Southampton Center Offers Diverse Summer Arts Programs

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New life has been breathed into the historic building that formerly housed the Parrish Art Museum on Jobs Lane. The Southampton Center, in its inaugural summer, will host an abundance of free art programs.

The project, a collaboration between multiple organizations—such as the Hamptons International Film Festival, Goat on a Boat Puppet Theatre and Lincoln Center, among others, as well as Southampton Town—will deliver a diverse slate of arts and cultural programming over the season. The months of July and August are already fully booked with presentations of films, music, lectures, live performances, the visual arts and children’s activities.

J. Whitney Stevens, the Southampton Center Board Chair, as well as the Chairperson of the New York Foundation for the Arts, has been a driving force behind the repurposing and reuse of the original art museum. But her work is not yet done, she said.

“Our goal is not to be a producing organization, but instead to partner with the many organizations out there,” Ms. Stevens said during a telephone interview last week. “We are trying to leverage a partnership model with those interested in the Southampton audience, and to partner with all these different organizations and gain access to the amazing work they are doing.”

The collaboration between the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) and the Southampton Center is a series called “FILM,” which will include screenings of classic favorites and select independent cinema before the films are released in theaters.

On Friday nights, from July 12 through August 23, films will be shown outdoors. Theatergoers are encouraged to bring blankets, beach chairs and refreshments those nights. Independent films will be shown indoors on select Saturday nights throughout the summer.

HIFF Artistic Director David Nugent and independent film curator, Tom Hall, selected the movies to be shown for the FILM series.

Mr. Nugent, who brings the backing of HIFF with him, said he believes that the partnership between the Southampton Center and his organization will be good for everyone.

“We have a built-in infrastructure, we have been around for 20 years,” he said of HIFF. “They’re just starting and have a lot of energy. I think that working together will be mutually beneficial.”

Some of the notable screenings during the FILM series will be “Chasing Ice,” the story of a National Geographic photographer who used time-lapse photography to document the world’s changing glaciers; “Wreck-It Ralph,” the family-friendly Disney film about a video game villain who wants to be a hero; and the classic summer thriller “Jaws,” starring Roy Scheider.

Additionally, the Southampton Center will host a variety of cultural programming, including a performance by the Brooklyn Ballet, a bicycle drawing and beat-box workshop, and an interactive jazz performance by drummer Bryan Carter presented by Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Coming up, on Saturday July 13, there will be a “Bearing Witness: Art and Climate Change” panel discussion about climate change and the artistic community’s responsibility to document the planet’s environmental challenges.

Creating a multidisciplinary venue was always Ms. Stevens’s vision for Southampton Center, she said. And continuing to broaden the artistic horizons of the East End is the end-goal.

“We want to offer a cross-cultural arts program targeting many different audiences, so as a consequence you will see a pretty broad range of programming,” she said. “The idea of creating a new venue is fundamental to the artistic process. At some level, art becomes art when it has an audience and when that audience interacts with it.”

Building a local audience and the support of residents is fundamental to the success of the Southampton Center. All events in the debut summer are free in order to do just that, Ms. Stevens reported. But the ultimate goal will be to charge admission so that the center can run on its own for the long term.

“This summer what we wanted to do was open the doors and kick off our first season. We have some very generous folks supporting these efforts and our goal was to get under way, open our doors and start what we hope to be a very long relationship with the village,” Ms. Stevens said.

The village administration feels the same way about the project, according to Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley. He and others have worked hand-in-hand with the Southampton Center to provide a cultural outlet for the community.

“I’m very pleased with this summer’s programming; we’re taking baby steps with the organization,” Mayor Epley said. “It’s really a long-term process for us. The key component is we have to create a very successful facility. It’s in the heart of Southampton and needs to become a destination.”

For more information about summer programming and details on events visit southamptoncenter.org.

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