Business, arts partnerships stressed at Suffolk Theater event

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.

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