East End Arts at 50: The organization looks to the future by honoring its history


When Wendy Weiss moved back to the East End in late 2019 after 15 years, she knew she wanted to get involved with a local organization to get back into the community.

After joining East End Arts as a board member in late February 2020, she was so passionate about what the organization was doing that she left her stable, well-paying job in Boston to join the organization full-time last March. Ms. Weiss is now the creative director of the nonprofit organization.

“I suppose I’m a bit of a statistic because I’m part of the ‘great resignation,'” Ms. Weiss said. “I was just starting to fall in love with the team here and everything that East End Arts stood for.”

East End Arts will celebrate its 50th anniversary on August 18 with a summer soirée at its Main Street campus in Riverhead. There will be a selection of live entertainment, a curated art sale, East End wines and beers, a silent auction and more.

The regional multi-arts center has served the five East End cities since 1972. According to its website, “the organization strives to nurture and nurture a vibrant arts community in Long Island’s East End through its numerous programs and exhibitions.”

Annually, East End Arts presents 22 gallery exhibitions to showcase local talent and offers over 150 educational arts, music and theater programs, as well as private music lessons, professional development and resources for emerging and established artists, according to the site.

Some of the EEA’s most well-known programs are the Teeny Awards, the annual Detour exhibition, which features the work of over 16 local artists, and the annual portrait project of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to name a few. That as Dr. The large portrait mosaic known from the Martin Luther King project, made by local art students, after being exhibited in the relevant participating high schools, will be displayed in a public gallery and then auctioned to support the EEA scholarship fund for art and music students in distress.

The organization’s director of education, Katherine Dwyer Ruscick, said she wants to raise awareness of the EEA Scholarship Fund so more children in the community can benefit.

“I’d like to empty the grants and then refill them,” she said. “It’s stupid to keep this money. I’d rather give it up and let these kids take advantage of it [our] after school [programs]our Saturday programs, some of our camps, we have college prep intensives for portfolio building… we have so much to offer.”

EEA has programs for people of all ages and interests in art. For the full list of their programs and courses, as well as how to register, go to eastendarts.org.

When Diane Burke, EEA Executive Director, joined the organization three years ago, she saw all the great programs on offer but felt that all programs were isolated and it was her dream to bring them together under the EEA umbrella .

“When I came here, I could feel that,” Ms. Burke said. “I could feel the programs in their own buckets and as I sat in that chair I tried to put my arms around them all and bring them in, but it was really about putting together the right team that was open to a meltdown with this one.” Walls and the collaboration, and I think that’s how the dream came true,” she said.

Ms Burke recalled that when EEA first started working, it was in financial difficulties and was “nearly broke”, but now the organization is stable. She credits Ms. Weiss and the rest of the team there for looking to the future.

“If we look back to where we are now … we have our shine back,” Ms. Burke said.


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