East End Arts’ (EEA) annual street painting festival is coming to downtown Riverhead on Sunday of Labor Day weekend. The only event of its kind on Long Island, the street painting festival has been a community staple for 25 years and brings together local artists, musicians and art enthusiasts of all ages for a day-long celebration along the banks of the Peconic River.
EEA’s motto, “Unlock creativity. build community,” captures the goal of their annual festival in Riverhead — to connect local people through the shared experience of art. Wendy Weiss, membership manager at EEA, explains how the event “brings a diverse audience to downtown Riverhead, who collectively want to be in a fun, inspiring, lively environment.” Whether it’s live music or theater, professional street artists or first-timers, “There is something inspiring for everyone,” Weiss emphasizes.
The festival has grown year after year, but the spirit of creativity and fun has always been at its center. While usually hosted on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, COVID restrictions in spring necessitated a move to the summer — “otherwise, another year would go by without the festival,” Weiss adds. “And we certainly didn’t want that!” Though all activities remain outdoors, EEA has taken every precaution to ensure distancing and safety for all guests at the event without compromising on the festival’s ethos of togetherness. EEA plans to return the date to May by 2022.
At the festival’s core is street painting with chalk, a technique inspired by 16th century Italian street painters colloquially known as “Il Madonnari.” These painters came to represent a philosophy of art rather than an organized group. Brought to the cities of Italy to work on huge cathedral projects, they turned to the streets and sidewalks as a creative outlet and a means of earning a living after construction work was completed. Convening and painting on holy days or public festivals to maximize exposure, the artists began the theme that remains at the core of street painting to this day — the synonymity of street art and community. Street paintings are visible and appreciable by everyone and so create a shared, universalized experience of art available to all members of a community, all the time. The sidewalk, after all, has no price of admission.
This great event works to promote all forms and mediums of art in the East End. Visitors to the festival can enjoy performances of live music from EEA music students and local musicians, all emceed by R&B star and EEA teacher Mark MK. Drumming, dance, theater and artisan vendors round out the day, allowing guests to experience the full breadth of the arts culture of the East End. A new feature this year is the “Art on the Porch” art sale, where visitors can browse and purchase paintings, photographs, mixed media and other artwork created by EEA’s working artist members. And families are more than welcome — children’s activities and nearby local restaurants mean there’s fun and convenience for all ages.
The East End has always been a center for creativity, and the festival is the perfect place to help support our flourishing local arts scene. EEA has been spearheading artistic development and education in East End communities since 1995, with the goal of cultivating a vibrant and innovative arts community in the region, boosting artistic development for both amateurs and professionals, stimulating community enrichment, economic development and cultural tourism. Helping to support and expand the East End’s world-famous arts scene enhances every aspect of our community and brings us all closer together.
East End Arts’ 25th Annual Community Mosaic Street Painting Festival is this Sunday, September 5 from noon–5 p.m. (rain date is Monday, September 6) in Downtown Riverhead and on the green at EEA (133 E. Main Street).
To register for a space, become a sponsor or a vendor, or for more info, visit eastendarts.org.