Just as summer fun memories are fading, a new month-long festival of arts and culture events is determined to turn attention back to Long Island with a line-up of Broadway icons and exhibits that highlight the long tradition of the island as refuge for creativity, including for artists such as the late Jackson Pollock. Throughout October, which is National Arts & Humanities Month, Arts Alive LI calls great native Long Islanders home, such as the Emerson String Quartet, the rock group Blue Öyster Cult and the six-time Tony Award winner, Patti LuPone.
Arts Alive, which is already looking ahead to three years of an October season, is spearheaded by the Long Island Arts Alliance (LIAA) with support from the Bethpage Federal Credit Union (MetroFocus parent company WNET is a media sponsor).
“Many Long Islanders venture to New York City for cultural events and don’t realize there are many great venues right here that are family friendly and affordable” said Kirk Kordeleski, president and CEO of Bethpage Federal Credit Union, in a press release.
The idea for a region-wide Long Island arts festival had been floating around since 2008, but it wasn’t until last year that funding became available.
According to LIAA Executive Director Theresa Statz-Smith, by 2011 the festival “actually had the energy, will and funding behind it that we really needed.” She said that the LIAA has three years of committed funding because the lead funders understand that it takes time for a project of this magnitude to get off the ground. It also takes technology and collaboration within communities.
The month of arts programming is accompanied by the launch of a website that the LIAA hopes will become a source for Long Islanders to keep in touch with arts and culture events until the festival begins again next year.
“What we really want for a family that lives in Smithtown or Bellmore is to think, ‘You know… I would love to do something with the kids this weekend… Oh! I know where we can look,'” said Statz-Smith, who pointed out that the online events calendar can be searched by venue subcategories, such as “community,” “dance,” “food and wine,” and “free.”
One festival venue is Landmark on Main Street, a nonprofit community center in Port Washington that uses cultural, educational and recreational activities to strengthen community ties. When the center announced an acoustic evening with the Blue Öyster Cult as one of its two festival events, the reaction of the chamber of commerce was so enthusiastic that it deemed the performance date, Oct. 27, Blue Öyster Cult Day.
Restaurants were quick to find ways to connect to the local 70s rock group’s festival appearance. “There is going to be a blue oyster dish and a blue martini,” Ilene Silberstein, Landmark’s director of development, elaborated. “And each of the restaurants in the area are trying to figure out something that will be pertinent.”
Silberstein said the collaboration of many different types of organizations is enhancing the cultural experience of people on Long Island as a whole.
For Landmark’s first festival event, a talk with novelist and Long Island resident Susan Isaac about her new novel, “Goldberg Variations”, it has partnered with the local book store, The Dolphin Bookshop, and the Friends of the Port Washington Public Library, which will help increase visibility of all three partners.
In tough economic times, arts can be seen as a luxury, but, the LIAA sees the arts as an essential part of a healthy economy.
“There seems to be a realization not only locally, but nationally and internationally, that the arts and cultural tourism are a real key to economic development,” Statz-Smith said. “Most places have arts and culture as parts of their regional planning.”
Arts Alive LI takes off on Sept. 27 with a press conference at the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, New York, which holds exhibits on the history of military aviation and research that took place in Long Island since the turn of the 20th century.
Some events, such as Long Island-born Patti LuPone with Mandy Patinkin at the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, is already sold out. WNET/Thirteen is offering a ticket giveaway contest for the LuPone and Patinkin evening (Oct. 13) and for more events.