To gain inspiration for a new art piece to be displayed at Grangebel Park as part of the “light art” installation known as Reflextions, Clayton Orehek visited the Long Island Aquarium in downtown Riverhead.
Mr. Orehek, the curator of Reflextions, had worked alongside Bryan Deluca, the creator of the art installation who is also executive director of the aquarium.
Mr. Orehek photographed some of the lined seahorses at the aquarium. They began a collaboration to create a seahorse sculpture, trading sketches along the way, that could be prominently displayed near the front of the park and would be visible from Peconic Avenue.
They named the final product Jewell.
“She looks like a jewel with all these beautiful colors,” Mr. Deluca said Monday during an event to unveil the new artwork.
Mr. Orehek welded the skeleton together for the seahorse and Mr. Deluca worked on the interior lightning, which features black lights, spotlights and black string lights. The seahorse is made up of 1/4-inch plexiglass that was molded and heated to match the skeleton. Mr. Deluca said it amounted to two-three hours of work for each piece.
“I can’t tell you how painstaking what he did really was,” Mr. Orehek said of his co-creator’s work. “It came out much better than I thought.”
Mr. Deluca added: “We’re both really, really proud of it. … It’s a really cool piece.”
The tall, colorful seahorse now on display is one of two new art installations at the park for the return of Reflextions, Art in the Park this summer. Reflextions formally returns Saturday, June 19 between 7 and 10 p.m. The kickoff event will also feature performances from the Riverhead High School and Middle School jazz band from 6-7 p.m. The band Road Trip will then perform between 7 and 10 p.m.
Additional dates are set for July 17, Aug. 14 and Sept. 25. The final date coincides with the new Oktoberfest in downtown Riverhead.
The seahorse was set into place Saturday.
The other new art piece is a 38-foot submarine that’s docked in the water. Mr. Orehek said it was a long process to create the massive piece.
The inspiration came from submarine Nautilus designed in the late 1700s by American inventor Robert Fulton. The submarine featured a hand-cranked screw propeller and could fit a crew of six.
His sketches for the submarine centered around the image of Nautilus as depicted in the classic novel “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas.”
“It made sense because in his version, it was run by electricity and this piece is going to run on solar panels,” Mr. Orehek said. “I thought that was important to have that continuity.”
Creating the submarine began in February, he said. The name “Nautilus 7” is written in blue lettering on Mr. Orehek’s submarine.
Another new piece, an octopus, is partially complete.
Creating the walkable gallery known as Reflextions has been a collaborative effort between the Riverhead Business Improvement District, the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, East End Arts and Riverhead Town. Mr. Deluca credited the work of Dawn Thomas, the town’s community development director, to help spearhead the project that brings people back into an often overlooked park in downtown Riverhead.
Ms. Thomas said the first grant received when she started her role as community development director was for the Reflextions art installation.
Speaking about the large “R” on display at the park’s entrance, Ms. Thomas said she believes it does not necessarily stand for “Riverhead” or “Reflextions,” but rather “Relentless.”
“That’s how everyone who has worked on this project has been about it,” she said. “Because of that relentless effort this park is getting taken back for the public. People are beginning to appreciate it again.”
Mr. Deluca said Diane Burke, executive director for East End Arts, was instrumental in helping obtain two $25,000 grants from Suffolk County. The first grant was used for the large “R” at the park’s entrance as well as the seahorse. The most recent grant was used toward the submarine project, which was selected as a winner among several submissions after a call to artists under “Tidal Art.”
“The concept was when you put it in the water and the tide changes here, it would reveal different parts of the art,” Mr. Deluca said.
Diane Tucci, who’s the CEO of Main Street Agency, said events like Reflextion are important because “arts and cultural events are not only the heart of a community and downtown revitalization but also a major economic driver.”