Joseph Reboli, a Port Jefferson native, U.S. Army veteran and painter extraordinaire, died in 2004. His memory, however, lives on at the Reboli Center for Art and History, opened the day after Thanksgiving in 2016 in the former Bank of Suffolk County building in the village of Stony Brook. “I’m beyond pleased with the overwhelming and enthusiastic response that the Reboli Center has received from our wonderful community,” his widow, Lois Reboli told us when we spoke recently about Joseph’s work. “They have been so positive and impressed with all we have accomplished during the past year.”
Looking back, is there one thing that surprised you over the course of the first year?
I’m most surprised at the number of steps it took to get to where we are today. We would never have been able to get through all of the steps without the support and generosity of our friends, family, attorneys, architect and contractors, as well as the help and efforts of Assemblyman Steve Englebright, Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine, and Legislator Kara Hahn.
What is your favorite memory of the first year?
Seeing the beautifully renovated historic building filled with Joe’s paintings for the community to enjoy. It was beyond all of my expectations. One of our first visitors described the place as “magical” and it still feels nothing short of a miracle.
Can you tell us a little bit about Connections, the exhibition currently on display at the Reboli Center?
Connections continues our goal of giving people a better understanding of who Joe Reboli was, why he painted what he painted and why he loved this community. In the front gallery the exhibit showcases the paintings of Vicki Sawyer who took one of Joe’s workshops and is now nationally recognized for her whimsical paintings. The back galleries showcase photography and sculpture that celebrate the birds who are our backyard neighbors. Another connection with the birds is that 50 years ago DDT was banned in Suffolk County. The organization that brought the legislation to the Legislature was a group that met in the house Joe and I later purchased! That group became the Environmental Defense Fund, which is one of the largest environmental groups in the country. So many connections!
What can we look forward to for the Reboli Center’s second year?
Our Third Friday lecture series was an enormous success and we were so fortunate to have an array of articulate, interesting speakers coming up, including Christina Strassfield of Guild Hall and Deborah Johnson of the Heckscher Museum. We anticipate offering more workshops for adults and children. We are planning an interesting group of exhibits for 2018 that will highlight community traditions and art organizations that have contributed to the cultural richness of Long Island. For instance, one of the exhibits will highlight the Smithtown Hunt with a collection of paintings and memorabilia. There will also be an exhibit of Joe’s watercolors, which have rarely been seen.
After having been so busy last fall, what are you most looking forward to this fall?
As busy as the past year has been I continue to come out to the East End to visit friends, catch my breath, enjoy and recharge. I continually need the “aesthetic fix” that the East End offers. After teaching there for so many years, it continues to be a special place of inspiration.
The Reboli Center for Art and History is located at 64 Main Street in Stony Brook. For more information contact them at 631-751-7707 or at rebolicenter.org.