Out East End: The Sound View Hotel Beach Fire Series

Sur Rodney (Sur)
Sur Rodney (Sur)
Dirk Rowntree

It’s an age-old ritual: Gather around a fire and talk. Community. Connection. Culture.

In this case it’s  “Kulture” as in “Kulture Collective” and it’s been happening at the Sound View Hotel in Greenport since the end of August: the Kulture Collective Beach Fire Series, a weekly conversation billed as “powerful voices within the culture landscape of New York and beyond.” The series is open to hotel guests, or not. It’s first come, first serve, and the artists, writers, architects, curators, designers and creatives who are booked in the series — whether from the East End or from New York City — are first rate.

“Big culture, small towns: That’s what encapsulates the Beach Fire Series,” says Brian Gorman, a creative marketer and strategist who who grew up sailing out of Greenport and who curates the series and the other cultural programs at the Sound View, with its owner, Erik Warner. “It’s about the sharing of ideas and it’s also about the interchange of ideas,” he says. “A big topic of conversation is how COVID has sent a lot of our big thinkers out of the city — which has really changed the dynamic of these communities.”

Some of those big thinkers and doers have included fine arts leader Eric Shiner (artistic director of White Cube, and the director of the Andy Warhol Museum), Randall Griffey (curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC) and award-winning photographer Nona Faustine, whose impactful work focuses on history and identity. East End authors Thomas Dyja and award-winning poet Fran Caspan have participated in the Beach Fire Series. And the art dealer, consultant and curator Gracie Mansion, who pioneered the East Village art scene and continues to exhibit contemporary art in the East Village and SoHo has been a big supporter.

It all began with Gorman’s partnership and close friendship with Erik Warner, who bought the Sound View in 2016 — the same year Gorman’s parents sold their house in Orient.

“Erik has this idea of hospitality in terms of a community and how we create hotels not only for travelers, but we also create them for the locations that they are in — which really spoke to me intensely,” says Gorman, who also kick-started a jazz residency program as well as the Uncommon Art residency conjunction at the Sound View Hotel in conjunction with Warner’s other property and hotel in Jackson, Wyoming.

The piano bar at The Sound View in Greenport
The piano bar at The Sound View in Greenport

“We’ve had the local community coming together and representing a certain amount of diversity,” says Gorman. “There’s been a lot of queer art, artists and topics of conversation about how our world is being diversified as our communities are.”

On Sunday, November 14, The Beach Fire series at Sound View will wrap up its season with a talk by the Canadian-born curator, writer, activist and archivist Sur Rodney (Sur), who puts the “sur” in surrealist, describing himself as  “an existentialist wearing a surrealist’s hat.”

Sur, a surviving spouse of longtime partner Geoffrey Hendricks, an American artist known for his association with the avant garde Fluxus movement in the mid-1960s, has indeed worn many creative hats — from a trailblazing career in the East Village art scene, to managing estates, curating art shows, writing, lecturing and “preserving the legacy of contemporary artists that he has had a close, personal relationships with.”

Sur says his work has been greatly influenced by the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, which  “affected the art world in a very big way. … That’s where the legacy concern comes in,” he explains, adding, “so I’ve been dealing with that and working with that for the last 40 years.”

It’s no surprise when asked what matters to him, that he answers, without missing a beat, “legacy … legacy and caring.

“All the archives I work on are really important and need to be preserved and if someone doesn’t do it, it would be a waste and a crime,” says Sur, who is working on his father’s archive at Concordia University, Geoffrey Hendricks’ at Northwestern University, visual artist Lorraine O’Grady’s at Wellesley, and, of course, his own legacy, among many other projects. “There are a lot of people that were with us who had important things that happened in history that we can learn from and grow from,” he adds.

What will Sur talk about? “I’m going to tell my story — about a young kid who ran off to New York because he felt that he could find his way as an out, flamboyant, Black homosexual in the art world,” says Sur, who did just that.

Though Sur’s talk will be indoors in the hotel’s Lobby Café (no beach fire), the embers of the series will likely stay glowing through the spring when the Beach Series returns, because according to Brian Gorman, there’s a lot to look forward to year-round at the Sound View Hotel — the popular piano bar karaoke will be back and the hope is to book some comedy and cabaret nights. In December, Gorman says they plan to have a drive-in movie theater on Saturday nights, “to check all the buckets of culture.”

To those who remember the 55-room Sound View prior to the gut renovation that it went through five years ago after Warner took over, you’ll have to adjust your memory.

“It doesn’t feel like a roadside motel anymore,” says Gorman, who says the renovations and “the beautiful landscaping protecting the property” have brought it back to “very much what you would anticipate in a seaside modernist motel.”

Add to that the year-round onsite restaurant The Halyard, the cultural/Kultural programming, plus the artist residencies, and you’ve got a diverse, welcome addition to the North Fork and the East End.

The Beach Fire Series with Sur Rodney (Sur) is on Sunday, November 14 from 6:30–8 p.m. Tickets are complimentary (first come, first served) and released online the Thursday before the talk. Contact Sound View Greenport Reservations at 631-477-1910 or email [email protected] to add your name to the list.

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