Artists & Writers Game Exhibition Ushers in a New Era

Todd Hundley Topps baseball card painted by Andy Friedman
Todd Hundley Topps baseball card painted by Andy Friedman
Courtesy Artists & Writers Game

With a nearly 75-year history, the East Hampton Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game has cemented itself as a celebration of local creatives and a fundraiser for important charities on the South Fork, but the organization behind the event is working to make it something much more than an annual softball game. As part of that growth, the board has organized a special Spring Training 2022 art exhibition to benefit the game’s usual charities — covering the circle of life, from early childhood learning to hospice care — and it opens with a reception at Kathryn Markel Gallery in Bridgehampton (2418 Montauk Highway) this Saturday, March 5 from 5–7 p.m. The show will continue on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m.–5 p.m., throughout the month of March.

Artists & Writers board president Ronnette Riley explains that Kathryn Markel donated her gallery space for Spring Training 2022, and the show will be manned by volunteers from the organizations it benefits — including The Eleanor Whitmore Early Childhood Center, Phoenix House Academy, The Retreat and East End Hospice — which will be given 60% of each artwork sold, while participating artists get the other 40%. So far, 30 artists have donated work, and four writers are scheduled to read at the show: Zack O’Malley Greenburg (Empire State of Mind), Paul Winum (Inside CEO Succession: The Essential Guide to Leadership Transition), Gabrielle Bluestone (Hype: How Scammers, Grifters, and Con Artists Are Taking Over the Internet—and Why We’re Following) and David Andelman (A Shattered Peace: Versailles 1919 and the Price We Pay Today).

Ronnette Riley
Ronnette Riley at bat

“For artists, we have quite a mix of age ranges. And also artists who are well known, especially in the local area, and other pieces that are more outsider artwork,” Riley says, pointing out that some pieces in the show are sports themed, but most artists simply did whatever it is they do best. “You can’t tell artists what to paint, so we have a combination of work,” she adds, describing a wide array of styles and media, such as painting, photography, sculpture and mixed media pieces, and an equally varied price range.

“In terms of price point, we have things that are $100 and we have things that are several thousand at the show. And the idea that 60% of it will be a tax deduction, a write-off because it’s going to the charities, I think is a great idea. Plus, people should have fun art,” Riley says naming artists such as Andy Friedman, who painted a series of Topps baseball cards, hyper-realistic wood carver Randall Rosenthal, illustrator Lynn Matsuoka, expressionist painters Stephanie Brody-Lederman and William Quigley, longtime Artists team captain Leif Hope, representational artist RJT Haynes, abstract artist Shira Toren, Cynthia Karalla who creates sculpture based on the Mueller Report, and humorous outsider artist Peter Wood, to name a few.

Art donated by Lynn Matsuoka for "Spring Training 2022"
Art donated by Lynn Matsuoka for “Spring Training 2022”Courtesy Artists & Writers Game

With all the big-name players and participants over the years, including Alec Baldwin, Ross Bleckner, Ben Bradlee, Christie Brinkley, Matthew Broderick, Dick Cavett, President Bill Clinton, Taylor Hanson, Dustin Hoffman, Abbie Hoffman, Peter Matthiessen, Jay McInerney, George Plimpton, Lori Singer, Martha Stewart, Tom Wolfe, and so many others, the Artists & Writers Game has long had the clout to become bigger than just a softball game, and Riley hopes to follow that thought toward bringing in more money for charity year-round.

“The thing is that we’ve had a board for many years, but it’s not a membership organization. You don’t pay dues. One of our new initiatives, which we’re launching in March, as well, is to create a secondary group called Friends of the Artists & Writers,” she says. “Because we have a whole bunch of people who do for us various things, but they’re not on the board,” Riley continues, pointing out that not everyone can play in the game, but they can still champion the cause. “We’re hoping that by expanding, the people who have skin in the game, so to speak, who have a role, will help us do other things. So we’ve floated many ideas.”

"Green Energy" (24”x24”) by Shira Toren
“Green Energy” (24”x24”) by Shira TorenCourtesy Shira Toren

Another unique aspect of the Artists & Writers Game, and events like the Spring Training 2022 exhibition and art sale, is the participation of volunteers from the charities they support. “Our charities aren’t just on the receiving end, and I think that’s what makes it special, too,” Riley says. “We’re a nonprofit organization, but we pass through the money to other nonprofits. And they don’t just sit and wait for a check, they actually help us and participate, and are part of the game,” she explains. “I don’t think people realize that the Phoenix House, those young men come and they set up and then they take down, they clean the field. Hospice manages the gate and organizes that level. Everyone has a role. I like the fact that the charities are actually involved in the success of the game. And they will be involved in the success of this art exhibit.”

Learn more about the East Hampton Artists & Writers Charity Softball Game, including its history and a complete list of alumni players, at awgame.org.

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