for Old Town Arts and Crafts Societya 75-year-old nonprofit who works in a 19th-century house, adjusting was a struggle—but not impossible.

The artist collective occupies a house at 28265 Main Street, Cutchogue, which serves as a gallery, shop and educational center. The organization celebrated its diamond anniversary this year.

“Not only did I meet a lot of other local artists, but we shared and learned from each other,” said Kip Bedell, 64, who reunited with his love of painting and joined the guild after retiring from Bedell Cellars in 2017. “It’s a great place to sell my paintings.”

Since New Suffolk resident Bob Kuhne, 73, took over as president in 2000, the society has undergone many changes, including the decision to hold art classes for children and adults. The nonprofit offers lessons in drawing, photography, drawing and other media, and hosts lecture-style presentations with an artistic component, such as a discussion on plastic pollution and a gallery display for elementary school students using totem poles made from recycled plastic from local beaches.

But like the guild itself and the house it calls home, its members aren’t getting any younger, a challenge shared by the North Fork nonprofit and others. Of the 40 or so members of the guild, about six are in their 60s and most are over 70, Mr Kuhne said.

“The problem is we’re not getting any young people in,” Mr Kuhn said. “I don’t think anyone would accept [the role of president] So I just keep doing it. It seems like a good thing for me, I have a lot of energy and I’m relatively young. But the problem is we don’t get new people to actually do some work. “

Like any modern nonprofit, the guild needs someone to handle financial affairs, organize and promote events, and maintain its online presence. It currently relies on its members as well as volunteers of any age to help their community, such as Sharon Kelly.

“I’ve always appreciated the arts, so I thought it was a great way to meet some people and reach out,” Ms. Kelly said. “The benefit to the community is access to local art and gifts…they can walk to the city center instead of just visiting the site, and it’s nice to have a gallery in town. I think it brings people together ; it’s a sense of community.”

The guild, which owns the Cutchogue property, also lets younger members help with odd jobs around the house and grounds, from changing light bulbs to opening chimneys and installing new fireplaces, a job Mr. Kuhne did with the guild’s vice president, Ginger Mahoney’s husband, Dan. .

Mr Kuhn, who gave a reporter from the Suffolk Times a tour of the 19th-century building last week, explained the various changes the art space has undergone over its history, from the removal of the porch to the expansion that now houses the guild’s display of paintings Partial build and photos. In the section of the house facing the Main Road, the guild showcases the work of a variety of local artisans – from quilts and crocheted blankets to felt creatures and jewelry – all of which are for sale.

The next item on the guild’s to-do list is opening up the second floor of their headquarters to the public. For the guild to thrive in the future, Mr Kuhne said, it needed more space, whether on property it had owned for decades or in a new, larger location. The group had its sights set on selling the North Fork United Methodist Church on Cutchogue’s main road a few years ago, but after the sale, the focus shifted to renovating the building’s second floor.

“The spouse of one of the members installed new windows for us,” Mr Kuhn said. “Of course we bought the windows… [but] If we had to get a contractor to do that, it would be a fortune. “

The upper level remains closed to the public due to the state of the small and dilapidated steps leading to it. The guild currently uses the space to store some of its old work created by its members over the decades. Hundreds of paintings—some stacked in giant frames, others just flimsy canvases, standing upright in tote bags ready to be flipped through like records in a milk crate—are tucked away in closets, out of the way Access to the rarely used attic.

Due to limited funds, the Guild applied to the Robert DL Gardiner Foundation Inc. for a grant to build a new staircase, but was not selected for funding. Mr. Kuhne hopes some of his members will be able to assist with applications for other grants in the near future.

The gallery on the second floor is open to the public, allowing the guild not only to display its stored historical works, but also to relocate paintings and photographs that currently hang downstairs. Mr Kuhne explained that with more space available on the ground floor, the guild could exhibit larger artworks.

“A lot of artists complain that we can’t have big pieces,” he said. “And some of our new clients, they’re coming in now with these big houses. They have huge wall space, and they’re asking for big pieces.”

Despite the limited space, the association welcomes the new art styles and craftsmanship that have emerged in recent years, from the work of Ulli Stachl, who collects and paints driftwood to create three-dimensional works several feet long, to Yesim Ozen, whose handmade soaps depict natural scenes .

After visiting the gallery, it became apparent that the setting and character of the North Fork had also inspired various photographers and painters, including Mr. Kuhne. His most popular painting is a collage representing wineries in the region, circa 2010. The following year, he created another collage celebrating a local farm.

The guild also offers books on the rich art history of the North Fork. Mr Kuhne said he believed the unique surroundings of the area had inspired artists long before the guild was formed in 1948.

“[Artists] Came here because the light is so good and the view is so beautiful,” he said. “I think the light has something to do with the bay on the north side and the bay on the other side. “

Accessible to anyone who wants to volunteer or become a member of a guild oldtownartsguild.orgCall 631-734-6382 or email [email protected]

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