North Fork native Ann Vandenburgh was supportive when her husband Rich and his partner John Liegey followed their dream to open Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, a craft beer brewery in Greenport. They found the perfect location, an abandoned firehouse next door to the historic jail.
So while they remodeled the interior and hauled in the giant brew tanks, Vandenburgh crafted the empty second floor into an art gallery.
“It’s such a great old building and the second floor was perfect with the light and primitive wood floors,” she says. “I knew it would be a great space to showcase art. I knew the artists I wanted to show would not mind the grain on the floor and the aroma of beer in the air. I wanted to curate the art to be consistent with our company’s vision for the craft beer we were producing—progressive, innovative and cutting edge.”
Greenport Harbor Brewing Company and Gallery opened in the summer 2009. Showing for the first time in 30 years was artist Sherron Francis of Aquebogue and Harald Marinus Olsen, an emerging outsider artist from Shelter Island.
The exhibit was an immediate hit, introducing craft beer lovers to visionary art and art lovers to the world of craft beer. The gallery continued on with numerous art events including the successful “Unhamptons Edition Outsider Art Show” co-curated with artist Candyce Brokaw of Quogue. Exhibits continued including artists Cindy Pease Roe, whose studio is just down the street at Hanff’s Boatyard, Terrence Joyce of Greenport, Davis Murphy of Quogue, Laura Benjamin and Rosin Bateman of Sag Harbor, Elizabeth Karsch of Orient, Shannon Guyer of Southold, Thomas “T-bone” Abbatiello of Westhampton, Dalton Portella of Montauk and many more.
“I find some artists, some of them find me. I like to show a mix of established and emerging work,” Vandenburgh says. She does many shows to benefit charities and likes to come up with themes for the artists to tackle. One show, Project Grain Sack, found her giving a plastic grain sack from the spent grain used in the brew house to each artist to create something to be raffled off for charity.
The intriguing results included a bouquet of wildflowers, a sculptured bowl, a couture-worthy corset, a beaded “Giving Tree” with live branches, driftwood sailboat with a grain sack sail and whimsical fish. Another exhibit, “Women on Location” asked five female photographers to examine what inspired their creativity from childhood, the quotes along with the artists’ childhood photos were displayed next to their artwork.
“One artist told me it was her seventh grade teacher, and she was motivated to get in touch with the teacher to thank her just a few weeks before the teacher passed away. I have always been intrigued by what inspires artists, what’s the psychology behind the creative soul, what makes them tick, how they translate this from childhood into their life as an artist, a life that is not always easy.”
The current show is entitled MOBY and has various interpretations of whales, the brewery‘s logo, with paintings, sculpture, prints and metal.
Greenport Harbor Brewing Company is celebrating their fourth anniversary this summer and plans for expanding the brewery to Peconic are in motion. The new larger industrial space is a former car dealership that will have a bigger tasting room and, one day, a German-style outdoor beer garden. They also plan to grow their own hops in the back field. A fall 2013 opening is planned.
Another fun project she has developed is a web film series called “SpeakEasy with JailAle” hosted by co-owner Betsy Liegey, the concept is a spinoff of the show Talk Stoop. Filmed by Randee Daddona, the stairs to the historic jail become the backdrop for some fun and insightful interviews.
“Each episode will highlight ‘the jail ale of the day’ with featured guests,” she says. “To pay homage to Greenport’s 175th Anniversary, I thought it would great to interview some of Greenport notables…chefs, artists, historians, business owners, colorful characters in the neighborhood (and there are many) while discussing one of our brews and learning about Greenport.”
Greenport Harbor Brewing Company, 234 Carpenter Street, Greenport, harborbrewing.com, 631-477-6681.