Better days are ahead, say Marianne Della Croce, left, executive...

Better days are ahead, say Marianne Della Croce, left, executive director of the Art League of Long Island, and president Janette Simms, after fundraising efforts led the league to resume programs after closing in the early days of the pandemic. Credit: Danielle Silverman

The Art League of Long Island has reemerged to do what it did back before the pandemic pushed it to financial brink: offering classes and cultural opportunities for anyone with a creative streak.

A full slate of art classes and programs are being offered at the two-story, 17,112-square-foot building at 107 E. Deer Park Rd. in Dix Hills. Through the middle of October, the league is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.

Surviving the bleak financial outlook brought on by the pandemic has been a journey, but league officials said they are now on the road to recovery.

Just over two years ago, the nonprofit, founded in 1955, put its Dix Hills headquarters on the market after closing in March 2020 during the coronavirus shutdown. Revenue, 75% of which came from tuition, the rest from donations, memberships, exhibits and gallery rentals, soon dried up. The league was used to fundraising so they asked for help from Long Island's arts community and other supporters.

The answers came in a flood of financial donations to a fundraising effort led by then-executive director Charlee M. Miller.

“She was able to keep the lights on and open the building for classes through the pandemic,” said Marianne Della Croce, executive director of the league since the end of April, referring to Miller's efforts.

“Now that more and more students are comfortable coming back for in-person classes we are able to begin to offer more for them," Della Croce said, "and move forward.”

Every week about 30 classes are offered for both adults and children, according to Della Croce.

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, which began Sept. 15 and continues through Oct. 15, an exhibit featuring the work of artist and Long Island native Diego Garcia will be on display. The league has also teamed up for a free program Oct. 15 with Colored Colors, an organization with a goal of connecting artists and local communities through social and cultural events.

David Peikon, an artist and Art League fine art instructor, said he’s glad the league survived the “unnerving” uncertainty that the pandemic brought.

“It’s great to be up and running again,” he said. “The students are thrilled to be back, I think they all appreciate the place more now having almost lost it.”

Miller had set a goal of raising $100,000 by taking monetary donations, asking students to donate their class credits, and creating an "artist of the day" component through which an artist donates a piece of artwork for auction to benefit the league.

Those efforts raised $102,000 between September 2020 and August 2021, Della Croce said. The league also received federal Paycheck Protection Program loans, one in the amount of $158,500 and the other, $70,893.

Jose Tutiven, founder and executive director of Colored Colors and secretary for the Huntington Arts Council, said the league is an important institution where people can visit, take classes and develop their skills.

“I’m looking forward to their future, not just because we’re partnering with them, but because I see the potential of them being able to offer professional development in an actual institution that focuses on various disciplines,” he said.

Della Croce estimates it will be about three years before the league recovers from its pandemic era financial losses. But she is excited for the future. She said through its classes and programs the league is a community hub.

“I really want people to understand the Art League has something for everyone,” she said. “Whether you are beginner and you want to try something out or you are an expert and you want to take a class with one of our more advanced instructors, there’s a place for you here.”

You Gotta Have Art

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, The Art League of Long Island and Colored Colors will host a day of family-friendly activities on Saturday, Oct. 15, from noon to 6 p.m. at the Art League of Long Island’s Art Center in Dix Hills. This event is free and open to the public. 

Activities include:

  • Amate activities for children
  • Intro to salsa classes
  • Artist Talk and Showcase: Diego Garcia
  • Influencer Panel Talk with Jose Tutiven, Garcia and Suffolk County Legis. Manuel Esteban
  • Artisan and food market

Source: The Art League of Long Island website

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