A Conversation with April Gornik

April Gornik
April Gornik.
April Gornik
April Gornik

The renowned painter, and North Haven resident, talks about the Sag Harbor Partnership’s benefit event, The Big Tent: Party for the Park.

By Lindsay Andarakis

Whose idea was the Big Tent Party for the Park?

Well, over a year ago, I think our Sag Harbor Partnership Board President, Susan Mead said, wouldn’t it be great to have a big outdoor party, an open table event, but on the dock? It was just kind of a dream, and it was about a year ago that we started talking about what if we were to see if we could use Bay Street’s tent and do a massive party for a fundraiser. When the whole possibility of the waterfront park started to be clearer and clearer, it was obvious that the mayor and the board of trustees were going to bat for it, we thought we should see if we could use it for a fundraiser for the park. But we also wanted it to be a community friendly, community wide, community-building event. We wanted it to be available for everybody to come. So instead of becoming this massive fundraising undertaking, it’s more like a massive community celebration in support of Sag Harbor. We’re not paying for the park — there’s been some misconception about this and I hope people will understand that we’re not trying to pay for the park — we’re trying to support the mayor and we hope that we can pay for a boardwalk and some signage. There are also fantastic water-treatment, water-remediation aspects that [landscape designer] Ed Hollander has worked into his design that’s very ecological and it takes the health of the bays and our waterfront into account. We just happen to have a fund and we just want to be part of the effort to create the park.

Where will the party be held?

The event is going to be on Long Wharf itself. It’s going to be in a 240 foot tent that Bay Street Theater uses every year for its gala, and it’s going to include a Taste of Sag Harbor, with a couple dozen restaurants, most of the restaurants in town are contributing to a Taste of Sag Harbor style food event, and then we have the Sag Harbor Fire Department bringing their grills, so we’re going to have a BBQ component, and Cromer’s and the Corner Bar are donating hamburger meat, and Wölffer, Channing, and Bedell are donating wine, Sweet’tauk Lemonade is donating lemonade, Clamrake Lager Beer is donating beer. The HooDoo loungers are playing. This is a family friendly event, so we’ll have face painting for children, giant bubble blowing, Liz Joyce from Goat on a Boat is bringing her team and is going to work with children.

What is it about the concept of this park that has gotten so much support?

I’ve had the most instantaneous reaction of support to this project of any that I’ve been involved in in this village. I think everyone wants to see the land there be a park and be for everyone, and it’s a project that everyone instantly recognizes as a legacy project for generations to come.

How did you design this event to be inclusive to the community?

The ticket price is $50 for adults and $10 for children under 16 in advance, and then it’ll be $60 and $15 at the door. We specifically wanted everyone to be able to come and celebrate this endeavor on the part of the village.

Were all the works of art donated?

Yes, all the works of art are donated outright, and in a few cases, we will be reimbursing artists for production costs or framing, but the work is all donated. There’s a small percentage that we have to pay to Paddle 8, but it’s worth it because they get the word out to a much wider range of collectors, they have hundreds of thousands of collectors that do access it online. In other benefits that I’ve done, I’ve used them before and they have a good percentage charity rate so, we’ll definitely be making more money to donate using them.

Can people bid on the art at the event?

They can do it now online, and it’s a good idea to get a bid in now in case you get distracted. One important component of this in terms of wanting this to be a community wide event is that we also want people to celebrate the Village of Sag Harbor; we want them to be on Main Street during the day, and we want them to wander around and discover stores they might not see and that’s also why you’ll see in a lot of stores a sticker that says proud to be part of The Party for the Big Tent, Come See What’s in Store. The thinking behind that is that we want people to go into stores and discover that there might be a raffle, there might be a silent auction, there might be a discount — and that’s to get people to discover the full breadth of what’s going on in this village…We will have the art on display from 2 to 8 p.m. at all of the galleries in Sag Harbor. People can bid at the galleries and we’ll also have a slideshow going in the tent with the works of art and there will be two Paddle 8 representatives there that’ll be able to take bids right in the tent.

What can you tell me about the Sag Harbor In Focus contest?

In talking to my husband Eric Fischl about the party and wanting it to be inclusive, I was saying to him I really wish that there were some way we could involve the Sag Harbor schools. He said why don’t we do a photo contest? Kids could use their iPhones or whatever they use to take photos and I’ll judge them and I’ll ask Ralph Gibson to judge them — he’s one of the most famous photographers in the world — so it’s kind of a cool thing for the kids to be able to do that. We made up ten categories of things that were about Sag Harbor like history, “Life on the Street,” “Journalism,” “Selfie,” “Portrait,” etc. and there were over 500 entries. Eric said he was just beyond impressed with the quality. Eric has offered to put up $100 for each category, so now it’s 11 categories, the work is going to be on view at Dodds & Eder starting July 7. The work will be for sale for $100 a picture, which is pretty reasonable.

The Big Tent: Party for the Park will be held on Sunday, July 10 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Long Wharf in Sag Harbor. For more information, or tickets, visit sagharborpartnership.org.