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

Hamptons Magazine - - Contents -

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.

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