Center for Culture and Community Proposed for Parrish Building

Plans for a possible arts center met with mixed reactions during a public meeting at the Southampton Cultural Center.

Community opinion is not settled regarding the future use of the Parrish Art Museum building.

That was clear as Southampton residents debated whether the building should house a culture and arts center or a broader-based community gathering place during a presentation Sept. 1 at the Southampton Cultural Center.

Southampton Village officials are soliciting public feedback  to determine the building’s usage after the art museum moves next year to its new facility, .

The village owns the building on Jobs Lane, where the Parrish is currently located. A new non-profit, Southampton Center of the Arts, would host programs and events provided by others, versus producing events of its own, said presenters from Webb Management Services Inc. and village officials.

“It’s more cost effective to have others bring programming to Southampton than to try and produce them ourselves,” said Southampton Village Mayor Mark Epley.

Programming will begin next summer, Epley said. To that end, part-time launch consultant Mara Manuso was hired to start lining up programs. Manuso unveiled a list of New York City-based cultural institutions who had expressed interest in bringing programming to Southampton Center of the Arts, she said.

Area organizations interested in partnering included , , , and the , she said.

Southampton Center of the Arts is perceived to be an anchor for a proposed village arts district, Epley said. Developing a cultural vision will boost the economy in the village by giving visitors a reason to come to Southampton, he said.

The debut program will be traveling photography exhibition Landmarks of New York, Manuso said. Lectures and tours of area architecture could round out the exhibition.

Other potential programs for next summer could include Dancing Under the Stars, a film series, and headlining concerts featuring jazz or classical groups.  

Southampton Village Planning Commission Chairman Siamak Samii presented three renovation scenarios for the building and grounds.

Mayor Epley said that no decisions have been made and the village was in a “visioning process,” during which community input is being gathered. Surveys sent to area residents revealed a desire for the building to retain a cultural purpose, he said, adding that future meetings and input will determine the facility’s eventual fate.

“This building is going to be vacant,” he said. “This is going to happen — there’s no getting around it. We have to do something. ... The Parrish is leaving.”

Audience response varied from support to concern to objection to a suggestion to use the building as another center for culture. Several people called for a public gathering place where teens, seniors and adults could engage in programs other than cultural programming. These included Penny Wright of the Rogers Memorial Library and resident Kimberly Allan. Another suggested the building could be used as a new village hall.

So far, the village has spent around $73,000 to determine the building’s future occupancy, Epley said. Taxpayers will not be footing the bill for operation of the non-profit organization currently being formed, he emphasized.


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