Spring is a time of renewal, and, for some of Long Island's museums, reopening. Recent changes in health guidelines have allowed many arts institutions to start welcoming visitors back, and for some, the changes couldn't have come soon enough.
Don't expect crowded receptions and lots of fanfare, though. With masks mandatory and shortened hours, these are tentative steps towards normality. Some local museums such as the Nassau County Museum, the Heckscher Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Long Island and Guild Hall have been open for months presenting new exhibitions, but limiting numbers of visitors. The Islip Art Museum hopes to reopen soon, and Hofstra University's Emily Lowe Gallery is planning exhibitions for the fall. But for The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook and the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, March was the right time.
"I think people will have a great experience. They have two brand-new things to see, and the Carriage Museum and historic structures are old favorites they'll also enjoy," said Joshua Ruff, deputy director of the Long Island Museum, which reopened March 19.
A DOUBLE DOSE OF ART
"Artists Abroad" offers glimpses from around the world by renowned artists like Louis Comfort Tiffany and Wolf Kahn. "Twin Peeks" features landscape paintings from the 19th to 21st centuries placed next to contemporary photographs taken from the same vantage point. The exhibition was an idea born from necessity, curiosity and creativity, and, as such, speaks well to this past year.
Ruff recalled an "aha" moment as he drove past Setauket Harbor. There, in front of him was the exact place he recognized from museum artworks. He decided to find some of those landscapes, photograph them and see what had changed. He spent months and put thousands of miles on his odometer as he went from Montauk to Manhattan and Mamaroneck. "I've been everywhere," Ruff admitted with a chuckle. "A photograph is not a painting, but looking at the two together side-by-side, I think, is an interesting exercise."
Meanwhile, the museum's educational programs, concerts and other events are opening under a hybrid approach. Some will be in-person, some virtual, and others will combine both. "Twin Peeks" is a good example. Just less than half of the exhibition is available online, but to see all 58 pairings, you'll have to head in.
Also working in new ways while welcoming visitors back is the Parrish Art Museum, where galleries reopened on March 12 after closing temporarily in January. "It was an elective closure, based on health and safety," said interim director, Chris Siefert.
They decided to reopen for the Parrish's annual student exhibition, featuring works by more than 600 area schoolkids. "We wanted to do something to pay homage to our community partnerships and our relationships. I am amazed and so inspired," he added, "by what the students have produced."
"Salon Series" concerts will resume live performances, but streamed to audiences. Both online and in-person classes and workshops are operating, and visitors to the Parrish have been enjoying the 14-acre sculpture park, "Field of Dreams," which opened in late summer.
Even in the coldest months, with snow dusting works by world-class artists like Theaster Gates, Jim Dine and Isa Genzken, people came out for once-a-month tours led by curator Alicia Longwell and docents. "From the response we got, we learned a lot," Siefert said. "People were really hoping that we could bring art and culture back into their lives."
Along with the student show are selections from the collection, including recently acquired works by East End artist/humorist, Saul Steinberg, and "Material Witness" an exhibition built around "Sentinel" a 2019 sculpture by Brooklyn-based Simone Leigh, the first Black woman chosen to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale, scheduled for 2022. Leigh's sculptures combine monumental imagery of Black women with architectural forms, referencing shelter and strength in evocative, mysterious ways. In May, look for "Affinities for Abstraction" celebrating 50 years' worth of abstractions by women.
"That's an exciting exhibition for us," said Siefert, adding, "The museum has been through a lot. It's nice to see a light at the end of the tunnel."
WHAT "Twin Peeks: Scenes Seen Twice, Paintings & Photographs " and "Artists Abroad"
WHEN | WHERE Through Aug. 1, 12-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday, The Long Island Museum, 1200 Rte. 25A, Stony Brook
INFO $10, $7 seniors, $5 students, free ages 5 and younger; 631-751-0066, longislandmuseum.org
WHAT "2021 Student Exhibition" "Material Witness" "Field of Dreams" and Selections from the collection
WHEN | WHERE Student's Show, through April 18, others through 2021, 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Friday-Monday, Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill
INFO $12, $9 seniors, free ages 17 and younger (sculpture grounds free during museum hours); 631-283-2118, parrishart.org