On Friday, March 23, a three day arts festival will kick off on the East End that is unprecedented in its scope. 19 of the East End’s cultural, art, and historical institutions will unite for three days to provide the community with a sampling of the programming, exhibitions, workshops, theater performances, film, music, and garden tours they offer throughout the year.
What began as a monthly meet-up between these many organizations at local restaurants and institutions became the foundation for the creation of the aptly named THAW Fest–THAW being an acronym for The Hamptons Art Weekend (and descriptive of the state we’ll all be in come the tail end of winter.) The festival is sponsored by the Hamptons Art Network and will take place at locations throughout the South Fork.
Tracy Mitchell of Bay Street Theater, which will also be part of this arts festival, begged the question of why the Hamptons is not seen as an arts destination given how many art and cultural organizations exist. THAW Fest is an opportunity for many of these not-for-profit organizations to demonstrate the measurable impact they have on the local economy. By modeling THAW Fest after the events sponsored by the Soho Arts Network, which has an established template for successful collaborative marketing, the participating organizations aim collect data and quantify their economic impact.
“I think this was an extremely pragmatic thing to do as government funding is projected to start being cut even further. It only makes sense for us to cooperate and to see where there’s overlap in our missions and our programming; to share resources and be stealth and smart about surviving in this new environment,” explained Andrea Grover, the Executive Director of Guild Hall.
With THAW Fest, these organizations will unite and provide the community with a unique opportunity to experience a metaphorical buffet of the art, history, and culture of each institution. Hamptons.com spoke with Andrea Grover to learn more about this upcoming event.
When was the idea for THAW Fest conceived?
AG: I used to be at the Parrish Art Museum. I was the curator of special projects there for about five-and-a-half years and I worked under Terrie Sultan who had been a longtime friend and colleague. When I gave notice to leave Parrish, it was kind of a bittersweet moment but Terrie and I agreed at that moment that it would be a new day for the relationship between Guild Hall and the Parrish, which had always been sort of seen as rivals.
We started talking about putting together a collaborative or a collective of East End arts and cultural organizations and come to find out that Elka Rifkin–the program director at the Watermill Center–was having the same thought. So the three of us connected a year ago this month and said let’s invite everyone to the table, directors of all of these institutions on the South Fork and we had a happy hour at Baron’s Cove. It was very therapeutic getting everyone together because everyone had similar challenges between the shoulder seasons, struggling to be economically thriving, to having completely frenetic activities during the summer. It was very good for all of us to get together and it was a lot of sympatico.
How would you describe this upcoming festival to the public?
AG: You could think of it as a group of arts and cultural organizations that will be hosting open houses and receptions for the public so that they can sample all of the institutions in a single weekend, they can experience the offerings of all 19 different groups. All institutions with bricks and mortar will have an open house where we have exhibits, public programming, food and drink, workshops tours, and a whole menu of activities.
Helen Harrison, the director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, is working on a survey that all institutions will present to visitors and patrons, collecting data that will be useful to understanding the market.
Can you give some insight as to what Guild Hall’s presentation will be?
AG: So we will have three exhibitions on view that will all be free admission to the public. And that’s Alice Hope, who is going to have a one person show, Hiroyuki Hamada will have a one person show, and then we’ll have a show called The Artist Curated Collection which is work selected from our permanent collection by the artist Bryan Hunt in conjunction with our curator Jess Frost, who is our curator of the permanent collection. We will also have evening performances of Romeo and Juliet, and family workshops on the Sunday afternoon. We’ll have food and drink and what we’re calling flash tours of the facility, and I’m sure that more things will be added.
What are you most looking forward to with THAW Fest?
AG: The opening night kick-off, which is going to be at the Parrish Art Museum at 5:30. It’s going to be a free cocktail reception and all 19 organizations will be there along with their constituencies, their patrons, and it’ll just be nice to see all of these different associations together in one room. You know I don’t think there’s anything like that out here where every arts organization, virtually every one, but even to have 19 different groups all have their audiences united for an evening should be really fun–like a reunion of sorts.
It’s a very healthy step, I think it’s very 21st century. By March 23, people will have such intense cabin fever that they’ll want to get out and be social.
Times and fees for the festival will vary and a detailed schedule of events will be posted on an official website soon. Participating organizations will include Bay Street Theater, Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, Dia: Dan Flavin Art Institute, East Hampton Historical Society, Eastville Community Historical Society, Guild Hall, Hamptons International Film Festival, Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival, LongHouse Reserve, Madoo Conservancy, Parrish Art Museum, Pollock-Krasner House & Study Center, Shinnecock Nation Cultural Center & Museum, Southampton African American Museum, Southampton Arts Center, Southampton Cultural Center, Southampton Historical Museum, Watermill Center, and Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center.