Long Island residents are lucky enough to have myriad musical, artistic and theatrical offerings readily available from various organizations. Among them is the truly special East End Arts, a vibrant and engaging nonprofit whose mission is to enrich communities with art education, support, advocacy and inspiration.
“Artists are unique people,” said Jane Kirkwood, director of the East End Arts Gallery in Riverhead. “They don’t want to use any other component of their lives to impress you. It’s just about their art and their philosophy.”
Kirkwood is in charge of the many juried shows held at the East End Arts Gallery and its off-site exhibition spaces: Rosalie Dimon Gallery and Riverhead Town Hall Gallery. Shows have varied themes, and anyone is welcome to participate in them using any media. Some of the upcoming ones for 2016 are Out of Your Mind, which requires imagined landscapes or people; Color; and Art of the Non-dominant Hand, a personally intriguing concept for Kirkwood.
“I’ve done this myself, and it was really astonishing what happened,” she said. Using the hand other than that with which she usually works, Kirkwood ended up with a series of paintings focusing on an odd white dog with fierce features. “Your non-dominant hand is a lot more connected to your subconscious,” she explained. “Things came out completely different from the way I usually paint.”
Exhibition pieces range in style and substance. They are prints, oil paintings, sculptures, found object compositions and more.
“It’s infinite really,” Kirkwood said of the materials she’s seen in use. She recalls the work of one woman who featured an amazing horse formed from discarded plastic and beach findings.
“It’s always fun to see what people’s imaginations will come up with,” Kirwood said.
Gallery exhibitions are just one component of East End Arts. According to the nonprofit’s website, it also provides more than 150 educational music, art and theater programs, as well as private music instruction, to approximately 500 children and adults each year. Kids and teens may learn anything from guitar playing to solar plate printmaking at the East End Arts School in Riverhead. Adults may try their hand at painting or sketching, attend open studios to work on individual projects, discover jewelry making skills, partake in band lessons and engage in related programs. They can also participate in valuable professional development workshops with topics like self-promotion and how to write an artist’s statement.
“It’s wonderful to watch the artist develop,” Kirkwood said. “That’s the biggest thrill.”
East End Arts was established in 1972, and it has been fostering the arts ever since with community-based events in addition to its classes. Popular gatherings include the Community Mosaic Street Painting Festival, where Long Islanders take to the pavement with colorful chalks, and Winterfest Jazz on the Vine, mixing live music with atmospheric wineries on the North and South Forks. In May, the fundraising ARTworks Gala will be held to support the East End Arts.
All of EEA’s community efforts and programs led to it being named an outstanding Neighborhood Builder by Bank of America in 2011. As the organization continues to grow, it always welcomes new members. Kirkwood advised the best way to get involved is to attend an open house, become a member or volunteer.
“I have made so many good friends,” she said of her own experience with East End Arts.
In the New Year, make a resolution to become involved in your local arts scene.