THE CENTER OF IT ALL
NOW IN ITS FIFTH SEASON, THE SOUTHAMPTON ARTS CENTER IS SATIATING THE APPETITES OF ART-HUNGRY HAMPTONITES. BY CARRIE DOYLE
Now in its fifth season, the Southampton Arts Center is satiating the appetites of art-hungry Hamptonites.
Back in 2010, when assorted members of the Southampton community decided to convert the 15,000-square-foot building that had housed the departing Parrish Art Museum into a cultural center, there were more than a few skeptics. But the group, led by Mayor Mark Epley, persevered, and today the Southampton Arts Center is celebrating its fifth year and offering 120 programs that appeal to people of all ages and demographics.
“We didn’t want it to become another Rite Aid,” says Simone Levinson, one of the center’s cofounding chairs and now a cochair of its board of directors, about the landmarked building in the heart of Southampton Village, an area she has called home for 40 years. “We wanted a cultural restoration of our village and to provide some kind of stimulation for the community and boost the economy.”
Clearly there was an appetite for the programming that SAC offers—art exhibits, live music, Friday film nights (in collaboration with the Hamptons International Film Festival), and much more. The center also has programming partnerships with the International Center of Photography, the New York Academy of Art, Bay Street Theater, and Goat on a Boat Puppet Theatre, among other organizations.
“On opening night in 2012, there were 600 to 800 people there for the launch,” Levinson recalls. “I turned to David Michalek, one of the artists whose
exhibits we had up, and said, ‘This is what impossible looks like. I’ve been told for two years that this is impossible, so now I know, this is what it looks like.’ It was a great moment. We’ve gone from skepticism and resignation to an abundance of gratitude. Our first season we had 10,000 people come through our doors; last year we had 35,000 people come through our doors. We are a great illustration of the little engine that could.”
Indeed, SAC continues to grow and expand its reach and is now open year-round. “These first four years have set the stage for what is sure to be an incredible fifth season,” says Amy Kirwin, the center’s director of programs. “Our unique approach to programming by partnering with many other institutions and individuals has allowed us to present a diverse lineup of offerings for all ages and interests. Southampton Arts Center is truly the hub of Southampton Village and is becoming one of the most popular destinations for arts and entertainment in the region.”
Levinson, although optimistic, was initially wary of calling SAC a true success. “Success really is sustainable success,” she explains. “I think it was two years ago that I ran into a longstanding Southampton resident and he embraced me and congratulated me for all of the great work. He said, ‘Wow! You’re an institution!’ It only took us three years, and here Southampton is 400 years old and such a great historic village. Let it be so. That was a very humbling moment of confirmation.” 25 Jobs Lane, Southampton, 631-283-0967; southamptonartscenter.org
The Wishing Whale, a sculpture by North Fork artist Cindy Pease Roe, who created it from recycled lobster traps and marine debris while teaching Upsculpt workshops at SAC. right: Eloise and Augustin Zeltmann at a Studio on the Steps kids’ workshop.
Jazz pianist Hector Martignon and trumpeter Randy Brecker perform in April, part of the Live from SAC series. right: The Southampton Arts Center’s iconic 1897 building.