From Greenport to Oyster Bay, Long Island art gallery owners, restaurateurs and shopkeepers are embracing a popular approach to revitalizing downtown areas—the art walk. The walks are often collaborations between municipalities or chambers of commerce, galleries and local shops and eateries. Galleries stay open later on a given night each month and restaurants and shops reap the benefits of a regular event that draws crowds onto main streets.
From end to end, Long Island’s walks are cropping up more frequently. Greenport has hosted a gallery walk for five years—one of the longest running around—and Patchogue Arts Council’s Walking Arts Tour will be celebrating its fourth birthday this year. There are a handful of up-and-coming art walks riding on the coattails of these successful events. East Hampton just inaugurated a Thursday night art walk for the summer season, according to published reports, and one for the Bay Shore area is in the works, said Beth Giacummo, the curatorial administrator and curator at the Islip Art Museum. An art walk may also be added to the Community Art Festival in Brentwood, said Margarita Espada, a community organizer for Long Island Wins in Port Washington.
Not all art walks have generated positive results, though. And often, weather or departure of even one participant greatly impacts the whole. The monthly art event in Oyster Bay has suffered since Bonnie Boisits, the owner of the Chase Edwards Gallery, left for an opportunity in Sag Harbor this summer. Christine Benjamin, owner of art collective Art (that matters) in Oyster Bay, said that while there are four galleries and a handful of restaurants still involved, she’s considering only participating in the warmer months and dropping out in the slower winter time. “There’s so much there, but not enough people are taking advantage of it,” Benjamin said.
The Greenport Gallery Walk received a financial boost from money donated by the village’s Business Improvement District, a chamber-type organization, said Joyce deCordova, who co-owns the deCordova Studio & Gallery with her husband, Hector. About three years ago, the Greenport BID generated the funds that created brochures and local advertisements and a variety of businesses benefited. One, Greenport Harbor Brewery enjoys bringing art enthusiasts to their craft beer samplings, while the business’s regulars get a taste of the art world the third Saturday of each month.
In Northport, LaMantia Gallery is usually 50 percent busier on the Sundays their ArtWalk is held, according to its owner. Apparently the key is a new tactic Northport ArtWalk’s organizers have taken—event-goers take their maps to each gallery, get it stamped by an artist and then redeem them at a booth for a prize. Because walkers come in with their maps for stamps, LaMantia can tell how much of its Sunday traffic is actually from the event.
Giacummo, an artist herself, hopes one today to coordinate and connect all Long Island art walks. She added that Sayville holds a one-day art walk, and Bellport organizes a weekend-long event each year. “Since it’s a trend on the Island to have art walks, the idea is to link from one council to another,” Giacummo said. “Hopefully, in the long run we can link them all together.”