12/01/12 4:30pm
12/01/2012 4:30 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Nancy Reyer and her mom Evelyn Reyer stopped downtown to see what her friend Allison Pressler, right, was up to and were surprised to find that the theme of the Riverhead High School Interact Club was dedicated to Nancy’s son Michael Hubbard and New Beginnings Brendan House Saturday afternoon.

It was a damp, chilly overcast day in downtown Riverhead Saturday, but inside the windows of the vacant storefronts, downtown was abuzz with activity.

East End Arts’ third annual Holiday Window Decorating Contest brought community and artist groups downtown to put a cheerful face on downtown’s pallid shopping scene.

The Peconic Community School, a new alternative school in downtown Riverhead, got a jump-start on the festivities Friday, decorating a window on the southeast side of downtown with a diorama depicting Grangebel Park and the River & Roots Community Garden, where students often do work on field trips.

Not far to the west, People for the Ethical Treatment of Elves, who last year won the contest with their “Occupy North Pole” display, were hatching a new plan: “Curiosity’s Christmas,” a depiction of Christmas on Mars with a full-size alien in a Santa Claus suit. Marvin the Martian, Kang and Kodos from The Simpsons and characters from Dr. Who were also planned for the windows.

This year, said Lauren Sisson, whose husband Mark Sisson hatched the idea, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Elves had morphed into the “Society of Alien, Non-human, Terrestrial and Android Clauses.”

Next door, 12-year olds Julia Eager and Evelyn Jaffe were decorating their window with the theme of “Arctic Foxes,” a forest Christmas party for wild animals.

The two hatched their plan after being involved with River & Roots Community Garden’s window last year.

“My mom brought home an application a while ago, but it took us a million years to get an idea,” said Evelyn.

Julia had just returned from a 10-day vacation to Boston, where she drew pictures of birds that she was now painting to add to the winter scene.

Not far down the street, Amie Kennedy was decorating the community garden’s window with a simple painting of tree and a message of peace.

“[River & Roots co-founder] Amy Davidson wanted to do something simple this year,” said Ms. Kennedy.

Sharing their window was a group of friends of Michael Hubbard, a Riverhead High School student who was badly burned in an accident two years ago.

Their window, titled “Michael’s Dream,” depicts “Brendan’s House,” a long-term care center for kids facing the same hurdles as Michael, in a house to be renovated on Sound Ave. in Northville.

Students from Riverhead Rotary’s Interact Club at Riverhead High School were decorating the window.

“This was the perfect project. If we win, the money will go right to the house,” said club advisor Carole Kirchhoff.

Visitors to downtown Riverhead have until Dec. 20 to vote on their favorite windows at the East End Arts Gallery on East Main Street.

See more photos below:

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10/12/12 4:00pm
10/12/2012 4:00 PM
Long Island Opera, East End Arts, Downtown Riverhead

COURTESY PHOTO | Long Island Opera will be on-hand in Riverhead for five months.

The Long Island Opera is the East End Arts artist-in-residence, and will be in town from October through February.

Long Island Operate, more than 50 years old, is the island’s oldest opera company.

The group is running three fully-staged operas planned for the 2012-13 season – Carmen, Rigoletto and La Boheme – as well as a number of concert performances.

According to East End Arts, Long Island Operate will hold an “opera weekend” once per month with low or no-cost programs, which will be open to the public at the East End Arts school, located at 141 E. Main Street in Riverhead.

Oct.  12 and 13 will be the first opera weekend and a $10 workshop on the history of opera will take place between 7 and 8 p.m. tonight, Friday, and a $20 class on composition is planned for this Sunday between 2 and 4 p.m.

That class costs $20 for East End Arts members and $30 for non-members.

November’s classes include workshops on movement and acting in opera, with different themes set for each other month.

Long Island Opera members will also offer private coaching sessions throughout their residency.

To schedule an appointment call 369-2171.

For more information about LIO’s residency, visit: http://eeacschool.blogspot.com/p/artist-in-residence.html.

09/30/12 2:30pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Artist Judith Sutton-Fagan of Bayport (right) demonstrates the brush strokes used to paint a chrysanthemum flower to students Vivian Eyre of Southold (left) and Margie Bowen of East Quogue during the workshop in the East End Arts Carriage House Saturday morning.

Artist Judith Sutton-Fagan of Bayport has been teaching Asian Brush painting for more than 30 years. She called it the “art of being unperfect” like a crack in a vase or a dandelion growing in a crack in the cement.

This style of ink wash painting is also called Sumi-e painting, a 2,000-year-old art form which is rooted in Zen Buddhism.

She began a five-hour workshop in the East End Arts Carriage house with some returning students and a couple of new ones Saturday morning.

The technique uses brushes that are similar to those used for calligraphy — bamboo with brush hairs that are tapered to a fine point and made with goat, horse, badger, boar, rabbit and wolf hair. The black ink is derived from pine soot and charcoal and is used in various concentrations and painted on various thickness of rice paper. It is thought to be developed in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The goal in the painting is not to reproduce the appearance of something but to capture its soul or energy — the chi.

The brush strokes she taught to the students were the orchid, the chrysanthemum and the dragon fly. She said she encourages her students to embrace nature, to show the energy of it and if it is too perfect, it won’t show the chi. Her advice to them was “be free and calm to get it out on paper. You want to learn the set of brash strokes but remember there is no wrong. Have the freedom to enjoy this. An artist is someone who lives in the moment.”


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09/24/12 10:00am
09/24/2012 10:00 AM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Peconic Community School teacher Natalie Sisco reads to students at the end of the day on their first week of classes.


What do our children really need as they head back to school?

I’ve been pondering this question over the past few weeks, as a mother, educator and now as a founder and co-executive director of Peconic Community School.

Just how has this back-to-school time we find ourselves in become a consumer experience? This is the part that has troubled me lately.

My son, nearly six years old, heads into first grade this year. At his back-to-school haircut, the barber asked him, “Are you all ready to go back to school?” He nodded earnestly and replied, “Yes.” Then the follow-up question: “Have you done all your back-to-school shopping?”
I gulp, thinking quickly, should I intercede? Should I say that we don’t really plan on doing any back-to-school shopping. Before I have the chance, my son states, “I pretty much have everything I need from kindergarten.”

Whew. I dodged it this time, but how long will he feel this way? How long will it be until the back-to-school consumer bug gets into his brain? How long until he feels he needs all new backpacks, lunch boxes, sneakers, clothes, binders, folders, pens and pencils — the works — before school starts? But more important, what does my son, and all our children, really need as they head back to school?

Of course they need some supplies. And yes, a strong pair of shoes that fit is a good idea. But it seems to me that outgrowing shoes should be the reason for buying new ones, not simply that a new school year is around the corner.

But here’s what we really need to provide our children with as the school year begins, without that trip to the mall.

1) A good night’s sleep

Endless summer days bleed into late summer nights, and our kids tend to get to bed later in the summer. So when the alarm rings on that first day of school, the lack of sleep can hit pretty hard. Therefore it’s a good idea to make sure your child gets enough sleep in the days leading up to the start of school. You might even want to consider doing a few trial runs on the new schedule. Sleep is so important for all of us it might be a good idea for mom and dad to get to bed a little earlier, too. In our family, an overtired child or parent usually translates into grumpiness. So as these summer days come to an end, we’ll do our best to make sure we all get a few extra winks.

2) A pause

In recent conversations with parents for the newly created Peconic Community School, we’ve been discussing how we dread the back-to-school morning rush.

There is little way to avoid it completely no matter how much you do the night before. There is still the breakfast preparation and eating, the getting dressed and the gathering of lunches, backpacks and more. It seems it is always a mad dash out the door, and sometimes lunches, or even “goodbyes” are forgotten. I recently read a tip that we will try in our home this year.

Take a pause. Every morning just before you head out the door, gather with your family, perhaps in a huddle. Come together for a moment and breathe together. For just a few seconds stop, breathe and then break. Pause so that you might go out into the day mindful of the love you have for each other despite the craziness. Taking this moment after the morning rush seems like a great antidote to the morning madness that harries even the most organized among us.

3) A tradition

When I was a child there was the requisite picture by the mailbox, and yes, I had on my brand-new back-to-school outfit and strong new shoes, plus a new lunch box, my hair in braids, and a crooked smile — all ready to go off to school. My stomach was in knots over the unknowns to come: How would I like my teacher? Would I have any friends? Would there be too much work?

But after that first stressful day, upon my return home I would be greeted by my mom and her homemade chocolate chip cookies. It sounds idyllic, and it was. But it’s the ritual of it that matters most. It happened every year, and it was a reliable routine. Lunch boxes came and went, shoes wore out, but the tradition remained.

Those cookies helped mark the momentous occasion, the start of it all. It was a little gift for making it through that first tenuous day.

It can be a simple tradition — pancakes for breakfast or a note in the lunchbox. With all the newness that the beginning of the school year brings, a reliable, albeit low-key, tradition offers much comfort, which, I promise, will not be forgotten.

4) A shopping trip to your local small business

We live in a small town on the North Fork and are fortunate to still have a mom-and-pop pharmacy replete with back-to-school supplies.

When we get the list from my son’s teacher we’ll be heading there to see what we can get from a small local business. And what we can’t get there he may just have to do without.

5) Nothing

This might sound contradictory to number 3 — I stand by the simple tradition idea — but it may be best to consider doing little in the way of preparation for heading back to school. Maybe making a big deal about the transition just increases stress, nervousness and anxiety.

Perhaps if we take a low-key approach to going back to school we honor it as a normal passage of time that needs little pomp and circumstance. And maybe by doing nothing, we can bypass the co-opting of this time by big-box stores and rampant consumerism.

What else do our children really need as they head back to school? And more important, how can we take back this childhood rite of passage and realize that perhaps we already have everything we need from kindergarten?

Liz Casey-Searl is a Southold resident and co-founder of the independent Peconic Community School, which is operating for the first time this school year. The school is located on the grounds of East End Arts in downtown Riverhead.

09/23/12 12:00pm
09/23/2012 12:00 PM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Roy Kinzer during his lecture on artists’ paint during Saturday’s East End Arts program.

Golden Working Artists certified instructor and professional artist Roy Kinzer gave a members benefit educational lecture called ‘Acrylic Potential’ in the East End Arts Carriage House in Riverhead Saturday morning.

Mr. Kinzer, of Union City, New Jersey, said he wasn’t offering a “how to paint lecture, but how paints work. It’s all the stuff that they don’t teach you in art school.”

He told the 20 artists in attendance about the two families of pigments; dry, matte and opaque mineral pigments and modern pigments, which are transparent and shinier. Artist colors are designed to last for 500 years and are tested for light fastness, said Mr. Kinzer.

Golden Paint is an American paint company founded in 1980 in upstate New York. Golden Artist Colors, Inc. is known as a maker of premier acrylic artist paints.

East End Arts education director Steve Watson said the Saturday workshops are geared to draw in emerging, professional artists and hobby artists. He encouraged those in attendance to send him ideas and suggestions for the member benefit workshops and asked non-members to get involved with the East End Arts.

09/23/12 7:55am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Richard Miller (left), a Doctor of Music Theory at Columbia University, and Jason Ennis of New York City during a master class at the Jamesport Meeting House Saturday afternoon.

The sweet sounds of samba and boss nova music filled the Jamesport Meeting House Saturday as it hosted a guitar festival that opened with a master class by Jason Ennis of New York City and Richard Miller, a Doctor of Music Theory at Columbia University, both virtuosos in seven-string Brazilian guitar rhythms and melodies.

Mr. Miller said Brazilian music “combines all the best; incredible melodies of Portuguese heritage, Italian opera heritage and the extensive melodies and hypnotic groove of African influence with rich harmonies of the jazz tradition. On top of it all it has lyrics that are true poetry.”

The meeting room is a classic concert hall in shape and size, according to board member Richard Wines.

“It is a shoe box shape-twice as long as it is wide and has a twenty-foot high ceiling with pressed tin on it,” he said. The pressed tin ceiling was probably added about a hundred years ago, Mr. Wines added. Before that the room was open to the rafters.

East End Arts music teacher Stan Wright of Riverhead sat in the back of the room and commented that he had played in the meeting house before but never listened from the back of the room.

“The acoustics in here are perfect,” he said. “It sounds great.”

The festival was organized by Peter Susser of South Jamesport, a Meeting House board member who also serves on the concert program committee. He teaches music at Columbia University and the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City and is a colleague of Mr. Miller. He said guitars “bring people together and it’s a good multi-faceted event.”

At the master class, the attendees learned about the basic rhythms, beats and melodies of Brazilian Samba and got tips on playing in that style. After that they were free to view handmade custom guitars on display by Bill Bonanzinga of Bay Shor, and some antique instruments owned by Rothman Guitars of Southold. Mr. Bonanzinga has been making custom guitars for 21 years.

At 4 p.m. an open mic-style style guitar recital featured four guitarist performing blues, jazz, folk and percussive finger styleby Bruce MacDonald of Jamesport, Peter Berely of South Jamesport, David Thompson of Mt. Sinai and Joshua Owens of Brooklyn.

The evening concert featured an energizing and romantic classical and jazz repertoire from Brazil on two seven-string guitars. Mr. Miller and Mr. Ennis are world-renowned performers of Choro de Manha music, a Brazilian version of ragtime that is the root of samba and bossa nova and considered by many to be the “soul” of Brazilian music. The two performed pieces by renown Brazilian composers, including Heitor Villa-Lobos and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

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09/22/12 8:00am
09/22/2012 8:00 AM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Peconic Community School teacher Natalie Sisco reads to students at the end of the day on their first week of classes.

Last Friday afternoon, just before 3 p.m., the sounds of happy children filled the first floor of East End Arts’ headquarters on East Main Street in Riverhead.

It was the end of the first week of classes at the new Peconic Community School, an independent elementary school founded by three parents from Southold Town who wanted to give their kids, and other kids in the community, a chance to learn in an environment that encourages cooperation and an understanding of the interconnectedness of art, science, nature and community.

Their first school year began Sept. 10, with eight students from all over the North Fork, ranging in age from 6 to 9.

The school was founded by sisters Liz Casey-Searl and Kathryn Casey Quigley and their friend and fellow parent Patricia Eckardt, who is working on a doctorate in education.

Ms. Eckardt helped find the school’s first teacher, Natalie Sisco, with whom she had worked at the Ross School in the Hamptons.

“I’m really into the idea and mission of this school, with free learning and working with the environment,” Ms. Sisco said as she and the students cleaned up the classroom at the end of Friday’s classes.

The multi-age classroom offers both challenges and rewards that are rarely seen in a traditional educational setting, she said.

“I love to see peers working together. They’ve become a really supportive team,” she said. “When working together, the important thing is to make sure everyone is challenged at the same time.”

Ms. Sisco said the students spent the first week decorating the classroom with art projects and a map of the world, which they filled with pushpins and pictures of places the kids had visited. They also visited the Peconic River and spent several afternoons graphing the types of vegetables growing in the nearby River & Roots Community Garden.

“The week went fast,” said Ms. Casey-Searl, whose sons Owen and Conner are attending the school. “I think the kids are exhausted.”

She said she’d initially expected the students to range in age from kindergarten to third grade, but the final student mix ended up being slightly older, with most kids in grades 1 through 4.

“I think it’s really a confidence booster for the older children to mentor the younger ones,” Ms. Casey-Searl said. “The younger ones feel they have allies who are older kids. I think it benefits them both, probably in ways we don’t know yet.”

The school’s administrators began working to make the space ready for the school year about three weeks ago and were lucky enough to find a Montessori School in Smithtown that was having a yard sale at which they sold many school supplies.

“It’s so exciting. The children are wonderful and the families are wonderful,” said Ms. Eckardt.

“I heard about it from another parent at the skate park,” said Ameila Hegeman of Riverhead, whose three children, Emma, Ronan and Riley, attend the new school.

“They were great. They believed in everything I believed in,” she said. “My kids love it.”

Parent Sharon Harbin, also of Southold, whose 6-year-old daughter Lilianna attends the school, also found out about it from another parent at tumbling class.

She said she’s happy with her daughter’s first week at school.

“We thought we’d try something different,” Ms. Harbin said.


09/20/12 2:00pm
09/20/2012 2:00 PM
Downtown Riverhead, Suffolk theater, first event

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Business, arts and community and elected leaders packed the Suffolk Theater’s first event Thursday.

Corporate partnerships with the arts help local businesses flourish, said Americans for the Arts representative Emily Peck at a business and arts forum Thursday morning.

“When you partner with local arts, you partner with the city,” Ms. Peck said in her keynote speech at the Suffolk Theater’s “Arts Mean Business” forum.

The meeting, attended by dozens of arts groups, East End businesses and government officials, was the first event held in the Suffolk Theater since remodeling efforts began.

Attendees sat in the main theater room, surrounded by old images of the theater and construction equipment cleared out of the way to hold the event.

The forum, organized jointly by Suffolk Theater and East End Arts officials, focused on the benefits of businesses and arts organizations working together and featured a panel discussion with local business owners and artists.

“We see a natural partnership between the arts and downtown redevelopment,” said Vision Long Island executive director Eric Alexander, who was a member of the panel. “Really, it’s where arts belong. They should be woven into our downtown culture.”

Other area business owners praised local artists for sustaining Riverhead even in worse times.

Dennis McDermott, owner of the Riverhead Project restaurant on East Main Street, said Riverhead should thank the arts community for keeping culture in the town.

“Through it all, the arts have been here and they kept Riverhead thumping when other people said it was dead,” Mr. McDermott said to the crowd.

While most of the conversation was dedicated to art and business partnerships, many in attendance marveled at the interior of the Suffolk Theater, seen by some for the first time.

“This space is amazing,” said Ms. Peck, who was visiting Riverhead for the first time. “I’m definitely excited to come back out here next year to see the space.”

Burke Liburt, CEO of the nonprofit Long Island Spy Museum in Stony Brook, called the theater “breathtaking.”

Suffolk Theater owner Bob Castaldi said described the event as a “small taste of what this theater is about,” adding that renovation efforts in the theater are in the final stretch.

“We’re rounding third and heading for home,” he said.