Step into Guild Hall and enter into a world of oil paintings, screenplays and history.
For 65 years, artists and writers have flocked to the Hamptons to battle on the softball diamond. What was once an informal game of picnic ball has turned into a community tradition that raises $60,000 for charities across the Hamptons. To honor those who have participated, Guild Hall presented “They Played in the Game,” an exhibit with work from solely the players. Some previous players include James Lipton (Inside the Actors Studio), Regis Philbin, Alec Baldwin, artist Walter Bernard and artist Victor Caglioti.
“You can see the idea of community spirit,” said Christina Strassfield, one of the co-curators of the exhibit. She also noted that the staff at Guild Hall prides themselves in bringing together the community.
When walking into the exhibit, one can immediately see a photo of a recent game prominently featured on the first wall. Take a step to the right and an older, sepia-colored photo of one of the first games is now the object of the viewer’s eye.
The white walls were filled with oil paintings- they loosely sandwiched sculptures of abstract art and dancing dogs on platforms. A quote by Williem de Kooning equating baseball and artistry lines the top of a wall.
The back room was filled with old players’ uniforms and two screens. One had a slideshow of previous games. The other, which was on the other side of the room, had a video of a game. (Regis Philbin was pitching). Each screen was filled with masses of people blocking the aisles to the back of the room, which had a signed screenplay of “Toy Story” and a copy of “My Life” by Bill Clinton among others. Atop the glass showcase of various writing samples, jerseys from year’s past hung in picture frames on the wall.
Across from the jerseys, a quilt with more previous sat waiting to be auctioned to benefit East End Hospice later this month. According to Deb MacEneaney, the president of The Artists and Writers board, the mayor approached Guild Hall’s staff and noted that the game was raising so much money for only one charity. He asked if they could add three more to the mix. So far, Guild Hall has raised $60,000 and the game is still a month away.
Preparing for the fundraiser, Strassfield and her co-curator Elena Prohaska-Glinn asked the artists and writers to donate a piece to celebrate their work. Then, Strassfield and Prohaska-Glinn flowered in some works from their permanent collection.
“All this time, I’ve been judging you by how you play, but you’re really artists,” MacEneaney joked with the players.
One of the players who attended, whose art could be found all over the gallery was Walter Bernard, who has been participating in the Artists versus Writers game since 1972. He has been designing the hats and t-shirt jerseys since 1976. He called the exhibit “amazing” and liked that it paid tribute to “old masters” who started the game.
Victor Caglioti, another artist who has been involved since 1967 and coaching first base for the past few years, called the tribute to the players “excellent.” He was also excited that they spelled his name correctly.
Russel Blue, a local architect, had played centerfield and second and third bases. He called the exhibit “great” and “long overdue.”
John Alexander (as in The John Alexander gallery at Guild Hall) was at the opening reception. He also used to play in the game. “The baseball game is gonna go on forever,” he said. “But this is the special tribute.”
Guild Hall is located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. For more information call 631-324-0806 or visit www.guildhall.org.