Riverhead is most definitely a real place, but this August it will also be a creative place, where 16 artists chosen for East End Arts’ new jumpstART program will transform downtown with creative placemaking projects aimed at helping the public see Riverhead in a new, creative light.
The project will kick off on Aug. 8, East End Arts Executive Director Pat Snyder told the Riverhead Town Board at a work session May 15. Five of the jumpstART artists joined her to explain their plans to the town board.
Artists selected for the program have been involved in workshops since the beginning of the year, learning about marketing and fundraising for their projects, and getting first-hand experience in turning public art ideas into reality.
Lorraine Angeletti of Middle Island and Tina Folks of Westhampton are planning to build a medicine wheel behind East End Arts’ School of the Arts, a circle of hands-on activities “using universal symbols to bring people closer to the divine,” said Ms. Angeletti.
Yogis who are holding their bodies still in the tree posture will be a part of the circle, which honors spiritual traditions from around the world.
In the evening, they plan to have a small bonfire in the center of the circle, with a fire ceremony, drummers, chanting and poetry.
Kristina Howard of Center Moriches plans to make a storefront look like a giant fishbowl, filled with elaborately painted horseshoe crabs, which would be under black lights at night to highlight the display’s magical, crazy shadows.
She brought one of her horseshoe crabs to show the town board, prompting Town Supervisor Sean Walter to warn her against “distracting the town board with shiny objects.”
Ginger Hendler of Glen Head plans to display a 17.5-foot tall painting on an unstretched canvas in the storefront that was once McCabe’s office supply store and was then the Dinosaur Walk Museum.
She said her piece, on the peaceable animal kingdom, would be perfect for the storefront “if any reptiles are waiting to come out.” On the day of the display, she plans to organize an act of performance art in which artists carry peace flags down the street and plant them in the community garden at the west end of town.
“I call it Gingerella’s Peaceable Planet Project,” she said.
Ms. Hendler apologized for never having been to Riverhead before, but Mr. Walter told her not to worry. He’s never been to Glen Head before either.
Caitlyn Shea of Melville showed attendees her Kickstarter video for a project involving a unique process in which birds and flowers are painted on a special paper that can be used as a sort of house-wrap over brick walls, which she plans to use to create huge murals along the sides of downtown buildings.
“I know it is going to have a huge impact,” she said. “It will make the residents feel like they’re part of a place that is cared for.”
She said the Suffolk Theater and the Long Island Science Center have already expressed interest in her project.
Councilman John Dunleavy, a former police officer, was pretty impressed by her creative process.
“When you draw birds, do you use your imagination or a picture?” he asked. “To be a painter, you need to have some imagination.”
Jessica Valentin of Oakdale is working on a project that she hopes will make everyone who comes downtown feel like royalty for a day.
“We are all kings and queens and should treat each other as such,” she said.
Her project involves placing silhouettes of crowns from many different kingdoms all over the world on buildings throughout downtown Riverhead, placed just above head level so that people can take photographs of themselves and share them using hashtags on Twitter. She also hopes businesses on Main Street will allow her to install thrones for the day where people can take selfies of themselves holding court.
Mr. Dunleavy said he just learned what the word “selfie” means. Mr. Walter admitted he has no idea what a hashtag is. But they both agreed that the arts are a great thing for downtown Riverhead.
“I’ll tell you something with you artists,” said Mr. Dunleavy. “I haven’t seen anything you’ve done that isn’t time consuming. You all have patience.”
Ms. Snyder said East End Arts plans to round out the program by putting musicians in little pocket areas around town through the duration of the festivities.
More information on the jumpstART program is online here.