The North Fork is a place of breathtaking water views, quiet serenity and small-town charm, and while that makes it an ideal day trip destination, it makes for even better art retreats. Aware of this fact and looking for a way to give back to the community, the Sound View hotel has hosted the Uncommon Art Residency Program for the past three years, inviting artists to refill their creative tanks and gain newfound inspiration, and this year, the hotel has partnered with fellow Greenport mainstay Harborfront Inn to expand its artist-in-residence program.
With the 2021 program beginning on February 5, two artists have already completed their weeklong residencies, and looking back at their time in paradise, they both speak highly of the residency and the North Fork’s power to inspire artists creatively. Harborfront Inn’s first-ever art resident was none other than Joe Iconis, composer of Broadway musical sensation Be More Chill.
For his residency, Iconis set out to work on his upcoming production The Unauthorized Hunter S. Thompson Musical (book by Gregory S. Moss). Though he did have a goal in mind, the relaxed nature of the residency allowed him to work on his own schedule and take in the beauty of Greenport, without worrying about presenting something to an audience at the end of his stay.
“It allowed me, as an artist, to just focus on the work itself and not the presentation of work,” Iconis says, adding that it was a much-needed vacation from his one-bedroom New York City apartment. “The residency not only provided me space that I haven’t had and a change of scenery in a literal way, but also the town of Greenport is one I’ve fallen in love with over the last couple years. And what I love about it is it really does feel like a community… I love that you see the same characters throughout the day. It feels both like there’s space, and it’s super intimate, kind of like the dream version of what I always imagined small-town America would be.”
Iconis describes the people he encountered on multiple occasions like characters in a play, “in scene one, then returning in scene six,” and this, in turn, helped him to strengthen the world and characters of his Hunter S. Thompson project. “Going back to work on the show while hanging around Greenport, being able to overhear conversations or walk down the street and safely, for lack of a better word, spy on people—I think it really affected the kind of sprawl of some of the Hunter stuff that I was coming back to,” he says. “I feel like being in my apartment, the thing that I was focusing the most on when writing the show was these very internal, solitary moments for the lead character of Hunter. And then being in Greenport, exposed to other humans and their situations, it allowed me to think about them, the bigger picture and the world that this guy is walking through.”
While the community of Greenport was a key source of inspiration for Iconis, the breathtaking scenery around him was equally uplifting. “I’m not an artist writing musicals about nature and seagulls—I’ve lived in Manhattan since I was a kid, and a lot of the stuff I write is very urban and city-minded—however, being right on the water and having this thriving little town and gorgeous coastal scenery, it really is inspiring to me,” he says. “It’s been kind of a dark year, and being in a hotel room overlooking a beautiful harbor with essentially nothing but me, my notebooks and my computer, it really made me think about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. And luckily, it felt like I’m still doing the right thing.”
While Harborfront Inn’s first artist-in-residence doesn’t dabble in ocean-themed art, their second artist, Juliet Schreckinger, considers the sea her muse. As a 21-year-old NYC college student, her first art residency experience couldn’t have been more serendipitous.
“This being my first one is just the most amazing experience ever, because my art is usually marine-based and aquatic-based, so being on the harbor it’s just been such an amazing opportunity to take my own reference photos and stuff, which is very difficult to do most of time,” she explains, adding that one day she spent two hours photographing seagulls. “I’m also extremely interested in lighthouses, so I’ve gotten some amazing photos of Horton Point Lighthouse, the Orient Point Lighthouse and ‘Bug’ Lighthouse, which has been really awesome because online it’s just the same photo from the front, so I’ve been able to take references from different angles and ways that wouldn’t have been possible if I wasn’t here.”
Schreckinger’s passion for the sea is not limited to the role of muse, as she also does a lot of work with the PangeaSeed Foundation and the Surfrider Foundation, donating works to help raise money for the protection of the ocean and its inhabitants. “In a weird way, there’s a detachment, I think, when always viewing the ocean through a screen and looking at reference photos through a screen, so I think there was something extremely rewarding about essentially being immersed in the actual animals and places,” she says of her residency.
As a child, Schreckinger’s family visited the North Fork frequently, but being able to revisit the area as an adult with dreams of a future in art has allowed her to fully appreciate everything Greenport and the hamlets have to offer. “I’m most inspired by the ocean, so to spend a week here just being able to work and look out my window and see what I’m really passionate about and what the end goal is—to be able to do gallery work referencing locations like this and animals in this area—I would say it’s given me a big boost artistically and creatively,” she says. “It was eye-opening to see how taking a moment and being in a peaceful environment, just taking a week to sit here and do what I love to do, has opened my eyes to how important it is to take time for the things that matter and not always be so caught up in the career aspect of it and everything else, and just getting back to the roots of doing this because I love art. I think the residency has given me a week to relax, do my passion and just be creative with no real pressure.”
The Sound View and Harborfront Inn’s residencies continue through April with visual artists Megan Lee, TJ Wisco and Mokshini; designers Ariel Adkins and Megan Lorenzo; photographers Madison Muehl and Kato; and musician Sean Spellman. Visit soundviewgreenport.com and theharborfrontinn.com for residency dates and community piece presentations.