Longtime East Enders might fondly recall the original Bonac Tonic drink made by Schwenk’s Dairy, with its pure cane sugar. But there’s a newer Bonac Tonic haunting the East End—and they make art! The Bonac Tonic Art Collective, founded in 2005 by twins Carly and Grant Haffner, is an organized group of painters, sculptors, photographers and other artists, East Enders all, who held their first show at Ashawagh Hall in 2005 and are still stirring up the local art scene more than a decade later.
The Haffners grew up in Springs, where as kids they attended Ashawagh Hall art shows and the Springs Fisherman’s Fair. “It seemed natural to try to be a part of it,” they say when we talk via email about their upcoming show. But when the Haffners first set out to get their art exhibited, it appeared the art world didn’t take them seriously. “Galleries seemed unapproachable and intimidating,” they say. This forced them to find alternative outlets to show their work, and so the Bonac Tonic Art Collective was founded.
“Art is hard,” they say, speaking from experience. “Having time to make it, affording supplies to create it, then finding a way to exhibit it—all of this is very difficult and can be overwhelming for any artist. Having the support of a small group of likeminded people can really help keep you motivated.” It takes a village, or a collective. The Haffners point out that “there needs to be more opportunities within the gallery system for new artists to exhibit, that doesn’t cost them an arm and a leg, and doesn’t discourage them in the process.”
Speaking of which, if you’re an aspiring East End artist looking to break through, the Haffners say they’re always looking for new artists, and encourage those interested to get in touch through their Tonic Artspace Facebook page. “If we had waited around to be included in galleries, some of us would have never exhibited our work at all,” they say.
This Saturday, March 11, the Collective returns home to Ashawagh Hall for its 12-year birthday bash. “Our goal is to create an environment for viewing art that is lighthearted and approachable, including as many people as possible in the process,” the Haffners say. This is the first time the Collective has raised money through crowd funding to help cover the costs of the exhibition. “It’s because of the amazing support of our friends, family, fans and followers that we were able to have this show,” they say, adding, “Thank you so much. We couldn’t have done it without you!” Good job everybody!
This year’s show, titled Bonac Tonic: Legacy, will feature brand new artwork from local artists Arrex Skulls, Carly Haffner, Christine Lidrbauch, Eddie Cortes, Grant Haffner, Lisa Federici, Maeve D’Arcy, Michael Weisman, Oliver Peterson and Scott Gibbons. “At this show we’re introducing some brand new artists, but the fun and energetic atmosphere will be the same,” they say. For example: The Haffners say the Collective “started wearing red beanie caps to the majority of our shows, as homage to the movie The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.” It was also a way to bring the Collective together.
The only thing inside the box will be The Pop-up Cardboard Gift Shop, which will sell artist’s prints, stickers and other artist-made merchandise. Thanks to the amazing support, the shop will have their first Bonac Tonic Green Box stickers (below). So get out there and support your local artists.
Bonac Tonic: Legacy will be showing Saturday, March 11 from 6–9 p.m. and Sunday, March 12 until 4 p.m. at Ashawagh Hall, 780 Springs Fireplace Road, East Hampton 631-267-6554