With Blues Roots, You’re Gonna Drag In Some Mud

“Swamp rocker” J.J. Grey and his band Mofro open a triple bill at the Paramount Tuesday.

“Swamp rocker” J.J. Grey and his band Mofro open a triple bill at the Paramount Tuesday.

By Peter Sloggatt
psloggatt@longislandergroup.com

They’re gonna make some noise when a triple bill of American originals hits the stage at The Paramount Tuesday.

It’s not enough that “swamp rocker” J.J. Grey and his band Mofro share the bill with guitar prodigy-turned-legend Jonny Lang, a guest appearance by the racous North Mississippi Allstars should raise the roof right off the rafters.

It’s going down Tuesday night, July 16, and the card is so full it will take an early start to fit everything in. Show time is 6:30 p.m., so make your dinner plans for early.

Who are these guys that are going to make even The Paramount’s sturdy steel timbers shake?

Straight out of gator country, J.J. Grey ‘s raw vocals and backwoods blues guitar earned him his own genre – swamp rock. Grey grew up in what he calls the “Redneck Triangle” outside of Jacksonville, Fla. Home is a pecan grove that was his grandparents’ place.

Grey cites as influences everything from church preachers to the bands he heard in juke joints near home along the Georgia border. His music is honest, visceral and – delivered with a distinct voice that wraps the best Southern rockers around a Delta bluesman. Hard to ignore.

Jonny Lang’s bringin’ his guitar.

Jonny Lang’s bringin’ his guitar.

If that’s not enough awe for one night, bring on Jonny Lang, who can make a guitar do things a guitar’s daddy doesn’t even want to think about.

The music world isn’t sure if Lang earned his chops or just was born with ’em. Could be his DNA is made from the steel of a guitar string.

He was just 12 when he caught the attention of Buddy Guy, with whom he still tours today. Lang regularly trades riffs with the best of them – Clapton, B.B. King, Keith Richards – and channels Jimi Hendrix on tour with Experience Hendrix.

Like J.J. Grey, Lang’s honesty and boyish charm come through despite the power chords.

North Mississippi All Stars top the bill at Paramount.

North Mississippi All Stars top the bill at Paramount.

Then there’s the North Mississippi All Stars, set to do what they do best: make some noise. Brothers Luther and Cody Dickinson – sons of producer and session player Jim Dickinson – write and play their own brand of blues-based roots music that springs, as they say, straight from the Mississippi mud.

It’s gonna be a night. Tickets are  $39.50 to $74.50. Visit the Paramount box office or go to paramountny.com.

Huntington Sculptor Pays Tribute To War Dogs

Huntington artist Susan Bahary’s sculpture “Stubby Salutes” is permanently installed at the American Kennel Club’s museum in New York City. At the installation, from left, are: WWI Centennial Commission representative Dr. Libby O’Connell; American Kennel Club executive director Alan Fausel; Bahary; and members of the Sgt. Stubby’s “Conroy” family: Kaley Thornton, Curt Deane, Michael O’Brien, and Alexandra Deane Thornton surround teh sculpture.

Huntington artist Susan Bahary’s sculpture “Stubby Salutes” is permanently installed at the American Kennel Club’s museum in New York City. At the installation, from left, are: WWI Centennial Commission representative Dr. Libby O’Connell; American Kennel Club executive director Alan Fausel; Bahary; and members of the Sgt. Stubby’s “Conroy” family: Kaley Thornton, Curt Deane, Michael O’Brien, and Alexandra Deane Thornton surround teh sculpture.

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

A Huntington sculptor’s statue memorializing the service of America’s first war dog has found a home.

Sgt. Stubby, a bull terrier who served as the official mascot of the 102nd Infantry Regiment during World War I, became legend for his combat exploits overseas during World War I. Sculptor Susan Bahary of Huntington memorialized Sgt. Stubby in a bronze sculpture which was recently installed at the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Museum of the Dog in New York City. The recent addition joins two other Bahary sculptures, “Smokey” and “Always Faithful.” Smokey depicts a four-pound Yorkshire terrier who helped soldiers carry a communication cable under an airstrip through a drain pipe safeguarding 40 U.S. airplanes. “Always Faithful” is a sculpture of a doberman that sits atop a U.S. Marines Corps monument dedicated to the 25 war dogs killed in combat during World War II.

Another Bahary sculpture, “Always Faithful” sits atop a USMC monument to service dogs killed in action.

Another Bahary sculpture, “Always Faithful” sits atop a USMC monument to service dogs killed in action.

Bahary crafted these sculptures to recognize the service of dogs who saved many lives during war.
“This honors the deeds and sacrifices of all our service animals – whether it’s guide dog, war or police – and their handlers,” Bahary said. “It raises our level of awareness and compassion of how great our animals are… that we need to take care of them.”

American Kennel Club held a ceremony on May 23 to welcome “Stubby Salutes” as a permanent installation. The group laid a commemorative wreath of red and purple poppies in remembrance of soldiers and animals who gave their lives in combat.

“He is yet another tribute to the heroic canine companions and service dogs who have stood side by side with soldiers in battle,” AKC executive director Alan Fausel said.

War dogs didn’t serve until World War II, but Stubby aided soldiers on 17 battlefields in the first world war. The story goes that his owner Robert Conroy found him as a stray on Yale University’s campus. As Conroy trained for the Army, he taught Stubby tricks and the pair became inseparable.

“When it was time to ship off to France, he smuggled his friend on the ship with a blanket,” Bahary said. “When the commanding officer discovered him on the ship and asked what he was doing there, Conroy prompted [Stubby] to do ‘his salute trick.’ He got up on his haunches and gave the salute. That’s what saved him.”

Bahary’s scupture “Stubby Salutes” captures the moment when Sgt. Stubby charmed his way on board an Army transport ship by saluting.

Bahary’s scupture “Stubby Salutes” captures the moment when Sgt. Stubby charmed his way on board an Army transport ship by saluting.

Bahary chose to honor this moment, sculpting Stubby in his posture of salute.

The sculptor thought his valuable service in World War I made him an “iconic” dog. More than a mascot, the dog delivered messages in combat. He went into the “no man’s land” between the German and Allies’ trenches. He recognized Allied soldiers’ uniforms, and stayed with injured soldiers until help arrived. He even warned the troops about incoming artillery and attack by lethal gas.

“He could detect the smell of mustard gas being sent over,” Bahary said. “This allowed his fellow two-legged soldiers time to put on their gas masks. Thus he did save lives.”

Despite being wounded in France by shrapnel and mustard gas, Stubby continued to serve. After the liberation of one French town, the women of Chateau-Thierry made Stubby a jacket, bearing his name, the word infantry, and the Yankee insignia and flags of the Allies. Bahary’s sculpture depicts the dog proudly wearing the jacket, his arm raised in salute.

On his return to America, Stubby was given a hero’s welcome, leading parades and meeting three presidents.

The legendary Sgt. Stubby proudly wears his medals on a coat sewed for him by the women of a grateful French village.

The legendary Sgt. Stubby proudly wears his medals on a coat sewed for him by the women of a grateful French village.

“Although he wasn’t actually made a sergeant, he was so loved by many of the soldiers that they often gave him their medals and he wore them on his jacket,” Bahary said.

Stubby was awarded at least one medal on his own. “General John Pershing met him and awarded him a medal,” Bahary said.

When Stubby died in 1926, the New York Times ran a half-page obituary

Bahary was eager to immortalize Stubby in bronze and worked several months on research, mold making, bronze pouring, before applying the final patina.

Once complete, she showed the final statue to the Conroy family, who were “very pleased”.
“I think we were a good fit, because we both really care about the proper representation of Stubby,” Bahary said. “We’re coming from the same place and they trusted me.”

The original casting resides at the Trees of Honor in Conroy’s hometown of Middletown, Connecticut. Bahary created a limited number of additional castings to display at significant locations in honor of the 100th anniversary of Stubby’s return to the U.S.

“Stubby Salutes” can be viewed at the AKC Museum of the Dog, 101 Park Ave in New York City.

A Summer Of Free Performances Ahead

Family night opens the Summer Arts Festival when Plaza Theatrical Productions performs “Cinderella”.

Family night opens the Summer Arts Festival when Plaza Theatrical Productions performs “Cinderella”.

This year marks the 54th anniversary of the Huntington Summer Arts Festival. A new season of music, dance and entertainment runs almost every night from June 25 through Aug. 11. Six days a week, Tuesday through Sunday, touring artists and ensembles will be featured on the Chapin Rainbow Stage in Heckscher Park for the annual summer festival of free performance.

Here are some of the highlights from opening week:

Opening Night - Tuesday, June 25
“Cinderella” Plaza Theatrical Productions
All the ingredients that have made this musical a perennial favorite are here ... The wicked stepsisters, the zany Fairy Godmother, beautiful Cinderella, and, of course, the handsome prince!

A pre-show Prince and Princess Parade will feature children wearing colorful clothing from The Pink Link of Huntington.

Long Island Dance Consortium performs June 26.   Photo by Clemente Ettrick

Long Island Dance Consortium performs June 26. Photo by Clemente Ettrick

Wednesday June 26
Long Island Dance Consortium Kaleidescope of Dance

The Long Island Dance Consortium (LIDC) is composed of presenters, dance advocates, dance professionals, Arts Councils and companies from the finest dance studios on Long Island. This program will showcase The Red Hot Mamas, a unique group of senior tap dancers, who will perform with their usual sophistication and vivacity and the brilliant dancers of the North Shore Dance who will showcase their sensational cutting edge choreography. The Dance Theatre Company will bring their upbeat style of Broadway jazz to the stage and Ohana Mokuloa, a classical Hawaiian Dance Company, will light up the evening with dances from the South Pacific. The winners of the Rea Jacobs Dance Scholarship and the Sandi Bloomberg Dance Scholarship, Ruth Rise and Elisabeth Shim will perform exciting solos.

Huntington Men’s Chorus sings June 27.  Photo by Greg Catalano

Huntington Men’s Chorus sings June 27. Photo by Greg Catalano

Thursday, June 27

Huntington Men’s Chorus

The Huntington Men’s Chorus originated in 1949 with a group of Huntington men who shared exceptional vocal talent, choral singing experience, and a desire to foster male choral singing. That original group of 34 has grown substantially, as has the style and diversity of its programs.  The chorus continues to promote and perform a wide variety of selections; its annual Christmas Concert at Huntington High School and its appearance at the HSAF are highlights each year.

Banda Magda brings Pineapples and Laughter to the Heckscher stage June 28.  Photo by Shervin Lainez

Banda Magda brings Pineapples and Laughter to the Heckscher stage June 28. Photo by Shervin Lainez

Friday, June 28  
Banda Magda-World Music

Banda Magda moves from samba to French chanson, from Greek folk tunes to Colombian cumbia and Afro-Peruvian lando. Their songs capture the best of mid-century pop ballads and cinematic arranging, drawing on the band’s global background and unchained musicality. This group of close musical friends turn Giannikou’s songs into engaging romps that have won them a spot with Carnegie Hall Musical Explorers Series, as well as performances at venues such as Webster Hall, Irving Plaza, The Kennedy Center and numerous festivals. Greek-born singer, film scorer, and composer Magda Giannikou has collaborated with everyone from Kronos Quartet to Snarky Puppy.

Gear up when Hazmat Modine brings its brand of blues to the Heckscher stage June 29.

Gear up when Hazmat Modine brings its brand of blues to the Heckscher stage June 29.

Saturday, June 29
Hazmat Modine

Bluesy, roots, folk and jazz jam band HAZMAT MODINE plays the kind of blues one might have found in a barrelhouse in New Orleans had the city been inhabited by gypsies who performed with Otis Redding and the city had been built on the Black Sea. The band is driven by harmonicas, tuba, drums, guitars, Banjo and a full horn section. Guests play such exotic instruments as the Romanian cimbalom, the banjitar, and the Claviola. Front man Wade Schuman has the appropriately throaty voice of someone who has both hopped freight trains and collaborated with the Throat Singers of Tuva.

Plena Libre brings the lively sounds of Mexico June 30.

Plena Libre brings the lively sounds of Mexico June 30.

Sunday, June 30
Plena Libre

Plena and bomba are distinctive musical styles of Puerto Rico, and the virtuoso musicians of Plena Libre are their contemporary masters. These four-time Grammy Award nominees combine a hard-hitting horn section, master hand drummers, and lush three-part vocal harmonies into a modern blend. Plena Libre mix traditional Puerto Rican rhythms with modern Afro-Caribbean influences, and folkloric musical roots with contemporary compositions. They’ve toured the world and recorded with some of the biggest names in Latin music. Over a 24-year, 15-album career, bandleader Gary Nunez and his orchestra have revived the once-dormant plena sound for a new generation, electrifying audiences with a dazzling spectacle of horns, drums, and dance.

The Huntington Summer Arts Festival is produced by the Town of Huntington and presented by the Huntington Arts Council. Additional support is provided by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA), the County of Suffolk and Canon U.S.A.All regularly scheduled performances take place at the Chapin Rainbow Stage in Heckscher Park and start at 8 p.m. The exception is Tuesday Family Night which begins at 7 p.m. A free fun craft is available on Tuesdays for children at the HAC Craft table starting at 6 p.m. All performances are rain or shine.

Scholarships Awarded At OHEKA Garden Party

Keeper of the Castle Gary Melius meets with young guests on a tour of Oheka.

Keeper of the Castle Gary Melius meets with young guests on a tour of Oheka.

Friends of Oheka, an all-volunteer non-profit organization dedicated to the protection, preservation and public awareness of Oheka Castle, threw its annual garden party at the Castle. Headed by President Ellen Schaffer, Friends of Oheka uses the garden party to raise funds for scholarships for students graduating from high school in the town of Huntington, who are pursuing the arts.

The Otto Kahn Awards (OKA) are granted in partnership with Gary Melius. It is their chosen way of honoring and remembering the legacy of the original owner of the castle, Otto Herman Kahn. Like Melius, Kahn was a philanthropist who generously supported struggling artists through-out his life time. Each student receives a scholarship of $3,500, all of which was raised at the previous year’s garden party at Oheka Castle.

Heading up the Garden Party Committee for Friends of Oheka were Frances Sadis and Kerri Sneden. They received generous support from Ellen Fleury of Fleury Designs, Matt Harris, Bill Bohn of Summit Graphics, Greg Genovese, Douglas Martines Photography, Frank Yolango and the Walt Whitman High School Chamber Orchestra, Matthew Hoffman and the Walt Whitman High School Jazz Band, Otto Keil Florists, Kelly Melius, Nancy Melius, and Gary Melius as well as the many corporate sponsors.

The honorees at this year’s event were Steven and Paul Gentile.

Paul Gentile is the General Manager/Director of Operations and the CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) of L.I. Adventureland. Paul is tasked with balancing between the best that amusement parks can offer the entire family while preserving the parks nostalgia. As many generations of Long Islanders know, Adventureland brings smiles to all who attend the park.

Steven Gentile is the President of L.I. Adventureland. Steve enjoys the challenge of changing the parks landscape with new rides and attractions to offer the best experience to visitors, while maintaining the integrity of Adventureland’s nearly 60 year history.

This year’s Otto Kahn Award winner are:

Jaycee Cardoso, a 2019 graduate of Walt Whitman High School. Jaycee will be attending the Manhattan School of Music in the fall.  Frank Yolango, director of Orchestra at WWHS, said that Jaycee is a serious musician and violinist who can balance his academics as well as extra-curricular activities with professionalism and excellence.

John DiGiorgio III, a 2019 graduate of Half Hollow Hills High School West who will be attending the University of Southern California’s BFA Acting program in the fall. John received the LI Arts Alliance Scholar Artist Award of Merit 2018/2019 and participated in the NYSSMA Allstate Mixed Chorus. Jennifer Ievolo, a Fine Arts Teacher/Drama Director at HHHW says John “is destined for great things.”

Peter Mainetti, a 2019 graduate of Northport High School who will be attending CUNY/Queens in the fall. Peter participated as a musician and composer while at Northport in the Jazz Band, the Symphony Orchestra, IB/AP Music Theory as well as the Gemini Youth Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Edward Smaldone of the Queens College said the Peter is an outstanding young man and that he would be an asset to any project he attends.

Reyha Meteis, a 2019 graduate of Walt Whitman High School who will be attending Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in the fall. Reyha participated in AP Studio in Art, Art Portfolio, Drawing and Painting I and II and the National Art Honor Society. WWHS Art Teacher David Rickmers said “Reyha is profoundly talented and responsible young person”. Reyha’s art had a significant showing at the Hecksher Museum.

Elisabeth Shim, a 2019 graduate of Cold Spring Harbor High School will be attending Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music: IU Ballet Theatre in the fall. At CSHHS, Elisabeth was a Teacher’s Assistant for Primary level dancers. She was also a full time apprentice with the Eglevsky Ballet Company and did summer programs with the American Ballet Theatre in NYC. Maurice Brandon Curry, Executive Artistic Director at Eglevsky Ballet says “I have discovered Miss Shim’s work as disciplined, focused, and maintaining a compelling drive for perfection.”

Bombshell Concert To Benefit Veterans Charity

The American Bombshells will share a message of gratitude for those who served at the John W. Engeman Theater on June 17.

The American Bombshells will share a message of gratitude for those who served at the John W. Engeman Theater on June 17.

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

As “Ambassadors of America’s Gratitude”, the American Bombshells will celebrate the military, veterans and their families on the stage of John W. Engeman Theater at Northport on June 17.
The American Bombshells have been dazzling crowds for nine years with an All-American show, that spreads a message of appreciation to those who serve. Started in 2011 by Ali Reeder of Centerport, the American Bombshells have toured across the world, performing for members of every war.
“I wanted to marry my vision of live music and my love of country,” Reeder said. “I am a very patriotic person, my husband served in the Marine Corp, and I just wanted to see more music in the world, that was uplifting and positive.”

The American Bombshells bring to life patriotic anthems like “America the Beautiful,” “Proud To Be an American” and “God Bless America” in three-part harmony, as well as music that spans from the 30s to 60s. The performance at the Engeman Theater will feature singers, Rayna Bertash of Centerport, Crystal Cimaglia of Deer Park, and Vanessa Simmons of California.

The American Bombshells perform an Andrews Sisters-style of patriotic music

The American Bombshells perform an Andrews Sisters-style of patriotic music

 “Music is one of the best ways people can communicate, particularly with the thousands of strangers we meet wherever we go,” Reeder said. “The message of our show is one of love of country and gratitude to our service members. I truly believe when people leave our shows, they feel fuller in their hearts for this service.”

A staple of every show, “The Armed Forces Branch Salute” highlights every branch of service and touches everyone in the audience, whether they served or someone close to them has, Reeder said.

“There’s always an opportunity to be grateful for everything that we have. Even in tumultuous times, as someone who has been to every part of this world, we do have a lot of blessings here,” she added.

The Bombshells are a “modern-day twist on the Andrews Sisters.” They transport the audience back in time with a carefully-crafted retro aesthetic. The women achieve a “timeless” look, from makeup to hair to costumes. Even their choreography is reminiscent of girl groups of the past, with fun, flirty and energetic movement.

“All of the songs are sung in an ‘Andrew Sister’s fashion’ with really tight harmony,” Reeder said. “This is our signature. Harmony is not an easy thing to learn or perform. These girls are masters of their craft. We want to deliver something that is technically complicated, but comes off as seamless and effortless.”

The American Bombshells give back to the military and veterans in a multitude of ways. A recognized charity, American Bombshells has donated to Boots and Suits and service dogs for veterans. For venues that partner with charities, the group makes performances cost-effective, allowing more money to be donated. They hope to raise morale with performances overseas, in hospitals and at special service member events, often spending quality time with them afterwards.

“It’s more than just the musical capacity, it’s taking the time to sit with people, and appreciating what they sacrificed,” Reeder said. “It’s much more personal. It’s a very intimate thing for us when people decide to trust us with their memories and cherished tales of their loved ones. It may be the first time a World War II veteran talked about his days on the battlefield or his brother who didn’t make it home.”

This special performance partners with the Northwell Health Foundation and proceeds benefit the Unified Behavioral Health Center for Military Veterans and their Families (UHBC).

“The Northwell Foundation does a tremendous amount for our military, more than most people realize,” Engeman owner, Kevin O’Neill said. “Veterans are treated at the Northport VA, but the UBHC provides care for the families that are suffering along with them, while that veteran is making his or her adjustment back to life as they knew prior to them being deployed.”

The American Bombshells performance at Engeman Theater is June 17. Purchase tickets at EngemanTheater.com or call 631-261-2900.

Musician, Storyteller, Bill Scorzari Hits The Road

Bill Scorzari had a successful career as an attorney in New York City. These days you can find the Huntington-based musician on the road performing his original music.

Bill Scorzari had a successful career as an attorney in New York City. These days you can find the Huntington-based musician on the road performing his original music.

By Jim Kelly
jkelly@longislandergroup.com

Bill Scorzari is a performer, song writer and storyteller. Born in Flushing, Queens, Bill’s family moved to Huntington when Bill was 1 year old. Scorzari started playing the guitar at the age of 8 and started writing music while still in grade school. By junior high, he had played his first gig at age 13.

As the son of a preeminent New York trial attorney, Scorzari also became an attorney in New York City in 1989 and for almost 30 years led a successful law practice. During that time, he formed a band, Blue Sky Reign, which has appeared in the Founders Room at the Paramount and other live venues. The band performed at many fundraising events for groups such as Blue Star Moms and for the Outreach Program for St. Patrick’s Church in Huntington.

Bill said he really sings Americana music which is a combination of folk, country, bluegrass, blues, and storytelling. In 2011 Scorzari released his solo album Just the Same. John Platt of WFUV stated “Bill Scorzari has a lived-in voice that says, ‘Listen to these songs.’ They spring from the earth and the ocean with an open heart and the wisdom of experience.”

His second album, Through These Waves, was released in 2017 and Bill decided to do a national tour. The album jumped straight to number 1 on the Americana Music Association’s Most-Added-Radio-Stations Top-50 chart. It later also landed on many Top-Albums-of-2017 lists, including Folk Alley and Elmore magazine.

Bill has played with man notables such as Joachim Cooder (Ry Cooder’s son), Chris Scruggs (Earl Scruggs’ grandson), and Kim Richey. Eamon McLaughlin, who was nominated for best instrumentalist by the Americana Music Association, played the fiddle on his second and third albums.

On his 2017 tour, Bill travelled cross-country putting over 10,000 miles on his car. Through it all, Bill has been really impressed by seeing the different regions and nature’s beauty, as well as meeting really wonderful people and hearing their stories of their incredible lives. He had occasion to meet Charlie Hall in Colorado. Charlie was one of the founders of the Black Rose Acoustic Society, a music organization based in Colorado Springs that has regular performances in Black Forest as well as classes and jam sessions in Colorado Springs. He was also part of the bluegrass/folk/swing band Black Rose which made two albums, one as a trio and the other as a quintet. He then created the Prairie Como Band and had more success. Charlie also taught hundreds of people how to play guitar and mandolin. Sadly, Charlie was afflicted with a rare brain cancer, glioblastoma, the same disease that took John McCain’s life. While in Colorado, Bill had played with Charlie and was so moved by Charlie’s life and story that at Bill’s sold-out performance he donated a percentage of the sales to Charlie and his family. Charlie was very moved and told Bill that in the past they would have gone out and celebrated with a big steak but because of his cancer Charlie wouldn’t taste it so right now they would just go out and buy a couple of Big Macs. Charlie died in December 2018.

Scorzari has 26 shows booked this year. He intends to get it up to 40.

Scorzari has 26 shows booked this year. He intends to get it up to 40.

Bill related a story that during his last trip, he was on a straight flat road in New Mexico and the GPS made an announcement “in the next 511 miles, make a left”. The next set of directions from the GPS was “in 386 miles make a left.” In all of the driving and miles, Bill said that he is amazed after seeing all of the green fields, dusty roads, dust devils, and oil rigs, how remarkably the scenery changes and how beautiful this country truly is.

His next big event will be in Newport, Rhode Island, on Friday July 26 at what Bill referred to as the Holy Grail of folk festivals – The Newport Folk Festival. He has been attending for eight years, but this year is a featured artist. The next tour will start in Newport and go through New England before crisscrossing the country ending up in California. He has 26 shows booked and intends to bring it up to 40 shows over a two-month period.

Now I’m Free is scheduled for release in early September 2019. If you have not heard Bill, go to his website, Billscorzari.com. If you want to follow Bill, he is on Instagram (billscorzari) and Facebook (Bill Scorzari).

New Hands Learn Old Art

St. Anthony’s High School freshman art student Matthew Meberg helped make a stained glass window that will be installed in the school’s chapel.

St. Anthony’s High School freshman art student Matthew Meberg helped make a stained glass window that will be installed in the school’s chapel.

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

St. Anthony’s freshman Matthew Meberg had the opportunity to leave a lasting impression in the form of stained glass that will honor his family for years to come.

Meberg helped craft one of 39 stained glass windows that will adorn the school’s chapel, Our Lady of the Angels.

Art teacher Jennifer Baldwin-Schafer has worked on the windows for six years. She completed them this summer. Along the way she recruited Meberg to craft a window that honors his grandfather. It was a unique opportunity for him to learn a new medium.

“They are all cathedral glass painted, the same process that’s been used for hundreds of years,” Baldwin-Schafer said. “You paint with powdered glass then put it into a kiln.It is a very traditional art form.”

The chapel, in a courtyard on campus, is a center for religious services, special events, and student reflection. Baldwin-Schafer recalls witnessing students sitting and taking in the surroundings during free periods.

“It gives it an aura. It’s a bit magical because you end up with all this dancing light that goes through the windows,” Baldwin-Schafer said. “Throughout history stained glass has been put in to give a sense of awe and divine that inspires.”

Historically cathedrals in Europe have featured and recognized patrons, a tradition St. Anthony’s upholds. Baldwin-Schafer designed each window with inspiration from patron families and their history.

“Matthew’s family gave me a photo of his grandfather for inspiration. The saint in this particular window is Saint Olaf, and that ties to his family’s history,” Baldwin-Schafer said.

Saint Olaf’s face takes the form of Meberg’s grandfather, a fellow Norwegian. The saint holds a sword modeled after one that was found on Meberg’s family property in Norway.

Meberg is looking forward to his family seeing the finished piece when his brother graduates in the chapel this month.

Art teacher Jennifer Baldwin-Schafer and student Matthew Meberg work on the stained glass design. Each of the 39 custom windows pays tribute to the school’s patron families.

Art teacher Jennifer Baldwin-Schafer and student Matthew Meberg work on the stained glass design. Each of the 39 custom windows pays tribute to the school’s patron families.

 “My family is very excited for this, especially my grandfather,” Meberg said. “He saw the drawing, and that’s basically it. When he sees it he’ll be amazed.”

This is the first time Baldwin-Schafer has invited a student to assist in the process. She felt Meberg was up to the challenge. A standout in her honors art class, the freshman has a love for precision and realism.

“It requires you to have a steady hand and be meticulous, especially because it’s a one-shot deal or you have to erase it all by washing it off and starting all over,” Baldwin-Schafer said. “It’s not something that everybody can do.”

Baldwin-Schafer felt this was a “once-in-a-life opportunity” for Meberg who gave up his study hall every day to work on the window.

“It was such a new experience for me,” Meberg said. “I’ve never done anything like this.”

Meberg’s steady hands served him well when painting the trace line that outlines the entire design in black. He also crafted the symbolism on Saint Olaf’s chest and a medallion that incorporates his family’s symbol.

“If my kids go here they will always remember my grandfather,” Meberg said. “Then if their kids come here, it will pass on through generations and generations; remembrance of my grandfather and Saint Olaf.”

Game Tournament Coming To The Paramount

PARGameofFest_1.jpg

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

Hold on to your controllers, the first ever “Game Of Fest” hits The Paramount in Huntington on Saturday, June 15.

This one-of-a-kind esports tournament and festival mash-up brings top gamers together to battle for video game victory. Challengers will go head to head playing three intense rounds of Super Smash Brothers Ultimate on the Nintendo Switch.

Game of Fest was created by Kris Renkewitz, a “video game veteran” with over 20 years in the industry. He hopes to make the entire day an “interactive experience” for competitors and spectators alike.

“It brings the gaming community together,” Renkewitz said. “You can play tournament games, engage with vendors, and there will be side tournaments. It’s not the standard one big tournament, as they usually are.”

Game of Fest will feature a DJ, game demos, side tournament for the game “Overwatch,” as well as bar refreshments and food. If Game of Fest reaches its cap of 512 players, it will be the largest gaming tournament in New York state.

“Many people believe video games are anti-social, but nowadays it’s quite the opposite,” Renkewitz said. “Everyone wants to get together and play.”

The Paramount will be a hub of activity, with 60 setups on the floor and four on stage. Start time is 11 a.m. and Renkewitz hopes the finals will be reached by 6 p.m. when all eyes will be on the final eight players.

“It’s a double elimination, which means if you lose once, then you go into the loser’s bracket and play again,” Renkewitz said. “You get a second chance, in case a fluke happens during your game, you get to redeem yourself.”

Stakes are high for Game of Fest with a total purse of $5,000. First place payout is $3,600, second is $1,000, and third is $400.

“You’re gonna have gamers who have never played in a tournament, going against the best players in the world,” Renkewitz said. “We actually do have the top five Smash players in the world showing up for this.”

Typically video game tournaments span several weeks and locations, making them inaccessible for the common player who doesn’t have the time or money to commit. Hosting it all in one day, Game of Fest attracts broader competition.

“You don’t have to rank to get in, just play one of the people on the tournament list and boom, you keep on playing until you die,” Renkewitz said.

“Any given day, anybody could beat anyone,” Renkewitz said. “If you play and win matches at home with your friends, there’s a chance you could win. You might not even play a pro, they could be knocked out by someone else. As long as you keep on winning against who you sit next to, you have the same shot of getting to the finals.”

Players can sign up to compete at smash.gg/tournament/smash-at-the-paramount. Use the promo code: LONGISLANDER to receive $10 off the tournament ticket. To go as a spectator visit paramountny.com/shows/game-on-festival.

A Conversation With Singer/Songwriter/Poet Jim Frazzitta

Singer, songwriter and poet Jim Frazzitta has resumed performing.

Singer, songwriter and poet Jim Frazzitta has resumed performing.

By Jim Kelly
jkelly@longislandergroup.com

Jim Frazzitta started writing songs when he as 10 years old and has not stopped.  He was born in Newburgh, New York, and his dad was in the military stationed at West Point.  Jim pointed out that he was actually baptized in the West Point Chapel.  The family then moved to Plainview, Long Island, and then to Dix Hills where he spent his childhood.  In 1990, Jim moved to his first solo apartment in Northport.

Frazzitta’s primary instrument is guitar, and he also plays the harmonica and performs vocals.  In his soul he is a poet.  Jim describes his work as folk and acoustic rock with a little country tinge.  While he always was interested in music, he did not start professionally playing and recording until the mid-1990s.  He was bit by the music bug when he was jamming with a friend, David Bartow, in 1989, however he did not play again with David until 1994.  They had such a great time jamming together that they decided to try and put some songs together and record them.  They would go to the Bartow home in Sea Cliff and have a big dinner, and after cleaning up the dishes they brought out the instruments.  Jim would play the classical steel guitar while Dave played a nylon stringed guitar.  They would refer to themselves as Nylon & Steel (N&S) and the name stuck.  They moved to the mud room in Jim’s house and recorded every Sunday.

In the beginning, they did many covers of bands that had influenced them in the past, such as the Grateful Dead, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones.  N&S started going to open mic nights where they met other musicians and added them to the mix to create a larger band.  The band would set up in community halls where people would gather to listen and dance.  It was open to all ages and it soon became an extended family.  They referred to themselves as “Folk, Groove and Gathering.”  Conklin Barn became a favorite destination and they performed their 103rd show there last year.  The events have a loyal following and very positive listener participation.  When it started at the Conklin Barn, Jim said that they didn’t even have a restroom in the barn, you had to go over to the Conklin House and ask Bernice.  At about 10:45PM, Bernice would come and yell last call for the restroom, which was a very important last call.

Freazzitta recently released his fourth CD, :In the Arms of Destiny.”

Freazzitta recently released his fourth CD, :In the Arms of Destiny.”

Nylon & Steel went their separate ways in 2003.  They have had a few reunions but, in general, Jim performs these days as a solo artist with his friends and former band members joining him on stage from time to time.  The Gatherings evolved into “Folk, Groove and Café” with some featured guests who would play different sets.  They always had an open mic and have had over 200 performers on the bill over the years.  Acts came from across the country, as well as Canada.  Jim remembered that there was even one band from Japan (Robin’s Egg Blue).

In Jim’s performances, 70% is original music with one of the fan favorites being “All Roads Lead to Northport.”  The song got its start when Jim was dating a girl who had moved from Ohio to Northport and took a job in Deer Park.  On her first day, she was very confused on how to get home and somebody at work explained that there are two things you have to remember, first is that all roads are either East-West or North-South on the island, and the second is that all roads lead to Northport.  That stuck with Jim as a great line for a song.  But the words to the song did not come easily.  Five years later, when Jim was dating a different woman, he was waiting for her while she did some shopping and the words came to him in the car.  He debuted the song at a Sundays at 7 event run by Kate Kelly at the Northport Historical Society Museum.  The song became a very popular part of his performances.

Since acoustic music does not pay all of the bills, it was important that he become an entrepreneur, therefore being able to continue performing his music and writing poems.  He formed Northport Transport Corp., which is a private, reliable, car service that Jim started with the idea that if you give people personal service, are very loyal and dependable, get to know their likes and dislikes, drive safely and comfortably, then you will get great reviews and your business will grow.

Last year after 25 years of non-stop work in the music industry, Jim took a year off to expand Northport Transport Corp.  With his business now running well, Jim will be back performing three sets on Saturday, July 6 at the “American Celebration at ‘Idle Hour’” in Long Valley , New Jersey.  Jim has also released his fourth solo album titled “In the Arms of Destiny.”

If you want to know more about Jim and his music career, or just hear some great music, search “Jim Frazzitta” on Google.

Contest Winners Go From Chaos To Clean

The Madden family received a huge surprise from Clorox, after earning the title of America’s biggest mess makers. Children, Delaney, Reagan, and Theodore love their new playroom and have vowed to keep it clean.

The Madden family received a huge surprise from Clorox, after earning the title of America’s biggest mess makers. Children, Delaney, Reagan, and Theodore love their new playroom and have vowed to keep it clean.

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

When Rob Madden posted a picture of the catastrophe his children had created in the bathroom sink, he never would have guessed it could lead to a major surprise for his family.

In search of America’s biggest mess makers, Clorox found the Madden family’s bathroom disaster, that children, Delaney, Reagan, and Theodore created with the help of a red bath bomb. As a Christmas present, from a relative of Jade, their mother, the kids took it upon themselves to play with their new toy.

“We saw the bathroom door was closed and walked in to all of them are making bubbles,” Madden said. “They had filled up the sink and were just splashing pink water all over the place.”

The sink, walls and floor were covered with soapy, pink water, a scene that would leave any parent shocked. As Rob took in the scene, he captured the moment on his phone and decided to share the messy moment on Instagram, hashtagging #messykids.

“When you walk in and see your kids doing that, you have two options,” Madden said. “You can be mad or you can laugh and save it for the Thanksgiving dinner table in 20 years.”

Months later, Clorox was looking to promote their new Ultra Clean Disinfecting Wipes and felt the Madden family deserved a space for the kids make a mess. With promises of a huge surprise, Clorox transformed the Madden’s basement into spectacular playroom.

“It was surreal, more than anything else,” Madden said. “They put mats down on the floor and built an entire playset, which was really nice.”

Jade and Rob Madden with the kids in their new — still clean — playroom.

Jade and Rob Madden with the kids in their new — still clean — playroom.

The Maddens were pleased to find the kids feel a sense of responsibility to keep the playroom in immaculate condition, with the help of a year supply of Clorox wipes.

“First day, my kids usually go to bed at 8 p.m. and they were down there until 10, asking if they could sleep down there,” Madden said.

A poster saying “Vacation Awaits” was the final surprise for Rob and Jade, who were given luggage and airline gift cards, allowing them to plan a trip for themselves. Both attended the U.S. Naval Academy and have been greatly impacted by 9/11 and wars overseas, losing family and classmates. Clorox wanted to ensure the entire family could benefit from the mess and Rob was delighted to share the playroom is the new spot for the kids’ playdates.

The original picture that captured Clorox’s attention of the Madden kids playing with a bath bomb in the bathroom sink.

The original picture that captured Clorox’s attention of the Madden kids playing with a bath bomb in the bathroom sink.

 “The kids own our house, they own every room,” Madden said. “We haven’t had company since 2013. Our dining room was the previous play room and it was a mess. What’s nice about this is, we’ve migrated their toys down to this room. Now, we might be able to get our dining room back and have company over.”

This transformation kicks off Clorox’s #UltraMess contest. They invite people to share moments of massive messes on Twitter, with a chance to win $10,000 and a year supply of Ultra Clean Disinfecting Wipes.

Whitman’s Words Live On

Huntington Station poet Billy Lamont, right, and collaborator Em Kruz stand before a mural at the Huntington railroad station that display Whitman’s words: “Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and shadows will fall behind you.”

Huntington Station poet Billy Lamont, right, and collaborator Em Kruz stand before a mural at the Huntington railroad station that display Whitman’s words: “Keep your face always toward the sunshine, and shadows will fall behind you.”

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

The words of Walt Whitman take new life and his poetry gets a modern adaption in a poem music video, “Walt Whitman America” by Huntington Station poet Billy Lamont.

Lamont released the music video in time for Whitman’s Bicentennial birthday on May 31, as a tribute to one of America’s greatest writers and the values he stood for.

Born and raised locally, Lamont has always had a fascination with Whitman, spending a time at the Walt Whitman Birthplace not far from his own home. When Lamont learned that Whitman’s voice reciting his poem “America” had been captured on wax cylinder by Thomas Edison, he knew it would lead to something special.

“It felt like there was such a great energy with the timing for an idea I’ve had bouncing in my head for years,” Lamont said.

Lamont and Kruz filming at the Walt Whitman Birthplace.

Lamont and Kruz filming at the Walt Whitman Birthplace.

Many of Whitman’s pieces speak to future generations, calling on them to carry out his values of tolerance, dignity, hope and compassion for all. In the poem “Poets To Come,” Whitman asks future creators to “justify” him and concludes with, ‘Leaving it to you to prove and define it, Expecting the main things from you.’

“He spoke to people like me, poets and musicians, in this poem,” Lamont said. “He knew America was still being defined by us. I feel that living in Huntington Station, I have almost a duty or calling.”

While working on his music CD “Beyond Babylon,” Lamont experimented with the recording, mixing and altering it to fit the modern day. He saw Whitman as an innovator who would appreciate a contemporary approach.

“I wanted to be experimental,” Lamont said. “I thought what did Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones do? They made the blues electric with electric guitars. So I decided to use electric drums. When [collaborator] Em Kruz heard it, he was inspired by it and felt it was very roots mixed with electronic.”

Kruz, a recording artist from Brentwood, went down a blues-hip hop path that inspired Lamont to recite his own message to America. “It was my intention to not be in it, I wanted to do Walt Whitman justice and put him in the modern context,” Lamont said. “But in my heart, I was so passionate to speak to America today. What came out was, ‘America we need an intelligent heart and loving mind. Intelligence of the heart will light your mind.’” These simple lines carry a powerful message of loving fellow countrymen, something Whitman advocated in his poetry as well as in his own life.

“My heart is for the community and America, but also the system of the world,” Lamont said. “It felt like I was entering the spirit of Walt Whitman.”

“Walt Whitman America” was shot on location at the Walt Whitman Birthplace and around Huntington Station. Lamont was eager to shine a light on his community.

“Living in Huntington Station, there are so many awesome people that have lived here, including Whitman,” Lamont said. “I just hope this can inspire people and their imagination. Whitman saw America as ‘we the people’, he was a humanitarian. I hope people take this in to their own lives and community.”

“Walt Whitman America” by Billy Lamont can be viewed online at youtu.be/s0lvIb_XRnc.

EXPOsure Shows Off Photographers' Works

Mirrored Microcosm by Holly Gordon is among foto gallery members’ works on display in the show EXPOsure.

Mirrored Microcosm by Holly Gordon is among foto gallery members’ works on display in the show EXPOsure.

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

As the oldest fine art photography gallery on Long Island, fotofoto has amassed professional photographers guided by independent focus and purpose. In celebration of its 16th anniversary, fotofoto presents “EXPOsure” through June 29. A title with dual meanings, it refers to photographers working with exposure and exposing the public to members’ talent.

“The camera is such a malleable tool,” public relations member Holly Gordon said. “When you know its capabilities, you can do anything. You have to have that vision and know there are many paths you can take.”

Fotofoto was opened in 2003 by photographers who wished to share their work and maintain control over their exhibitions.

“We know how to control the camera, but just because you know this, doesn’t mean you will create a work of art,” Gordon said. “We have a specific vision or purpose when we look at the world through our lenses. We have an idea and know exactly what we want to see.”

Gordon feels a photographer’s creativity is evolutionary, constantly shifting and changing based on the outside world and their internal feelings. When a photographer captures an image, they put a part of themselves into what is seen.

Untitled, by Bruce Cohen

Untitled, by Bruce Cohen

Each fotofoto member was given the opportunity to hang pieces that represent them. For this years’ “EXPOsure,” 11 artists will show everything from street photography to wildlife to abstract.

Gordon found hanging the exhibit was a work of an art in itself, with the pieces finding ways to flow and relate. “When visitors come in and see the work, they can read a little bit about each of us,” Gordon said. “What makes us tick and why we shoot the way we do. Every member has their own methodology. We’re not cookie cutter people. We march to our own drummer.”

Suspended Beauty, by Andrea M. Gordon

Suspended Beauty, by Andrea M. Gordon

Gordon chose to exhibit “Mirrored Microcosm,” a massive metal replication of a picture taken over ten years in Chicago. While standing under the shiny sculpture “Cloud Gate” by Anish Kapoor – known as “The Bean” – at Millennium Park Foundation, Gordon saw her viewfinder fill up with shapes and colors as like in a funhouse mirror. “The crazy thing is, I am in the reflections,” Gordon said.  “When you look at it, you will find certain figures stand out and are repeated four, five, six times. It’s all of these reverberating reflections.” The convex and concave twists of the sculpture allowed Gordon to capture what she calls a “frenetic way of life” as tourists snap their cameras without truly seeing what’s in front of them.

Bay at Dusk, by Aronda Xystris

Bay at Dusk, by Aronda Xystris

Her work and those of her fellow photographers will be on display at “EXPOsure.” Stop by and meet them at the public reception held on June 1, 5-7 p.m. at fotofoto gallery, 14 W. Carver St., Huntington.

NYPL Jumps Into Whitman Celebrations

New York Public Library joined the celebration of Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday with an exhibit devoted to the Huntington Station-born poet.

New York Public Library joined the celebration of Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday with an exhibit devoted to the Huntington Station-born poet.

By George Wallace
info@longislandergroup,com

One would reasonably predict that, it being the 200th anniversary of the birth of Walt Whitman, celebrations will be mounted across America and beyond this year -- to be sure, here in the town of Huntington, Whitman's birthplace and for decades a major center for promoting and celebrating his accomplishments.

And in fact, there are Whitman-related activities galore in 2019, including at least two major International celebrations centered at the Whitman birthplace in West Hills.

But for sheer numbers, it will be hard for any venue to match the reach of the current Whtiman exhibit at the main branch of the New York Public Library in Manhattan. The library's colorful and richly narrated Whitman show, entitled 'Walt Whitman: America's Poet," is drawing hundreds of visitors a day, according to organizers. By the end of its three-month run, that translates to hundreds of thousands of ordinary citizens of the world learning anew (or for the first time) the wonders of America's Good Gray Poet.

“Some of the objects we have on view are the equivalent of Holy Grails of American literature,” says show organizer Michael Inman, curator of Rare Books at the NYPL.

Walt Whitman, ca. 1865, in an image captured by famed Civil War photographer Matthew Brady   NYPL Photography Collection, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

Walt Whitman, ca. 1865, in an image captured by famed Civil War photographer Matthew Brady
NYPL Photography Collection, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

“There are some things in this show, that, just to lay eyes on them, is an exceptional experience.”

Inman, who said the show was years in the making, recently gave me a two-hour tour of the library's exhibition. Housed in the ‘jewel-box’ Wachenheim III Gallery, a compact room located just to the left of the first floor foyer – it is a testament to the detailed devotion that he applied to organizing the show. As visitors from far and wide streamed through, he stopped lovingly each step of the way to reveal details of the photographs, paintings, original manuscripts, first edition books, and ephemera he had gathered together to tell the story of Whitman (1819-1892), who at 200 years old remains one of America's most influential writers and a cultural icon.

“The years preceding Whitman's death would see his encompassing vision – a mix of earthly and cosmic, common and highbrow – (was) embraced and celebrated by readers throughout the world,” noted Inman. “And his advances in format and language, resulting from a distinctive American poetics, would prove formative for generations of writers, artists and thinkers.”

 

A letter Whitman wrote to his mother in 1866 during the time he was employed by the Attorney General’s office.  NYPL Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

A letter Whitman wrote to his mother in 1866 during the time he was employed by the Attorney General’s office. NYPL Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

The first portion of the show features some of the formative influences on Whitman's life, including vintage images of old Long Island, the Whitman birthplace, old Brooklyn, and New York City, where Whitman spent his early adulthood as a journalist. The second portion presents a first edition of Whitman's great Leaves of Grass, with its distinctive green and gold cover, and lettering made to resemble roots, branches, leaves and trunks of trees.

A third section focuses on the very important Civil War years, when Whitman served as a nurse in the war zones of the conflict, and as a government clerk in WashingtonDC. Of particular interest in this section is the letter of dismissal issued to Whitman when the Secretary of the Interior found a copy of Leaves of Grass on the poet's desk – a situation which contributed to Whitman's further elevation to a figure of cultural importance during his early adulthood.

An 1855 edition of Whitman’s  Leaves of Grass.

An 1855 edition of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

The exhibition continues with handwritten manuscripts by the Good Gray Poet, including his well regarded Passage to India and an annotated copy of Leaves of Grass which he used during his lecture tours.

And importantly, the final section includes Whitman's impact on his successors in literature and the arts – highlighting poets (Sandberg, Ginsberg, William Carlos Williams, Frank O'Hara), musicians (Guthrie, Dylan, Springsteen), filmmakers (DW Griffith), and a host of others.

“Whitman declared ‘the proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it,’” said Inman. “By this standard or almost any other, he has proved himself.”

One look at the faces of the steady stream of visitors to the New York Public Library's evocative show is proof positive that old Walt's still doing so.

Walt Whitman: America's Poet, runs through August 30 at the New York Public Library in New York City. Visit nypl.org for more information.

Editor’s note: The author, George Wallace, is the first Poet Laureate of Suffolk County, and editor of Walt’s Corner for this publication.

Note: This article has been edited to reflect a change in exhibitions dates. The show has been extended to August 30.

Big Ink Brings It

By Peter Sloggatt
psloggatt@longislandergroup.com

Lyell Castonguay likes to call himself the Johnny Appleseed of large-format printmaking.

Johnny Appleseed came to Northport last week.

Castonguay is co-founder of Big Ink, a mobile printmaking operation that’s keeping alive the art of woodblock printing in a big way.

Castonguay and his partner Carand Burnett travel the country with a large size printing press they call “the Big Tuna,” and everything needed to produce fine art woodblock prints. Printmakers themselves, they are well aware that access to large size presses is rare. In order to encourage artists to produce large-scale works and to push their creative boundaries they started Big Ink with a Kickstarter campaign.

Now off and running – and poised for a west coast expansion – Big Ink landed at Northport’s Firefly Artists gallery this past weekend. A roomful of artists were ready, having prepared their woodblocks in advance.

Woodblock printing is basically the 14th-century technology that produced the Gutenberg Bible and other printed books until the advent of movable type centuries later. If you remember carving potatoes to stamp out designs as a child, this is pretty much the same thing. In this case, the artist is starting with a large block of wood and transfers a design onto it as a guide for carving away what ultimately will be the white parts of a design. The wood left in place is coated with  ink and then run through the press with a sheet of paper on top. The ink is transferred to the paper is it rolls through the press under pressure from a steel roller.

That’s the easy part. The tough part is the carving. Artists who brought their blocks to Big Ink to be printed last weekend had been carving for weeks, sometimes months, in anticipation of the press’ arrival.

Firefly Gallery hosted the project in the back of its new space on Main Street and helped helped spread the word to get artists involved.

“The space here is great for it,” one of Firefly’s directors Drigo Morim said. The gallery has a studio in the back that opens to a small yard. It gave the pressman room to work and the artists room to get involved.

“We always wanted a place where artists could get together and work,” co-director Katie Laible added.

The studio space was crowded with artists excited to finally see the results of their months of work. Castonguay kept the process moving efficiently and gave artists plenty of opportunity to help.

A team of artists from Northport High School was among them. Emma Halperin, Kat Schorn, Eli Dalton, Olivia deFeo and Elle Vezzi, students of art teacher Constance Wolf, collaborated to produce a scene of trees. Each contributed to the design as well as the carving. They were excited to lift the paper as it rolled from the press and reveal the print.

It was a moment repeated over and over all day as each artist saw their print come off the press.

Many are already thinking about what to carve for next year.

Abstract Artists Share Gallery Show

Artist Kevin Larkin, on left with his painting The Death of Van Gogh, and fabric artist Nicolette Pach, on roght with her piece New from Old, are showing together at Huntington’s b.j. spoke gallery through May 26.

Artist Kevin Larkin, on left with his painting The Death of Van Gogh, and fabric artist Nicolette Pach, on roght with her piece New from Old, are showing together at Huntington’s b.j. spoke gallery through May 26.

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

Artists Kevin Larkin and Nicolette Pach take viewers on two very different journeys of experimentation with solo exhibitions at b. j. spoke gallery until May 26.

The experienced creators have exhited at the gallery many times before. Larkin, the gallery’s president and Pach, a long-time member, are both thrilled to share their most recent works. Pach will feature an assortment of mediums, from fabric and textile to photography. Larkin has painted since the age five and feels it’s “ingrained in my DNA.”

“The common theme of my work is my process of painting,” Larkin said. “As opposed to having an idea for the images, while I’m working on the pieces, they lead me in a direction. I become more interested in how the painting will finally arrive, what language it will speak to me.”

Larkin builds his pieces through layers of painting with acrylics, giving them an oil-painting feel. At first he “warms up” the painting by putting the first few layers on, then feels he really gets started. Working on “The Death of Van Gogh,” Larkin spent months molding it to the ultimate form.

“I’m always experimenting,” Larkin said. “A painting could change drastically at the very last minute, it could become ‘A Walk in the Park’, instead of ‘The Death of Van Gogh’. I like taking chances and making them risky.”

Larkin’s process of editing and reworking forces him to find things within the painting that he questions. For this exhibit, Larkin utilized a new technique of collaging other works of art onto a few of his paintings.

“I figured out this was the vehicle that these particular pieces needed, to cause myself a little commotion,” Larkin said. “I don’t want to be comfortable when I’m working. I like to give myself trouble, how I resolve these problems is why I think the work is exciting.”

Fellow exhibitor Nicolette Pach shares the desire for pushing boundaries. She has been working with new processes for this exhibit, giving viewers a chance to view various materials like never before.

“I have been experimenting,” Nicolette Pach said. “I have manipulated fabric with heat, hot air and hot water. I have returned to slow stitching-embroidery and I have worked in three dimensions as well. I will be showing photos from my first foray into photography as art. All this results in a sort of an eclectic looking show demonstrating my continuing journey, enjoying the process of making art.”

Larkin and Pach debut solo exhibitions that will be on display until May 26 at b.j. spoke gallery. Artist reception will be held on Saturday, May 4, 6-9 p.m.

Council Rewards Beautification Efforts

The Huntington Beautification Council announced earlier this month the winners of the town’s 42nd annual Beautification Awards.

The Beautification Council’s chairman Dr. William Walter presented the winners at the town board meeting on April 16. Awards were given for some of the town’s most beautiful residences, commercial businesses and groups.

This year’s winners are:
Residential:
Deborah Akeson; Brian and Robina Carey; Helen Delea; Frank Di Andrea and Thomas and Meghan Foote
Association: Bay Hills Beach Association
Commercial: The Laurel Group; Meyers Law Group and White Post Wholesale
Restaurant: Dix Hills Diner and TK’s Galley
Community Service: Main Street Nursery for the traffic circles on New York Avenue in Halesite, and Birchwood Intermediate School for the mural under the overpass on New York Avenue in Huntington Station.

Photos courtesy Huntington Beautification Council

97-Year-Old Poet Publishes New Work

Local poet Jo Geluso debuts her newest book of poetry “Storyteller.”  Long Islander News Photo/Sophia Ricco

Local poet Jo Geluso debuts her newest book of poetry “Storyteller.” Long Islander News Photo/Sophia Ricco

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

With a knack for recollection and getting to the root of a story, local poet Jo Geluso has debuted her sixth book, “Storyteller.”

The book of poems comes directly from the mind of Geluso, who shares personal tales, memories and her love of nature. Born in 1921, she brings readers back to a simpler time of childhood. The 97-year old poet credits her grandfather for teaching her the art of storytelling.

“I was only four when grandpa started to tell me stories in Sicilian. He told me all these stories, because my grandparents brought us up,” Geluso said.

Geluso recalls the summer of 1934 and trips to a sweet shop. “This summer is special, I am 11,” and her favorite, “butterfly cupcakes.” What distinguishes the past is the joy she finds in choosing whatever scrumptious sweet she likes with the nickel she was given.

“I don’t know why I write, I just love to read and write. But I spend most of my time with poetry,” Geluso said. “I can’t explain how, why, when or where. I was 80 years old and I had never written a word of poetry, but decided to start.”

Her work reflects a deep love for the natural elements of the world, with many poems going into great detail to describe creatures and plants. She enjoys making readers think by portraying an object with words, before telling them what it is.

Geluso blends her Sicilian heritage with this style in the poem “Get to Know Me.” She writes, “Sicilians always welcome me into their kitchens, they appreciate my distinct flavor, my spicy bouquet. Food stout enough to partner with me, create an inspired fare...” revealing at the end that it is fennel.

Although, Geluso considers her work poetry, she does not think of herself as a poet, but rather a storyteller like her grandfather.

“I think, a poet takes a lot of time going through a poem time and time again, and changes it,” Geluso said. “I just write it the way I feel it and don’t change it.”

Geluso’s process for writing involves taking in her observations of the world and telling them honestly. She brings readers on a journey in “Way Home,” writing “dusk ebbs to dark, walk familiar path, stone walls along the way, my companions at gloaming, pink sass peaks, valley vanishes. owls glide, like sighs of wind, quiet as deep of night, dark leaves time behind, I am home.”

“The reason so many people like my poetry, well what they’ve told me, is they like that they don’t have to look up a word,” Geluso said. “I tell it like it is. I write it as if I’ve got a friend sitting in the chair of my living room and I’m telling a story.”

The book’s foreword, written by Maryanne Napoli, encapsulates the work.

“The memories Jo serves up in each of her poems transports us to a time when life was simple and sweet.”

“Storyteller” can be purchased on Amazon.

Celebrating Military's Most Decorated Dog

“Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” tells the story of how a stray who dog became a war hero during WWI. A screening of the film at Cinema Arts Centre on May 4 will benefit the American Legion posts and America’s VetDogs.  Photo/Purple Heart Foundation

“Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” tells the story of how a stray who dog became a war hero during WWI. A screening of the film at Cinema Arts Centre on May 4 will benefit the American Legion posts and America’s VetDogs. Photo/Purple Heart Foundation

The story of America’s most decorated military dog is coming to the big screen next week at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington.

Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol spearheaded the screening of the animated film “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” to benefit the Town’s three American Legion Posts- Halesite Post 360, Northport Post 694 and Greenlawn Post 1244- and America’s VetDogs.

“I realized the film’s immense potential to raise funds for our Huntington veterans, and the programs the American Legion runs to benefit the community,” Cergol said.



Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol at the Huntington Animal Shelter with former stray Penelope.

Huntington Councilwoman Joan Cergol at the Huntington Animal Shelter with former stray Penelope.

The movie tells the story of Stubby, a stray rescued by a U.S. soldier training on the eve of World War I to be deployed to Europe. Stubby went on to save countless lives in the trenches of France and received a battlefield promotion to sergeant.

Tickets for the film cost $5 if purchased in advance or $7 at the door, and all proceeds go towards the American Legion and America’s VetDogs.

America’s Vetdogs trains and places service dogs with veterans who suffer from a variety of disabilities. VetDogs will be bringing one of its ambassador dogs to the Cinema Arts Centre for the event.

All three screens at the Cinema Arts Centre will be showing “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” on May 4. Doors open at 9 a.m. for the event, and the movie starts at 10 a.m.

Country Star Billy Currington Sets Shows

Country music singer Billy Currington plays back-to-back nights at The Paramount in May.    adobe.c

Country music singer Billy Currington plays back-to-back nights at The Paramount in May. adobe.c

By Connor Beach
cbeach@longislandergroup.com

Country music singer Billy Currington is set to take the stage on back-to-back nights at The Paramount in Huntington next month highlighting country music’s popularity on Long Island.

Currington, 45, has recorded six albums and 11 singles that have reached the number one spot on Billboard’s Country Music charts since he released his debut album in 2003. His number one hits include “Good Directions,” “People Are Crazy,” “Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer” and “Hey Girl.”

The road to number one started for Currington, as it has for many other country stars, as an 18-year-old in Nashville. He worked pouring concrete and as a personal trainer by day, and at night he played in bars struggling to break onto the scene.

“I was meeting all these songwriters. That led me into singing everybody’s songs. I was doing 10 demos a day,” Currington said. “Before you know it, I started getting deal offers from record labels.”

In 2005 Currington’s second studio album produced two number one hits “Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right” and “Good Directions.” The album’s success marked his place among Nashville’s top country stars.

“It’s like you work so many years to get it and you finally got it,” said Currington.

Currington has described his music as a “snapshot” into his life. His music is a mix of upbeat summertime songs and slower ballads that ask questions about life and love.

“Music is a snapshot of people’s lives and most of all, I want to leave people in a happy place,” he said.

Although it has been more than 15 years since Currington recorded his debut album, he said his goals have remained the same.

“Whether they’re sitting on a beach or they’re walking around their house or cleaning their house or whatever. Wherever they’re at listening, I want to leave them with a happy and peaceful feeling.”

Currington is scheduled to perform two shows at The Paramount on May 9 and May 10. Doors open at 7 p.m. for both 8 p.m. shows. Tickets for both shows range from $39.50-$85, and can be purchased at the box office or online at Paramountny.com.

Photographer Explores Abandoned Places

Photographer Paul Mele captures the abandoned in his exhibit, “In Absentia,” on display at fotofoto gallery.  Photos/Paul Mele

Photographer Paul Mele captures the abandoned in his exhibit, “In Absentia,” on display at fotofoto gallery. Photos/Paul Mele

By Sophia Ricco
sricco@longislandergroup.com

Items kept sacred can say many things about a person, but what about the pieces that are left behind? What stories can they tell?

Photographer Paul Mele explores what the forsaken have to say in a new exhibit, “In Absentia,” on display at fotofoto gallery, April 24 through May 18.

The Island Park native has pursued photography for the past 10 years. This is his fourth exhibit at the gallery.

Mele has previously shown photographs of the abandoned Kings Park Psychiatric Center.

“I’ve always had a fascination with abandoned areas and hospitals. This time I decided instead of focusing on the actual building I would focus on what was left behind by people,” Mele said.

Venturing to upstate New York and Connecticut, Mele spent months wandering through old hospitals and living facilities. What he found was an assortment of discarded oddities from desks to TVs to shower curtains to porcelain tubs.

“School's Out”  Photo/Paul Mele

“School's Out” Photo/Paul Mele

“It’s all just remnants of what’s left behind ” Mele said.

A landscape photographer, Mele believes this project is a different form of landscape that puts greater focus on objects while still capturing the surroundings. The elements in his photographs are quite literal and don’t require further interpretation, he said. A smashed television is really just that, but it invites viewers to explore deeper.

“To me, it’s more about the light, the place, the objects, what was left behind and putting your own interpretation about why it was left behind,” Mele said.

While shooting, Mele was at the mercy of the rooms, relying on them to provide him natural light and an intriguing setting. Even the way an item was left is part of Mele’s exploration of the past’s presence. Desks splayed in every direction say much more than desks perfectly arranged in rows.

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night?”  Photo/Paul Mele

“Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” Photo/Paul Mele

 “I didn’t alter anything, I didn’t move anything,” Mele said. “Whatever was found was exactly the way it was found. Nothing was staged.”

In the past, Mele left his work without titles. He felt these photographs deserved differentiation.

“I actually started using song titles, because music is a big influence in my life,” Mele said. “I’m trying to find song titles, that to me, maybe not so much with the matter of the song, but to me goes along with the picture I’m looking at. It can be open to interpretation to however you want to look at it.”

Mele ponders why these buildings were shut down and no one ever came in to clean them up. Although, he may never know, Mele was able to explore these strangers’ lives through his lens. To accompany the exhibit name, Mele chose the quote, “While the person involved is not present”.

“This Work Is Timeless”  Photo/Paul Mele

“This Work Is Timeless” Photo/Paul Mele

 “When I was present, all of these people were not but I found the things they left behind and decided not to keep,” Mele said. “In the reversal, I was not there when these people were living there and using these things. I feel, it’s the past talking to the present and the present talking to the past, in duality.”

An artist reception will be held this Saturday, April 27, 5-7 p.m. at fotofoto gallery, 14 W Carver St, Huntington.