Poliwoda Takes Charge at the East End Seaport Museum

Barbara Poliwoda outside the East End Seaport Museum. Madison Fender photo

Barbara Poliwoda’s office view offers few complaints. In the heart of the Village of Greenport’s transportation hub, the end point for those traveling by sea, train, and bus, the picturesque backdrop of the harbor fuels the inspiration for the East End Seaport Museum and Foundation where she now serves as executive director. An organization so deeply rooted in the community’s maritime history is the perfect match for her fundraising background, and her general love for the water.

Jumping in feet first with her post officially beginning this past July, Poliwoda is starting from scratch but adding on to the long history of those that have endeavored to make the museum a success. Having worked with the American Heart Association (AHA) as the regional director for 23 years, she brings with her expertise in development, fundraising and implementing programs into the community. While AHA and the museum are different subjects, those same acquired skills can be applied to grow and expand the organization.

“My husband is a fourth generation bayman and my son went to SUNY Maritime College,” shares Poliwoda. “I grew up on the water and I love the whole aspect of everything the museum is about. The history of maritime is so intriguing to me. Greenport is booming and exciting, and I now get to take the expertise I’ve learned and bring it here. And I came at a very busy time.”

With the annual Maritime Festival and the Land and Sea Gala currently filling up Poliwoda’s plate, she also wants to maintain and expand on museum programming. Cornell Cooperative Extension marine program director Chris Pickerell has given talks on shellfish restoration, an important subject that particularly resonates with East Enders. In the short term, she plans to implement additional programs about oysters and how to grow them as well. “Paint Our View” is another event modeled after the popular paint and sip nights, inviting participants to paint the views of Greenport Harbor just behind the museum. John Holzapfel has presented virtual beach walks to educate people about the different types of marine life found on local beaches and will continue to do so in the coming months.

Poliwoda is looking to improve the technology offered at the museum for children’s programs, hoping to add touch screens and even 3D goggles where users can explore life under the sea and old ships from the past to learn about whaling. Lighthouse cruises on Wednesdays and Saturdays will continue to Bug Light, a major area of focus for Poliwoda’s fundraising and development efforts.

“Bug Light, which is so beloved by not just people in this area but visitors from all over, is what really started this,” Poliwoda says of the museum and foundation. “It needs to be maintained and there is a lot of work to do. The board members are very passionate about making all of these efforts successful, and I think they were looking for someone with a lot of fundraising experience to make these things happen.”

Already Poliwoda has helped to expand membership, inviting supporters and the community to be part of public and private events right in the museum. She wants people to come in, share what they love about the village, the types of programs they’re interested in, what they see for the future and ultimately work together to really bring these efforts to fruition while also honoring the local maritime history. She also credits the Village of Greenport trustees and their support of the Maritime Festival to commemorate this rare working waterfront.

Once a prominent whaling and ship building port, Greenport also had served as a major transportation hub in the 19thand 20thcenturies. Its oyster farming history is still alive in the present day. Wooden boats are built at two local shops while several other marinas cater to a number of vessels. Artists are inspired by both land and sea, and have a visual presence in the village. In her new post, Poliwoda endeavors to continue celebrating the area’s past, present, and future.