a seamless connection to the work in other genres. They all fall under the umbrella of storytelling.”

It’s this umbrella that will shelter the whole Graduate Arts Campus. It’s all about telling your story, whether you’re doing it with a film made on your cell phone, in a cartoon sketch, or through a poem. Basically, the Graduate Arts Campus is about giving students a wide variety of medium to explore the same question: What do you have to say?

“It’s all about artists trying to find a voice through telling stories,” says Reeves. “Technology has made it possible that a young filmmaker has the same opportunity to complete a story as a fiction writer does. We want to connect them all to the long established history of storytelling.”

But it’s also about stepping out of your comfort zone and trying something new. While a student may enroll in the MFA program intending to write a novel, the student may discover his or her voice in a class on writing musicals or making short films.

“We’re trying to build a community that will support the enterprising artist who will be interdisciplinary, will work in different forms, and will take charge of his/her own art,” says Reeves. “There are no more gatekeepers. You don’t have to ask permission anymore. In publishing, the agents and editors used to hold all the power and now it’s changing — you don’t have to go through them to achieve your dreams. It’s a wonderful, exciting time. It’s the great democratization of art.”

Stony Brook Southampton, says Reeves, plans to be on the cutting edge of this democratization, when anyone can learn to harness their creativity and express themselves.

“There are great schools that are training students for things that no longer exist,” he said. “We are trying to come up with a way of thinking about art in a way that accommodates these changes that are on the way and not just the ones we see coming but the ones we don’t. We’re creating a flexible structure so we can participate in the changes.”

Part of that flexibility includes the way the workload is assigned.

“If you’re taking one workshop in the novel,” says Reeves, “it’s quite possible that that could take all your time. The creative process can consume all your waking hours.”

Having a faculty that understands that, and that nurtures a project through its completion instead of imposing unrealistic deadlines and distractions, is key.

Reeves also points out the inherent difference between the creative process and other pursuits. Being successful doesn’t necessarily mean “controlling this and analyzing that and meeting the expectations of the person at the front of the room,” he says. “In the creative process it’s not about being cautious. It’s about taking risks. It’s meeting a different standard.”

There is also a variety of ways to participate in the program. There’s the Southampton campus as well as a campus in Manhattan. There’s also a winter session in Florence, Italy and another launching this January in Kenya.

There’s also flexibility in the relationships students can form in the program. While the faculty members are successful in the professional world, they consider their students more like colleagues.

“There are no minor leagues in the arts,” says Reeves. “You have the same opportunity to succeed as someone who has written ten novels… It’s not about credentials. Art is something where all the academic credentials can’t save you.”

For example, one recent MFA graduate, Helen Simonson, saw her thesis, Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, turn into a New York Times Bestseller. In the world of creativity, the line between student and master can get a little blurry.

In the future, Reeves sees a place for undergraduate studies on the campus in Southampton again, though not in a traditional way.

“I think we can leverage our strengths to bring undergraduates back to the campus through arts semesters,” he said. These would be project-based periods of study for juniors in college or people in their gap year or recent graduates who want to complete a project.

“Farther out than that, who knows?” Reeves muses. “There’s no reason we couldn’t have an arts campus for undergraduates someday.” But he emphasizes the need to grow organically and carefully, and to provide what students want and what the changing world requires.

Whatever classes spring up and whatever genres are explored, they will benefit from being side by side. “Your particular area of specialization is informed by trying other things,” says Reeves. “Writers would benefit [and did this past summer] by taking a course in improvisation for writers. Playwrights benefit from taking a course in writing a novel… The courses are about creativity itself. In all different realms, it feels the same in a way. You’re not trying to control the thing, but trying to get out of the way of it.”

Stony Brook University is established as one of the premier science and research institutions in the country. But Reeves argues that “What we do and our creative responses to the human condition are just as important as scientific inquiry. Creativity is one of the most complicated responses to the world.”

With the direction Stonybrook Southampton is taking, the East End is poised to once again lead a creative growth spurt in the coming years.

Red Tide Rears Its Head Again, Early

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Red tide, an algae bloom toxic to shellfish and fin fish, is already rampant in the waters off the South Fork of Long Island, having reappeared for the sixth year in a row and over a month earlier than years past, according to Stony Brook Southampton professor Dr. Chris Gobler and Peconic Baykeeper Kevin McAllister.

Already visible in the Shinnecock and Peconic bays, including Noyac Bay off Sag Harbor, according to Dr. Gobler the red tide first appeared around July 20, whereas previously the algae has bloomed in late August and early September.

“The organism has been present for some time, but we do not know why it has become so prominent in recent years,” said Dr. Gobler. “We believe the warmer-than-usual summer has been responsible for its early arrival.”

A harmful algal bloom, red tide is visible, usually presenting itself in rust-colored bands on surface water. While harmless to humans, Dr. Gobler noted the species is highly toxic to fish, shellfish, larvae, zooplankton and other algae.

“These properties prevent it from being consumed by predators and prevent it from needing to compete with other algae for resources such as nutrients,” explained Dr. Gobler. “Higher nitrogen levels lead to more intense blooms. We also know the blooms seem to be isolated to the Peconics and Northeastern Shinnecock Bay.”

The tide will remain until the water cools, reducing the number of available nutrients.

According to Dr. Gobler, quantifying the impacts of red tide is difficult, although he noted the smallest organisms, larvae, are the most vulnerable albeit the most difficult to track.

“Large fish in pound nets and at Stony Brook’s marine station have died during blooms,” said Dr. Gobler. “Fishermen have reported a decline in landings during and following the blooms. The Southampton Town Trustees reported a large scallop die-off in Noyac Bay following last year’s bloom. None of these things are good news for the ecosystem.”

McAllister agreed that areas where aquaculture is occurring are the most vulnerable, particularly if their growth is in cages, but that pound nets are equally vulnerable as when fish trapped in the nest can be exposed to the toxic algae for prolonged periods of time.

“I think the wild stock is also vulnerable if there is a persistent bloom,” he added.

Dr. Gobler, whose lab at Stony Brook Southampton is focused on water quality research and plankton ecology, said the occurrence of red tide is a sign of poor water quality, however while his lab has learned much about the species they are still studying why the blooms start and why they reoccur on such a consistent basis, as opposed to brown tide, which is more sporadic.

McAllister said he has seen literature referencing the occurrence of red tides dating back centuries, but that he believes an increase in nutrients like nitrogen in the water likely is due to human influence, specifically the result of aging wastewater treatment systems leeching into the groundwater and concurrently into streams and bays, as well as the use of some fertilizers in landscaping and lawn maintenance.

“It’s been around for a long time, but with that being said, we are seeing these harmful algae blooms more frequently and certainly along developed coastal communities,” said McAllister. “I don’t have the smoking gun, but I do believe there is a correlation between development and the strain on coastal marine life.”

Group Organized to Save WLIU

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web wliu_office

While Long Island University, which owns WLIU radio, is “evaluating several options” for the station’s future — including selling it to another organization, creating an operating agreement with another station, or finding another public broadcasting station — a local non-profit group headed by station manager Dr. Wallace Smith is hoping to mount an effort to acquire the station. An apparent victim of the failing economy, the public radio station, which is based on the campus of Stony Brook Southampton, appears ready to go off the air unless officials can construct an 11th hour deal.

WLIU is the last vestige of Long Island University on the Southampton Campus, which the State University of New York took over three years ago. The station has been actively looking for a new location for more than a year, since its lease with SUNY Stony Brook expires on October 3 this year.

“WLIU offers innovative programming and provides an essential community service to Long Island; but, unfortunately, currently runs at a deficit that the university can no longer afford to subsidize,” said Robert Altholz, Long Island University’s vice president for finance and treasurer. The university’s trustees have stipulated that the expenses associated with operating the station must be eliminated, said the release. The university was subsidizing the station by “over a million dollars annually,” said Altholz in an interview this week.

The station had been losing money consistently, and Altholz said the annual deficit was typically in the $500,000 to $700,000 range. But in the past two years the shortfall topped $1 million each year.

“It has simply become too big a loss,” said Altholz.

The school’s treasurer said their decision to unburden themselves of the station was really the combination of two things: WLIU’s dramatic increase in deficit, and the financial pressure the economy has placed on the university itself.

The deficit, he said, would be tough “even in a great environment.”

“That being said, these are tough times for everyone,” added Altholz, who noted that both the endowment and the enrollment at Long Island University have been affected by the downturn in the economy.

“We had to take a look at all our options,” he said.

For the school’s “flagship” radio station (there is a smaller station, WCWP, on the CW Post campus in Greenvale) that meant contracting with a broker to find the best buyer for the station.

“Yesterday, sitting with my staff while the news was being delivered was like having open heart surgery with no anesthesia,” said Dr. Smith in an interview Friday. He said that the turn in the economy was “definitely a part of this.”

The station, which the release said serves about 400,000 people on eastern Long Island, Westchester and the southern Connecticut shore, is the only National Public Radio affiliate on Long Island and regularly features NPR programs like “Car Talk,” “The Splendid Table,” and “A Prairie Home Companion.” In addition, it features the locally-produced Bonnie Grice show, “The Song is You,” which has included guests like k.d. lang, Montel Williams and Michael Feinstein.

While the university is looking at possible agreements with existing organizations, Dr. Smith has been actively cultivating local community members who have an interest in preserving the station.

“I think we have a good shot at putting this together,” said Dr. Smith. “Already the outpouring of support is pretty significant.” He added he felt the ultimate cost of renewing the license and moving the station was “not that great.”

Involved will be literally moving the station and its tower off the Stony Brook Southampton campus and finding a new location. The general operating budget for WLIU is about $2 million annually, said Altholz. The appraised value of the license for acquisition purposes is about $800,000, said Dr. Smith, who quickly added he felt the number was high, and the university was currently doing a re-appraisal based on current economic conditions.

“I’ve put these numbers together and they’re not astronomical; but,” he conceded, “it’s going to be a tough 60 day period.”

“Several prominent citizens of the East End have expressed support for the establishment of a new nonprofit entity that will be able to purchase the license of WLIU,” added Dr. Smith.

To that end, he has begun to establish a board that will hopefully become the new owners of the station and is in the process of creating a website for “Save Public Radio on the East End.” He has given a name to the new venture: Peconic Public Broadcasting. It speaks, he said, to the focus a new station would take, with more locally-generated news and programming, and a re-dedication to the East End of Long Island, freer from obligations WLIU had with the university and West End issues.

Also this week, a trust fund was being established which will be able to receive contributions to help the new organization reach its goal.

Ultimately, though, the management of the station — whether it’s a local non-profit or a commercial entity — will come down to money. The university is obliged to sell to the highest bidder, according to Altholz.

“We have a fiduciary responsibility to the school and its students,” said Altholz, “and we need to accept the highest offer. When you’re a non-profit, you need to get the highest possible price. The net proceeds from the sale go back to the university.”

Altholz said their broker, Public Radio Capital, has “cast a wide net” for potential suitors, and said they already have “a significant number” of interested parties, although he declined to be specific.

Still, Dr. Smith remains optimistic.

 “The way people are responding to this, it’s difficult to ignore a local guy,” he said.

 Above: Inside the WLIU office on the Stony Brook Southampton campus.