Despite some hesitation from one trustee and a member of the public, an artist got the go-ahead to proceed with her work, “A Port of Views”.
Although the board initially voted down Flanders artist Andrea Cote’s proposal, due to where it was initially slated to be located in Mitchell Park, the temporary art structure got the green light on Monday night.
The artwork will now be placed on the observation deck of the Mitchell Park Marina office, with stipulations, including that there will be no permanent damage to the observation deck; the site will be returned to its original condition by Cote; there will be no cost to the village; Cote will provide proof to the Village of Greenport of insurance; and all agreement details must be approved by the village attorney and village administrator.
Trustee Mary Bess Phillips voted no to the exhibition, stating that she did not find it appropriate to be voting on the artwork when there is still a moratorium on mass public assembly permits in the park. At the meeting, Phillips urged Mayor David Nyce to move forward and work toward lifting the moratorium; the trustee said her fear was that local businesses would lose customers if village-approved events are not allowed to commence.
At the village board meeting, resident Bill Swiskey also questioned why the board would decide to approve the project after having said “no” the first time around.
In September, the artist, whose “Eyes on Riverhead” exhibit drew visitors to downtown Main Street in Riverhead last year was shut down in her attempt to install a similar exhibit in Greenport.
The Greenport village board voted unanimously Monday night — Nyce was not present and has been out of town due to a family emergency — to defeat the motion that would have allowed Cote to move forward with her vision
Trustee Julia Robins said she was “not comfortable with any kind of sculpture installed in Mitchell Park right now.”
The installation, she said, would have been sited near the Camera Obscura in a part of the park heavily trafficked by visitors. “I don’t think it’s a big enough park to have a sculpture up for six months during the 2015 Tall Ships Festival, and the Maritime Festival.”
Trustee David Murray agreed. “That’s where people line up for the boats during the Tall Ships Festival. I don’t think it’s the right year for the project.”
Also, added Phillips, the board had recently refused another artist who’d asked to place their work in the park; another piece of artwork is currently in the sewer plant and has not yet been returned to the artist, she said. “Given that we are reviewing activity for what will be allowed in Mitchell Park right now, at this point, I think it’s the wrong time for this,” she said.
Cote spoke to the Greenport village board at a recent work session to discuss her proposal for “A Port of Views,” a site specific exhibition planned for Mitchell Park next year, that would have run from Memorial Day through the Maritime Festival, and included activities at Floyd Memorial Library.
“The project relates to the history of Greenport. Viewers are invited to see it through the lenses of people who have lived here forever,” Cote said.
The exhibition, which was not planned to have been a permanent installation, was inspired by the camera obscura — a darkened box with a convex lens that projects an internal image onto an inside screen — and will face the port and Shelter Island, Cote said.
Describing her idea to the board, Cote said the exhibit would have included a six-foot circle constructed out of concete with the design of a compass and text outside relating to Greenport’s history and memories. At the center would have been the village’s logo of a ship, she said.
And, at the southernmost portion of the compass, right where the design faces the port, would have been a standing wheel, five feet across in the center, that would have been “reminiscent of a film reel or a captain’s wheel,” Cote said. When turned, the centerpiece would have spokes, a pair of eyes, and a negative, and “when looking through it, you will see the landscape through the people’s eyes that are imprinted on the plexiglass,” Cote said.
The eyes, in negative, representing different generations, were to rotate inside the wheel of the sculpture. The eyes were to be printed digitally on transparent plexiglass such that the viewer will be gazing through the pupils at the landscape beyond.
“There will be 16 pairs of eyes from four families who have lived in Greenport for generations,” Cote said, adding that she welcomed suggestions from the board on what familes to spotlight.
A series of videos are slated to be filmed, with a QR code on the sculpture that viewers can tap into with their smart phones, giving them the ability to access the videos, memories, photos and stories of Greenport in days gone by.
Nyce said he’d speak to Gail Horton, president of the Stirling Historical Society, about possible families to feature.
Cote said she’d secured a $2,500 grant from the New York State Council on the Arts and was seeking an in-kind donation from the village.
Inspired by the camera obscura, Cote said she planned a series of workshops with children on how to create pinhole cameras. The goal, Cote said, was to delve into Greenport’s history and emphasize the beauty of the landscape, giving participants the chance to stand where their predecessors once stood.
Last year, Cote’s “Eyes on Riverhead” featured videotaped oral histories with longtime residents and business owners, including Anthony Meras of Star Confectionary, Cote said.
“Eyes On Main Street” was a community-based public art project for downtown Riverhead that aimed to “promote an awareness of the rich and varied spaces and stories of Riverhead’s citizens, drawing upon an oral histories with a visual twist. This project is an integral part of Main Street’s cultural revitalization, directly involving local citizens in creating a summer-long installation and online archive of evocative video portraits presenting the diversity and unique memories of our community,” according to Cote’s website.
A multimedia project, it consisted of a website and posters placed in empty windows along Main Street with QR codes, which, when scanned with a smartphone, took the viewer directly to the video of the person whose eyes were depicted on the blindfold. There was also a window installation of 100 blindfolds printed with eyes of residents, workers and visitors, created with the public at the 2013 Community Mosaic Festival and other events.
The interviews – which included talks with Riverhead locals including Pat Snyder of the East End Arts Council, Bob Spiotto of The Suffolk Theater, Maryanne McElroy, a business owner, teacher, and choir director, and others — were filled with rich memories. The exhibit generated media buzz and Cote said she hopes to recreate the momentum and capture Greenport’s rich history, creating portraits of the families who have long featured prominently on the village canvas.
On Monday, Nyce said he though the project was a “good fit” and was “excited to see it move forward.”