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Do you know that feeling when something is so off, so wrong, but you cannot — I repeat — cannot laugh? You try so hard to control every muscle in your face so that you don’t burst out in tears of laughter, clenching your jaw just to make it through that moment.

That face is the one I recall looking back at me at my fourth grade NYSSMA (New York State School Music Association) conference as I attempted to play the flute in front of a panel of judges.

Was it the tuning? Was it the sheet music? Was it just me?

In those minutes that lagged for an eternity, I remember thinking that maybe a melodic knack wasn’t meant to be mine. To be honest, I was okay with it. Closing that musical chapter felt like a relief — and I’m sure the flute felt it too.

But just because I personally couldn’t create didn’t mean that I wasn’t drawn to the creative. From the ballet to art gallery openings to nearly majoring in music business, I’ve always loved being surrounded by the arts.

When my husband and I first decided to move to the North Fork, I inaccurately assumed I’d have to leave my love for the creative world behind only to visit it via Hampton Jitney. But I was wrong, and looking back, I’m not sure how I could have considered a lack thereof when surrounding us is this incredible and unique landscape that’s inescapably inspiring.

Dotted with artists, sculptors, photographers, designers, painters, musicians, creators and curators, the North Fork couldn’t be more decorated by creative professionals and our community is better for it.

In this issue, reporter Victoria Caruso interviews five artists that are inspired by the natural landscapes of the East End, marrying art and nature into beautiful packages. She also spoke with Emily Demarchelier as she worked to answer the question “Is hospitality an art?”

Nicholas Grasso pushed us to rethink classical music with his story on the Rites of Spring Music Festival produced by classical pianist and composer Paolo Bartolani. These concerts are not limited to a stage but instead performed within the East End’s natural landscapes and structures.

In these pages, you’ll also have the opportunity to view public art installations and murals without ever leaving your couch and spend a day in the life with North Fork Community Theatre director Robert Horn.

When it comes to art, we all have our go-to’s: the places, people and sounds that we return to time after time like creatures of comfort, but I hope this issue expands your horizons, invites you to step into and explore a new space and inspires you to admire a creative unfamiliar to you before.

Oh, and if you’re wondering what happened to the flute, we sold it that spring at our family’s yard sale for 45 bucks. After all, it seemed ready for its next creative journey too.

— Michelina Da Fonte, Content Director