You wouldn't expect to see an art show at a bar.
"I think it's a perfect venue," counters Jim McAleer, 35, who turned out on a recent Sunday evening to admire the work of a local artist on display at The Cortland in Bay Shore. "To be exposed to this, to more artistic things -- it's great stuff," says McAlleer, of North Babylon.
Launched this summer, "Art on Tap" is a new regular affair at The Cortland, a small bar that serves craft beers brewed in New York State. Each month, the venue invites an artist to exhibit on the painted and exposed-brick walls -- and throws a reception for him or her to mingle with patrons.
In Seaford, the Leaky Lifeboat showcases local art. A once run-of-the-mill neighborhood bar has been spruced up and reopened with offbeat drawings and guitars made from cigar boxes. About once a month, the bar hosts an evening that spotlights work by half a dozen or so local artists.
"It adds an urban edge," says bartender Douglas Robinson. Co-owner Eric Finneran of Bellmore agrees: "The reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. The regular customers come frequently and seem to get what we are going for," he says.
Both The Cortland and the Leaky Lifeboat seem to be taking a cue from the wave of hipster bars that have been cropping up in Brooklyn and Manhattan for years. Although small on space, such venues are big on novelty: Patrons at The Cortland munch on popcorn while engaging in battles of rock-paper-scissors. The Leaky Lifeboat runs $1 specials on pints of Pabst Blue Ribbon and hosts a weekly trivia night. Both owners say showcasing local art is just one more way to stay outside the mainstream.
"If this was some giant average sports bar, I couldn't do events like this," says The Cortland's owner, Bobby Gulinello.
ART AS A DRAW
At The Cortland's most recent "Art on Tap" night, Lindenhurst artist Theresa Christensen, 32, displayed Wes Anderson-inspired paintings and vinyl figurines based on the director's movies. Everything was for sale.
Christensen works the room, chatting with friends she invited and others who have knowingly -- and unknowingly -- timed their visit to coincide with the reception.
"I'm a fan of Theresa's work," says Megan Ford, 28, of North Babylon. "I've seen her work online and I came to see it in person."
By the end of the evening, Christensen had sold $1,700 of her work -- money that's all hers to keep. Neither The Cortland nor the Leaky Lifeboat takes a sales commission.
"These shows are always by the artist, for the artist," says Gulinello. "And the artist always gets 100 percent of the proceeds."
Karina Abbaj, of Merrick, was among the featured artists who exhibited in the Leaky Lifeboat's latest "Art Is Hard" event last week.
"I had never been in an art show," says Abbaj, 22, who specializes in upcycled jewelry that she sells at flea markets and craft shows. She was particularly pleased to hear the bar wouldn't expect a split of her sales.
Says Abbaj, "I really love what it stands for."
'Art On Tap'
WHEN|WHERE 4-8 p.m. Oct. 16 at The Cortland, 27 W. Main St, Bay Shore.
INFO 631-206-2220, thecortland.com
ADMISSION No cover charge
Featuring artwork by Ali O'Brien and craft beer by Long Ireland Brewing Co.
'Art Is Hard'
ADMISSION No cover charge
This month's installment will feature Halloween-themed work from local artists.