Widgets Magazine

Artist Caroline Waloski Chats Art, Maritime Fest & Shellabration with Q&A

Q: How did you come to the North Fork? A: My parents had a summer home in Mattituck, and I had extended family in the farming community in Jamesport and Mattituck—the Polish farming roots.

My parents wanted us to have somewhere to play away from the city streets so we would come here for the summer and most weekends. My folks eventually retired out here. I always thought Greenport was magical, a real maritime village that showed the history of the whole North Fork. It’s a walking village with access to and views of Peconic Bay with a working harbor. A perfect place to open a gallery and art studio.

I came here full time in 2005, and opened my gallery, Sirens’ Song, in 2006.

Q: Have you always been an artist? How did you discover your calling?

A: My mother was an artist, so my sister and I were encouraged as children to draw and paint. I knew early on that art was going to be my career. When I graduated high school I was accepted into the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science & Art. At Cooper I was introduced to advertising and graphic design—so I could earn a living—but I always continued to paint.

Because of some exceptional instructors who were working artists I developed an interest in etching and intaglio prints. The idea of hands on production of multiple images still fascinates me.

Q: What do you show in your gallery?

A: Lately I’ve been exhibiting my own work, but generally I focus on exhibiting printmakers, both local and from NYC.  Besides fine art, the gallery also offers handmade craft items: wearable, usable, and affordable art.

Q: Do you have a favorite subject in your art?

A: My work has always had a feminist edge, and I use my own life as inspiration. Family, friends, my experiences, my son have all been muses.

When I selected the name Sirens’ Song for my gallery—enticing people to enter—visitors started asking me for mermaids. I thought well, we’re all born in an amniotic sea—life begins in water, we are made up of water, and life is sustained by water, it’s not a stretch to add a mermaid goddess to my imagery. That’s where my work is at the moment. The area is very broad and allows me to play with themes of fact and fantasy.

Q: Is your gallery open year round?

A: I’m open all year round because I make my home here. Right now, I’m open Saturdays and Sundays 12:30-6pm, or any day of the week by appointment.

Q: What do you love about the North Fork and Greenport in particular?

A: The water, first of all. I lived in Manhattan surrounded by water, now here I am still surrounded by water on three sides. I also love the light. I love that its a aquaculture and agricultural community. The return of oyster farming to the North Fork is a big plus to the community. Farming also seems to be alive and well. And I love that Greenport itself is very diverse, it’s like a smaller NYC in many ways. It has the same heartbeat.

Q: You’re very involved in the local community, aren’t you?

A: I’m the promotion liaison on the Greenport BID helping to promote the village so people understand how wonderful this area is. The village tagline is ‘you don’t have to go far to get away’. A day trip or extended stay can be a lovely holiday experience.

The Greenport Historic Preservation Committee is also a committee I volunteer for. Preservation of Greenport’s historic architectural beauty while keeping up with structural innovavition is important to me. We live in the “Now” but must be respectful of the past and not lose the flavor of the “Then”.

I’m also working with the East End Seaport Museum helping to promote and brand the museum, its events and attractions. This year Maritime Festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Q: Tell me about the Maritime Festival.

A: The opening event on September 19th is Land and Sea, is a special fund raiser cocktail party for the restoration of Bug Light. The festivities really take off at 11 am on the 20th, with the parade, blessing of the waters and fleet, and continue through Sunday the 21st. There will be music, arts & crafts, locally prepared foods and oysters, local artisinal beer, ale and wine from nearby vieyards. The restaurants are preparing signature dishes in celebration.

Last year the festival took a different turn from festivals in the past, making it more local so that we involve and support our local business rather than rely on outside vendors. This year we’re continuing and expanding that direction with the shopkeepers volunteering and keeping our festival unique.

I am personally chairing one event, The Little Merfolk contest, which welcomes participants of all ages—anyone who is a child at heart. We invite people to dress up as mermaids and sea creatures and march in the parade. That’s all part of maritime history as told by sailors in the past. It’s magic-- a neat combination of our maritime heritage and myth. Everyone gets a token prize, but we’ll be giving special certificate awards, like the best homemade mermaid costume, or most ferocious sea monster. We haven’t settled on the awards categories yet because registration is still open, and the awards will be tailored appropriately for children and adults. Last year the event was for children 5-12, this year we are hoping to attract teens, adults and seniors. This event is perfect for those who suffer from Peter Pan syndrome.

Q: You’re also involved in organizing Shellabration, aren’t you? Tell me about that.

A: I was happy when I was asked to create the logo for the event, and to participate in the promotion. Shellabration celebrates our aquacultural heritage and its resurgence. We’re going into a third year. The first two were great successes; we’re hoping that this third one will solidify for everyone that it’s an annual event.

Our village restaurants will be paired with local wines, beers and ales. Buy a bracelet on line—the bracelet is a donation to SPAT and CAST--and then when you go the restaurant of your choiceyou can select a tapas-sized dish and pairing at a discount. The bracelet is both your ticket and coupon. This year Shellabration will be December 6th and 7th / Noon- 4pm. Greenport is a village for all seasons... and its always a pleasure for me to use my experience to serve art and community.