A new art project aims to let individuals see Riverhead through another's eyes.
The community-based public art project, "Eyes on Main Street," created by Flanders resident and artist Andrea Cote and sponsored by the East End Arts Council, seeks to shine a light on the "rich and varied spaces and stories of Riverhead's citizens, drawing upon oral histories with a visual twist," Cotes wrote, in her project description.
Using a unique concept -- photos of residents' eyes, which are imposed on cloth blindfolds - the project will also involve local residents, who can help to create video portraits, where they will give voice to their own personal histories in Riverhead.
Cote filmed 12 video portraits of local personalities, business owners, and others who come together to create the canvas of Riverhead.
The interviews - which include talks with Riverhead locals including Pat Snyder of the East End Arts Council, Bob Spiotto of The Suffolk Theater, Maryanne McElroy, a business owner, teacher, and choir director, Anthony Meras of The Star Confectionary, known as "Papa Nick's, and others -- Cote said, are filled with stories, anecdotes, and memories.
After unveiling the project with "blindfolds," which will feature prints in the shape of eyes of Riverhead residents, at the 17th Annual Riverhead Community Mosaic Street Painting Festival on Memorial Day weekend, Cotes will also help to transform the windows of empty storefronts on Main Street.
On the windows, Cotes hopes to install a wall of silk blindfolds printed with residents’ eyes, photographs and words.
The installation will be created with public at the Mosaic Festival, as well as free follow-up workshops at the East End Arts Council. Participants will also be encouraged to “try on another’s eyes” and leave a story about Main Street to share.
Posters will be visible throughout downtown; multiple copies of 12 different photographs containing photographs of the artist wearing particular blindfolds will be accompanied by a website address and “QR code.” When scanned with a smartphone, a video will appear, featuring the "portrait" of the person whose eyes Cotes is wearing.
"You'll be able to see Riverhead through another person's eyes," Cotes said.
Takeaway postcards will also be printed.
Finally, a smartphone-responsive website will house the online videos as well as images of the public project and an animation of the eyes.
There will be a place for visitors to add their own stories, and a blog following events such as screenings and Main Street tours with featured personalities.
The website will launch with four of the featured video portraits, with more becoming available on July 1 and August 1.
At the end of August a completed animation of the eyes will viewable on the artist's website, and a screening of the video portraits will be presented locally, along with a panel of the featured participants.
In addition, an oral hstory night is being planned with the Suffolk County Historical Society.
Cote is seeking to raise approximately $17,000 in donations for the project -- also needed is a laser printer -- so that she can launch by Memorial Day weekend. She has also applied for grant funding.
"It is my hope this project will foster a sense of community and inspiration among residents and visitors alike, demonstrating, quite literally, the power of vision and creativity residing in Riverhead," Cote said.
The videos, Cote added, show Riverhead personalities in their element, with clips of Spiotta, for example, speaking about the theater. "He's singing and dancing," she said.
Cote, originally from Miami, said she was inspired by Riverhead's rich legacy. "I love this place," she said. "Riverhead has such history."
Riverhead Town Councilman Jim Wooten said he thought the project was worthy and said he believed many would donate to help bring voice to Riverhead's oral history.