There’s strength in numbers, and when it comes to the Hamptons Arts Network, the key number is 19. That’s how many South Fork arts and cultural organizations have partnered up to promote a collective, regional message: they are all vibrant, local non-profits that have a lot to offer the community in terms of arts programming and resources.
Forget the idea that they often find themselves competing with each other for patrons on particular afternoons, evenings or weekends.
Venues such as Guild Hall, Bay Street Theater, Parrish Art Museum, Southampton Arts Center, Southampton Cultural Center, LongHouse Reserve and Madoo Conservancy have decided to cooperate on “creative placemaking.” That’s a buzzword in the world of grant writing that means, according to Guild Hall executive director Andrea Grover, that an area “has something that attracts and retains people.”
“Beaches are great. Retail, fantastic,” she said at a Hamptons Arts Network (HAN) mixer last Wednesday. “But the arts are what really give the community its soul. We’re all coming together and working to make the Hamptons arts community stronger.”
HAN members started meeting informally in December of 2016 with just a handful of people sharing ideas over a few drinks at Baron’s Cove.
Alejandro Saralegui, executive director of the Madoo Conservancy, said one of the goals is to start changing the dominant perception of the Hamptons as a celebrity-studded party and beach scene and start promoting the region as a diverse cultural destination unto itself.
“Quite a bit is going on, and it’s not just 19th century or Jackson Pollock or the 1970s with Bob Dash,” Saralegui said. “It’s really very alive today in film, the performing arts, in painting and sculpture and all sorts of things. We’ve got all of these great institutions and we wanted to highlight them.”
From these informal meetings idea came HAN, and now from HAN comes what Grover described as an experiment: The Hamptons Arts Weekend Festival – or THAW Fest, for short. From March 23 through March 25, all 19 of HAN’s arts and cultural organizations will offer some sort of program, show, exhibit, tour, screening or workshop – more than 50 events in all. Grover said the concept came first and the catchy acronym, however timely around the spring equinox, came second.
“This is the wave of the future, working together in this way,” she said. “It’s very 21st century. Instead of competing with each other, we’re actually growing stronger together. In the future, we may apply for grants together. Wouldn’t it be amazing to host a single exhibition that is at multiple venues?”
In addition to those mentioned above, the 19 member organizations also include the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, Dia: Dan Flavin Art Institute, the East Hampton Historical Society, the Eastville Community Historical Society, the Hamptons International Film Festival, the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival, the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, the Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center and Museum, the Southampton African American Museum, the Southampton Historical Museum, the Watermill Center and the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center.
A color-coded brochure listing all 19 organizations’ THAW Fest programming is available at hamptonsartsnetwork.org.
The group has also commissioned a study of the collective economic impact of these organizations on the South Fork towns and villages. Amy Kirwin, director of programs at the Southampton Arts Center, said one of HAN’s goals is to also encourage patrons take advantage of local restaurants, hotels and inns, shops and other businesses.
Saralegui said HAN’s members anticipate “working together and helping each other in lots of different ways, whether it’s government, philanthropy, capital improvement, advertising. I think we’ll be a much stronger arts community with this sort of institution.”
Dr. Georgette Grier-Key, executive director of the Eastville Community Historical Society, said HAN also bridges gaps.
“We’re bringing all cultures together,” she said. “We are a very diverse community out here, and it shows in our organization.”