The former Peconic School could soon see new life as a haven for artists in Southold.
Pat Snyder, executive director of Riverhead’s East End Arts, came before the town board at yesterday’s work session to discuss a proposal for gallery exhibitions and workshops at the Peconic Lane Community Center on Peconic Lane.
The aim, she said, is to provide additional gallery space on the North Fork, which is bursting with artistic talent.
“There’s never enough hanging space,” she said. The hope would be to feature exhibits, such as one upcoming this fall that complements the 375th anniversary of Southold Town.
The auditorium, she said, is suitable for artists’ talks and a reception area.
In order to proceed, hanging systems would need to be installed in the building and hallways, Snyder said; the walls are concrete and “not receptive to nails”.
East End Arts, she said, nurtures approximately 475 artists annually and has gallery space in Riverhead’s historic Corwin building, which is owned by the town.
Gallery space is also located at 30 West Main Street in Riverhead and on the second floor of the Jamesport Manor Inn.
Satellite galleries, she said, help provide opportunities to exhibit art around town and also, to launch training programs for artists, as well as others who learn how to curate a show, providing employment, as well.
East End Arts, a 501c3 organization, rents the Riverhead spaces and has a long-term lease, she told Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell.
The supervisor asked if would be possible to create first priority opportunity for Southold artists; Snyder said that could be done.
He asked if artists other than those who belong to East End Arts could exhibit at the facility.
“We have to maintain the quality of the art. You’d want whatever is up on the wall to be a reflection of you and East End Arts,” Snyder said, adding that artists featured would be EEA members.
Snyder said a second opportunity exists in the form of potential programming at the site. “The spaces are beautiful. We’re not taking over the building but we could offer programs on a semi-regular basis.”
Such programs, she said, could include Artists Helping Artists, a program where photographers might come in and shoot the work of artists working in other mediums.
Others might include the JumpstART program, which currently takes place in Riverhead; the program teaches all disciplines the business end of the arts, including marketing, fundraising, public speaking, and writing.
JumpstART will host an even on August 7 in Riverhead, where artists, including sculptors, painters, and musicians, will exhibit the work they’ve created in a public art project downtown.
Curatorial training, professional development for arts educators, and workshops for children could also be offered, as could New Horizons, a nationwide program for individuals over 50 to form a band, despite their level of musicianship.
Justice Louisa Evans asked who would ensure the artwork stayed safe. Snyder said so far she’s never encountered a situation where “the artwork was taken off the wall” but said EEA carries a certificate of insurance for every space utilized that covers liability, but not theft.
The arts offer human enrichment, Russell said. He said he’d like to get the town’s department of parks and recreation involved in discussions.
Councilwoman Jill Doherty said a good idea would be to get local schools involved; young Mattituck artists recently received nationwide recognition for their art.
Southold’s special projects coordinator Phillip Beltz, who has been working with Snyder on the proposal and has asked that some environmental component be included, said when the town worked on the recreation chapter of the comprehensive plan, “people came out in the dead of winter” to support an increased focus on the arts in Southold.
Councilman Bill Ruland said young and old could come together through art and said preservation of the arts, whether visual or music, “is very important. Something many people won’t understand until they get older. And if they haven’t been properly educated, they won’t.”
Russell said the proposal would be forwarded to the town’s park and rec committee for review.