Exploring Riverhead’s Art Sites

After 12 years of exhibiting art and a move from Greenport to Riverhead, Art Sites owners Glynis M. Berry and her husband, Hideaki Ariizumi, have continued to clarify the vision and direction of their popular local gallery. Their latest group show, “Nature Incorporated,” opens Saturday, September 22,  as a perfect example of what the husband-and-wife duo aim to accomplish.

Art Sites literally came to Berry in a vision. She and Ariizumi were already the successful owners of their firm Studio A/B Architects since 1992, but Berry and her husband always made and appreciated art as well, so when inspiration struck, she immediately went after it. “I started it because of a dream, believe it or not,” Berry said. “I woke up and told my husband, let’s go look at stores,” she added, explaining how she first began looking for a commercial gallery space in Greenport. “He thought I meant go shopping.”

Art Sites opened in Greenport in 2000, and it was one of the first galleries to launch what is now a thriving art scene in the village.
“We were there in a tiny space for three years,” Berry said, noting that she and Ariizumi originally focused on ceramics at the gallery, but by the time they moved to an abandoned Jeep dealership on Main Street in Riverhead—and spent two years battling for permit approval—the vision had shifted. When they opened again in 2005, Art Sites was exhibiting a range of work in all manner of media, by some of the finest artists on the East End and beyond. “It’s pretty broad,” Berry said.

Berry admits that she has never been an art world powerhouse or a major mover and shaker, yet her excellent taste and thoughtfully curated shows drew the interest of talented artists who agreed, or even asked, to show in the gallery. The excellent painters and sculptors who have exhibited at Art Sites include, Candyce Brokaw, Scott McIntire, Darlene Charneco, Jim Bloom, Ellen Wiener and Mark May, among many others. The gallery put particular attention on outsider artists and it earned the attention of The New York Times and other publications.

“It’s a love of mine, putting together shows,” Berry said, pointing out that she has experience working in museums and once studied to be an artist before giving it up and moving on to architecture. “I’m living vicariously through the artists we show.”

Over the years, Berry and Ariizumi found themselves more interested in environmental issues and causes, and Art Sites eventually became an outlet for this passion. In 2007, the gallery opened CALLED TO ACTION: Environmental Restoration Projects by Artists, and it inspired them to create a nonprofit, Peconic Green Growth, charged with finding positive links between the environment, the community and art.

In 2010, Art Sites’ shows “Bird Shift” and “Peconic Exploration” continued the environmental theme by examining the impact of our culture on birds and nature, and celebrating the Peconic River and its importance to the community.

“Nature Incorporated,” features work by Ariizumi, Lillian Ball, Andrea Cote, Scott McIntire, Robert Oxnam, Hope Sandrow, Ulf Skogsbergh and Nina Yankowitz, as well as a special room of “Portraits,” natural mixed media wall sculptures by Tracy Heneberger. All the work is quite varied in its approach, but the collective message is about the beautiful and changing environment, and how it needs to be protected, Berry explained.

Art Sites brings excellent contemporary art to Riverhead, and Berry hopes she and her husband can help usher in a new cultural revival in Riverhead, just as they did in Greenport more than a decade ago. “My hope is it will take off,” she said of the Riverhead art scene. “That’s why we moved there.”

Art Sites Gallery is located at 651 West Main Street in Riverhead. Call 631-591-2401 or visit www.artsitesgallery.com for more information and gallery hours.

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