Who is art for? How do we make it a more meaningful and accessible experience? These are some of the burning questions to discuss at the Beach Fire series at the Sound View in Greenport. Just pull up a chair around a crackling fire pit on the beach as the sunset turns the Sound a blaze of golden hues and join in the conversation.
The free, Sunday night gatherings, which are capped at 20 people, are first come, first serve and feature artists, collectors and curators engaging in fireside chats with anyone curious or passionate about art.
“It’s about people coming together,” said Brian Gorman, curator of the Beach Fire series and a managing partner of creative agency Army of Moon People, “and how sharing opinions can change their lives and the lives of those around them.”
Though many associate the high-flying art collecting crowd with the Hamptons, the North Fork has become an artist destination, attracting the likes of Lisa Yuskavage, Elizabeth Peyton, T.J. Wilcox, John Currin and Rachel Feinstein and Chelsea gallerists like Barbara Gladstone.
“The North Fork has always beaten its own path,” said the Brooklyn-based Gorman, who spent many summers at his parents’ house in Orient. “Greenport used to be a biker town. Einstein lived in Southold [in the summer of 1939]. There are diverse ways of thinking, being and expressing yourself here. Being an individual is always prioritized; people here have always had room to step out of their lane.”
It was Sound View hotelier Erik Warner who was the brainchild of the series and encouraged Gorman to foster an arts community.
“Most hoteliers wouldn’t understand the value of doing something like this just for the good of the community,” said Gorman. “When we started, we were responding to the void we’ve all been feeling during the pandemic.”
While city dwellers up and relocated to the North Fork during lockdown, many still felt isolated.
“It felt like it was needed,” said Warner. “In periods of fear and uncertainty, I was led to a desire to do more for the places and communities that I felt protected and cared for in.”
Why the arts?
“Artists often lead the charge in new ways of thinking and better ways of existing,” said Warner. “It’s like they are compelled to find and share meaning. I needed and sought to find more meaning for myself, to create more meaning for family, my friends, and my community.”
And there’s no better universal language “to connect, and [help people] experience something in a way that is inspirational and attainable” than art.
So far, his desire to stoke community through the arts is resonating.
In just five weeks, the series has attracted regulars both near and far, from docents at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the city to local curators. Last Sunday legendary New York gallerist Gracie Mansion was part of the small circle that sat rapt as Eric Shiner, former director of the Andy Warhol Museum, held court and regaled guests with stories gleaned from his years there and as executive director of Pioneer Works in Brooklyn and artistic director of White Cube gallery in New York.
Other speakers have included visual artist and photographer Nona Faustine, whose work explores what it means to be a black woman in America, and Brendan Fernandez, a Canadian performance artist of Kenyan and Indian descent who teaches art theory at Northwestern University.
This Sunday, October 3, artist Jonathan Rosen will discuss NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which have thrown art collecting on its head because the work can only be viewed digitally. Though the conversation is bound to be heated, Gorman advises layering up, though he’ll provide blankets for guests. He intends to keep these talks outdoors for as long as he can, as he welcomes speakers like actors and designer Waris Ahluwalia, who’s appeared in Spike Lee and Wes Anderson films and designed Kenzo and Gucci, architect Stephanie Goto, whose commissions include the Calder Foundation and New York gallery Hauser & Wirth.
“The key is that it maintains that intimate community feeling,” says Gorman.
Registration is recommended; book tickets online starting the Thursday before the event. The Sound View is located at 57185 Sound Avenue, Greenport.