Somebody knew Marna Schoenwald was back in town. Rich Rivkin knew. Somehow. But Schoenwald didn't even know Rivkin before she answered his out-of-the-blue email inviting her to something called Live Fusion. A painter, Schoenwald had never thought of painting at a bar before. With a live band. With 10 or 12 other artists.
On Sunday, at Rivkin's inaugural Long Island Sound & Art Festival at Centerport's Vanderbilt Museum, she will be painting outdoors in front of a live audience and five live bands -- one at a time, of course -- with nearly 100 other artists.
Sound & Art is Rivkin's live music successor to the low-key Elwoodstock Festival he staged in Elwood -- where else? -- from 2000 to 2010. But the event ran into permit issues. Rivkin, 55, who plays conga drums when he isn't running his Enviro-Disposal Group company, needed an inspiration for a new festival. He turned to his son, Eric, now 18. Why not bring together live music and live painting? "A great idea," Rivkin said of his son's brainstorm. Having played in his Jazz Collective band, he knew plenty of musicians. But where to find the artists? He started recruiting among artists who knew other artists. One of them knew that Marna Schoenwald was back in town.
"I'd been away for quite some time," she says. "And I get this email saying, 'Come on down and paint.' It's an amazing scene. You just feel so energized by the music" -- it's usually jazz fusion with lots of percussion -- "and the other artists. I never thought I could paint something in an hour and a half, but the energy drives the speed at which you paint. Sometimes I do two in one night," says Schoenwald. Through Live Fusion, which happens every Wednesday night at 841 East Lounge, just east of Huntington, she's sold one painting and made a connection with the Art League of Long Island.
Describing her painting -- usually acrylic -- as spiritually influenced abstracts, Schoenwald says she's influenced by the music and the painters working next to her. In her show at David Ryan Salon in Hell's Kitchen (429 W. 46th St.), she says, "You can tell the ones I did at Live Fusion from the ones I painted at home. The flow is different -- freer, bolder, braver."
Long Island Sound & Art is the first of seven music and art festivals Rivkin is putting on at his expense this summer and early fall -- all free, except for the parking fee ($7) at the Vanderbilt. Five bands will play, starting from about 1 p.m. till dusk Sunday on the Great Lawn of the Vanderbilt, with its view of Northport Harbor. Besides Fusion Collective, the lineup includes the Ken Talve Trio (more jazz fusion), Reckoning (Grateful Dead tribute band), Kelly Project (world beat), Cindy Lopez Duo (jazzy blues) and Dr. Overtone (folk). Internet broadcaster Tim Connolly, emcee emeritus of Elwoodstock, plays host for the summer festival series.
"It's my gift to the community," says Rivkin, who lives and works in Greenlawn. But Rivkin admits to getting something out of throwing a festival. It's his chance to play conga in front of a big crowd. "Hopefully, we'll have 500 or 600 people," he says.
INFO 631-261-2941, lisoundfestival.com
ADMISSION $7 parking
Live Art Fusion Festival noon, July 8, Heckscher Park, Huntington
Live Art Fusion Festival noon, Sept. 23, Heckscher Park