Watermill Center Celebrates Reopening with Community Day

Guests exploring The Watermill Center's stunning grounds pre-COVID, Photo: ©Maria Baranova, Courtesy The Watermill Center
Guests exploring The Watermill Center's stunning grounds pre-COVID, Photo: ©Maria Baranova, Courtesy The Watermill Center

Following a prolonged hibernation, The Watermill Center in Water Mill is celebrating its reopening with a fresh take on the annual Community Day event—replete with live music, a movement workshop for the kids and the exciting Watermill Art Quest—on Saturday, October 24 from 12:30–3 p.m.

Primarily a home and workspace for artists-in-residence, Watermill was forced to reschedule its 2020 spring residencies and International Summer Program for 2021. And with a group comprising mostly artists from other countries, blocked from transcontinental travel, the September residencies had to be rescheduled, as well. The October roster, however, includes many artists currently in the U.S., which means that now is the time for The Watermill Center grounds to reopen for their new residents and the community.

“We’re reopening with the artists coming, but because of the COVID situation, and because we house artists, feed them and give them places to work, we have very strict protocols set up for the COVID reopening,” says Watermill Center Director Elka Rifkin. “We’re a little different than most art institutions because we house people, as well, so we have all sorts of very strict protocols to keep both the staff and the artists as safe as possible.” In addition to not being allowed inside the building at this time, guests must wear masks, adhere to social distancing and leave the dogs at home.

Community Day welcomes East End families to explore Watermill’s luscious grounds this Saturday, when visitors will get the chance to explore 100 of avant-garde visionary and theater director Robert Wilson’s most prized collection items on display all over the nearly 10-acre property. Upon arrival, guests will be given a booklet with a map that details the property’s many outdoor areas and a guide that will help Watermill Art Quest participants find the right artworks. They’ll also be sent a PDF with the answer key, so they can see how well they did on the hunt and learn more about the historical and cultural background of each piece.

“The idea is to make it fun for the family—to come and look at art but look at it in an interesting and different way, by being given clues about the objects themselves. So hopefully educational and fun at the same time,” Rifkin says. “It’s just a way to invite the community back and say, ‘We are back in business, we’ve missed you and we want to welcome you back on the grounds.’ And it’s a way to celebrate fall with our community!”

Just before the scavenger hunt begins, Watermill alum and crystal bowl player Katie Downs will host a “Sound Painting” movement workshop for up to 25 children ages six and up with a guardian. The event also features live music by Native American flutist Eric LaPointe and tasty refreshments from Hampton Coffee and other local favorites.

“It’s a nice way for us to introduce people to the grounds,” Rifkin says of Community Day 2020. “One of the things that’s cool about Watermill Center is that the grounds are always open—we have these amazing objects from all over the world and these beautiful gardens—and although the building isn’t always open to the public, the grounds are. People in the neighborhood will often come by, walk around the grounds, sometimes bring a frisbee and play on the South Lawn, or they’ll hang out and put a picnic blanket out and enjoy the beauty of the area. We encourage that, even though the building’s not open, because it’s a really unusual place.”

The event takes place on the first weekend that the new artists-in-residence have moved into the building, hence why guests will not be allowed in the building for the foreseeable future. Even under normal circumstances pre-COVID, The Watermill Center attempts to limit interruptions during the artists’ month-long stay. “We’re this unusually well-kept secret, because our main focus is to provide space for artists to work, so we don’t want to constantly interrupt their creative process by having a lot of people in the building,” Rifkin notes. “We’ve got to find a balance…. Because we are focused on providing a private space for artists, we’re not always open to the public, even when we’re ‘open.'”

The October artists-in-residence include Brazilian visual artist Regina Parra, Kenyan visual artist Tahir Karmali, American photographer-cinematographer Paige Mazurek, Iranian photographer-cinematographer Zeinab Shahidi Marnani and visual artist Claire Watson. The artists are expected to share what they’ve been working on during their residency in an online reimagining of the In Process program tentatively scheduled for Saturday, November 21. “Watermill is about the process. It’s interesting and intriguing, especially because we have so many wonderful art institutions out here that have incredible exhibits of finished work. We’re more about unfinished work,” Rifkin says.

“For me, what I always find that makes Watermill special and different is that we have these artists from all over the world come together for creative process, and I love the opportunity to expose people from our community to these different people from different cultures and backgrounds, and the work that they’re doing,” she continues. “Some of these are emerging artists who are just coming into their career, so a lot of their work is really unusual. My goal with The Watermill Center is to help people get a look at the creative process and learn what art making is about, because I think most people, in general, who don’t work in the Arts think that you’re just innately talented and that art just springs forth from you in a very creative moment. But making art is actually very challenging, hard work for the artists—it’s a lot of trial and error, experimenting, failing, trying again and regrouping.”

To learn more about The Watermill Center and to register for Community Day, which is required of prospective visitors, visit watermillcenter.org.

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