The Art League of Long Island: All About the Art

The Art League of Long Island: All About the Art


It goes unsaid that for an artist, the Art is the thing.  Regardless of how a sculptor, a painter, or a potter chooses to live out a creative life, the art is always front and center.  Behind that choice, however, is the big job of making it work – the management of the arts.  The studio potter must find a market; the pottery school must recruit a student body; the gallery owner must balance the books.  Things generally move along smoothly with an occasional bump here and there, but late last September, unprecedented rainstorms and historic flooding collided head-on with the Art League of Long Island.  The organization’s management team launched into an emergency response that was buoyed by the artists and the wider community’s determination to keep the Art alive.


Day After Flood

The Art League’s Marketing and Engagement Coordinator, Amy Tischler, describes arriving at the League on the morning of September 30, expecting a typical Saturday of classes.  “We first noticed that there was water all over the floor and that it was coming up through the walls,” she recalls.  The thirty-year old structure is situated in a valley.  This was not the first time water had breached the modular structure, but it was clear that this was a major disaster.  The sheet rock walls were destroyed throughout the building, making the studios, gallery, and offices unusable.  The League’s Executive Director, Marianne Della Croce, acted quickly to cancel upcoming programs and engage a professional service to dry out the facility. 


After Abatement

The fall class schedule had just begun two weeks prior to the flood.  The center hosts a full offering of classes in over a dozen disciplines, along with open studio times.  Tischler, who is also on the faculty as a ceramics instructor, says, “Under Marianne’s (Della Croce) direction, we found alternate spaces at other arts organizations.”  Spirit of Huntington, the Art Department at Nassau Community College, Nassau County Museum of Art, and the Half Hollow Hills and Northport School Districts were some of many who stepped forth.  Even a local car dealership, Empire Mazda of Huntington, hosted an exhibition so that it would not have to be cancelled. 


After the immediate abatement work on the building’s interior, it became clear that a major restoration project was needed.  Drawing on the organization’s reserve, work began immediately, along with a fundraising campaign to offset the cost.  To assure that future heavy rains will not cause similar damage, major work was done on the exterior of the building, including catch basins, foundation curbing, dry wells, and a water dam.  Tischler says, “They ripped up the yard and the parking lot and created a riverbed in the back yard.”  These changes bring the property forward into new ways of thinking about co-existing with the environment and reducing the impact of severe weather events.


Inside, the work brought the spaces back to their original look and function, with a few improvements.  Drywall patching, insulation, and paint was needed throughout.  Spot lighting was added in the drawing studio.  In the ceramic studio, a wall was removed to provide more storage space in the raw materials room.  The local community was active in donating materials and services.  Zurn Industries put in a new trap system in the sinks and Home Depot donated cabinets and countertops for the kitchenette.


Despite the long closure of the facility – over four months – the artist community continued to flourish.  Tischler says, “Classes continued.  We were able to move everything except the wheels for the ceramic students.  In early December, nearly 50 students came into the half-finished facility to glaze the works that had been in progress before the flood.  They were determined!”  When the facility officially reopened in February, following a well-deserved celebration – the Ceramics Department’s annual fundraiser, “Made with Mud; Kissed by Fire,” classes were full.  Tischler says, “The students in my Beginners and Beyond classes – a mixture of mostly 40-60 year-old business people, retired people, and art teachers – are there for community, friendship, and personal adult time.  They center the wheel and center themselves.”




Salvaged murals by Despina Zografos, Chris O'Donnell, and Margaret Minardi

A prominent feature at the Art League was a group of three wall murals in the building’s hallways that were created by the Resident Artist Program.   The murals, surprisingly, were not damaged.  To make the extensive repairs, however, the drywall on which they were painted had to be cut.  Della Croce decided to save a two-by-two-foot square from each as a memorial, which now hangs in their place.  They stand as a reminder of not only of the artworks, but of the dedicated work of Della Croce, Tischler, the faculty, the students, and the community who all supported the Art League of Long Island.  In less than six months after the disaster, thanks to generous donors, major gifts, and a state grant, the Art League has started an endowment and held a very successful reopening.   Tischler says, “Marianne is the leader of the pack, wearing a thousand hats and keeping the conversation open.”  That conversation, between artists and those who make it all work, is all about the Art.


Executive Director Marianne Della Croce and Marketing and Engagement Coordinator Amy Tischler


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