RiverArts Pilots Art Studio Tour to Tarrytown with Help from Jazz Forum Arts and The Music Hall

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by Morey Storck

“It’s essentially a pilot program with great expectations. Our Art Studio Tour now covers the river towns of Hastings, Dobbs Ferry and Irvington. However, serious discussions about reaching out to the Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow communities have been under consideration for the past three years and now, we’ve decided, is the right time,” explained Doug Coe, Executive Director of RiverArts.

Of course, nothing is quite as simple as it may seem. This RiverArts pilot project is a confluence of many factors that came together, not as a perfect storm, but rather as an unexpected melding of fortunate events.

Ellen Prior River Arts Jazz Forum Arts
Jazz Forum Arts Associate Director Ellen Prior

Jazz Forum Arts will officially open its much-anticipated Jazz Club in April at 1 Dixon Lane in Tarrytown. It will be the only dedicated jazz club and wine bar in Westchester. But, as Ellen Prior, Associate Director, pointed out, “When Mark (Morganelli) and I moved to Tarrytown from Dobbs Ferry two years ago, we were looking to down-size, but when we saw this property, creative wheels began turning and so many possibilities came to light. Of course, Mark was thrilled and, in his head, was already making plans for the Jazz Club.”

Morganelli is the Founder and Executive Director of Jazz Forum Arts and is certainly no stranger to Tarrytown. “We moved to Dobbs Ferry from Manhattan in 1991 and six months later, and for 22 years, we presented Jazz at the Music Hall in Tarrytown, and also 18 years of free summer concerts (still ongoing) in the river towns. Now, we’ll be able to perform in our own venue, which we hope will become a destination for locals, visitors and all jazz enthusiasts in the tri-state area and, maybe, beyond!”

Initially, the Jazz Forum Club will present top names in jazz and Brazillian music every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, along with food and drinks. As for the rest of the week, that’s where Prior comes in. “The rest of the week belongs to me. That’s my baby! We’ve got great space for community social and educational enrichment projects. And, we’ve got fantastic walls, now empty, but begging to provide a wonderful exhibition site for our very talented local and area artists.”

The Tarrytown Music Hall has made a large, recently renovated, multi-purpose space on the second floor of the theater, available to Brieff Studios. This will allow many of their member artists to exhibit, in a professional manner, during the RiverArts Studio Tour. As Nancy Zallo, Director of Membership, explained, “We at the Music Hall welcome this association with Brieff Studios. We want the space to support creative community activities and to serve as a platform for interaction between our business and educational leaders to discuss new ideas for improvement wherever needed.”

Brieff Studios is a relatively new Tarrytown group founded by artists Gabrielle Burger and Jeff Dietz. “We want people of all creative levels to feel comfortable trying something new, and to give these local artists, and aspiring neophytes, a non-intimidating environment where they can go to meet other artists while keeping up with their skills or developing new ones.”

So far, their meetings have been a series of Drink and Draw nights, with a live model for inspiration, and non-instructional workshops where a broad representation of the community can gather for fun, association and learning. The cooperative opportunity offered by the Music Hall gives Brieff Studios a big boost up to achieve their goals.

RiverArts was trying to decide if extending its Art Studio Tour to Tarrytown was viable, both financially and administratively. Was there community support and enthusiasm, and a talent pool to warrant a new pilot venture?

The answer was a definite yes.

Prior, formally a RiverArts Board member has returned to that role. Morganelli, has been on the Advisory Board for years. “When Ellen came back on board, everything seemed to fall in line. The 21-month effort to get their Jazz Forum Club ready for an official April opening was a key factor. And Ellen’s continuous lobbying for us to expand to Tarrytown didn’t hurt either. So, now with the Tarrytown Music Hall and Brieff Studios also in the picture, it seems to be perfect timing,” Coe said.

However, much depends on the Tarrytown response to this RiverArts Pilot Program. Will the statistics bear out the optimism felt now? During the 2016 Studio Tour, RiverArts artists showed their work to nearly 7,000 visitors in private studios and exhibition areas. The tour succeeded in its top role of creating opportunities for the artist to engage with the public and to shed light on the creative process.

Of course, the financial burden for RiverArts reaching out to Tarrytown and eventually to Sleepy Hollow is a matter of concern. In the 1990’s, when they expanded into Dobbs Ferry and Irvington, there were the same concerns.

“There’s just so much you can do on a shoestring. Sure, we get grants and donations, but we still need some financial aid from the communities we service, and we received it,” Coe said.

“But, right now, we feel that we are doing the right thing. It’s a go and we’re all optimistic. Heck, I just ordered another fold for our brochure!”

The Art Studio Tour is scheduled for April 22 and 23, from Hastings to Tarrytown.

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