Passing the Baton at Guild Hall - Andrea Grover
Andrea Grover outside Guild Hall | Photo by Sunny Khalsa

Andrea Grover outside Guild Hall | Photo by Sunny Khalsa

Whether it’s a Jackson Pollock drip painting class or a meander through the Water Mill Center on a Sunday afternoon, in the Hamptons, art is the yin to the ocean’s yang. There are great connectors – people who appreciate artists and collaborate with them to bring their work into the public domain. In recent years, through her tireless work at the Parrish Art Museum, Andrea Grover has become one of these great connectors. When she makes the move to Guild Hall in September, she’ll bring with her a youthful energy, and the ability to bring even greater collaboration to the artists’ community of the East End.

Grover has been an innovative force at the Parrish, creating programs that became wildly successful, starting with PechaKucha Night in 2011, in which diverse members of the creative community did short, engaging presentations on their work. “PechaKucha was an immediate success because of its timed format and its non-hierarchical structure,” said Grover. “Celebrated artists could present alongside students, farmers alongside dancers. It painted a portrait of the vast creative population that lives here.”

PechaKucha also served to connect Grover with hundreds of artists and other creatives, which inspired her to keep growing the museum’s programming. The Parrish Road Show, launched in 2012, sponsored artists outside the museum walls, and brought patrons to new and interesting venues from parks to fields to storefronts to cultural institutions. This year, visual artist Bastienne Schmidt has an exhibition, Archaeology of Time, at the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum through the Parrish Road Show. “Working with Andrea on the Parrish Road Show was incredibly inspiring as an artist,” said Schmidt. “She is a curator who has open eyes and an open mind, who deeply believes in an artist-led dialogue.”

Andrea Grover seated in the Guild Hall Theater | Photo by Sunny Khalsa

Andrea Grover seated in the Guild Hall Theater | Photo by Sunny Khalsa

Grover also served to integrate art forms that don’t always exist harmoniously. The Parrish Art Museum is an ode to the visual arts first and foremost, but Grover helped to usher in other genres, like performance. During this year’s exhibition “Radical Seafaring”, which won Grover two curatorial awards, a reading of Joe Pintauro’s Men’s Lives was part of an artistic survey of artists’ projects sited on the water. “She seems to have a natural vision for the bridge between the visual and performing arts,” said Stephen Hamilton, who’s directed many plays at Guild Hall and took part in Men’s Lives.

Following the artist is at the heart of what Grover believes, and it will undoubtedly guide her as she builds on the strong foundation at Guild Hall. Ruth Appelhof, who retires after 17 years as director of Guild Hall, worked with staff to attract a stellar cast of artists into the fold. “I intend to keep the bar high for artistic excellence while maintaining a space for experimentation,” said Grover. “Artists are life’s greatest product testers, and they see the future before the rest of us. I’d like to expand on the substantial foundation of artists’ services that Guild Hall already provides.”

Guild House, the new artist in residence program that launched with a flourish last spring, provides a beautiful home for emerging artists to live and create in East Hampton. After several weeks of sharing meals and working independently, they come together onstage to share their work with the community. “In addition to hosting residencies, the house has potential as a platform for all manner of programming, conversations, and salons,” said Grover. “I love the “living room” atmosphere of the house and would like to use that to advance a different scale of experience. The space is versatile and intimate, and I’m sure artists will figure out a way to use it unconventionally.”

John Drew Theater Lab, directed by Josh Gladstone, is a forum for playwrights and actors to test new materials. These free staged readings are open to the community, and often include a Q&A at the end, where audience members give valuable feedback to the playwright. “These programs provide a platform for the next generation of artists,” said Grover. “Along with these opportunities, a Teen Council would be worth exploring. Teenagers become paid staff members of a museum, generating content–like fashion shows, temporary exhibitions, and concerts–geared towards their own generation. Teens become ambassadors for the institution while gaining incomparable work experience.”

Guild Hall opened in 1931 as a center for the artistic community. With Grover as director, artists are optimistic that this original purpose will only grow. “Andrea Grover leading Guild Hall will open new creative dialogues,” said Schmidt, “that will pull us together as a creative community and as a community as a whole. I see her as a cultural fairy, who sprinkles fairy dust on all of us.”

Grover, as a connector, looks to all the creative corners of the community for inspiration and collaboration. “Guild Hall means gathering place,” said Grover, “and in the tradition of lyceums and other teaching places, lends itself to the cross-pollination of the arts with other branches of knowledge – a meeting of the minds. As Ruth advised me at our first meeting, the possibilities are limitless.”

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