2002-06-29 / Columnists

On The Beach… With Beverly Baxter

Whenever I spend time at my parents home in Southampton, I can't help but draw parallels between Rockaway and the remote quaintness of Long Island's east end. The notion of those who wince at the thought that there could be little commonality except for our close proximity to the ocean is becoming more and more untrue. In fact, Rockaway is rapidly rising to its own occasion as a desirable seaside hamlet. Although I personally appreciate the solitude and tranquility of the winters here, summertime is really when Rockaway comes alive.

With the growing Artist community, we now offer so much more than great surf and hot dog stands. Just as Jackson Pollock and the beat culture discovered the beauty of the Hamptons as an Artist colony, Rockaway is being discovered by Artists for its rustic seascape, color, and light. As a young girl I was inspired by the productions at the John Drew Theatre at Guild Hall and the Bay Street Theatre, the Film Festivals and Art Galleries. Of course the Hamptons attract the finest curators from Lincoln
Center and the Met; however, Rockaway, with its reasonable rent, is attracting artists from around the city who are drawn to its natural beauty.

The result over the past few years has been an explosion of Art. Many would say it all began more than twenty-five years ago with renowned Comedian Sam Levenson when he founded the Rockaway Music and Arts Council with its roster of quality cultural events. When I first moved to Rockaway in 1990, I remember John Baxter had just dismantled his bar. Although he installed there for a short time a clothing store, I could not help but marvel at the enormous space and its potential as either a dance studio or theatre. Artist Geoff Rawling had been living at Baxter's Hotel and he was kind of like the resident Artist/Illustrator for the Rockaway Press. I enjoyed many hours brainstorming with Geoff about Rockaway's potential as an Artists Colony. A few years later, John opened The Playhouse and mounted his first performance with off-off Broadway Director Edith O'Hara; and then later, with Monica Mitchell. It was enormously successful, confirming my hunch was accurate.

Shortly after Baxter produced a run of hit performances, Mary Park opened the Park Seaport Theater. Geoff Rawling, together with Patrick Clarke and other Artists founded the Rockaway Artists Alliance and opened a Gallery inside The Seaport. Soon the Rockaway Theatre Company was formed; and under the creative direction of John Gilleece, it has produced some of the greatest shows I've ever seen! In addition to the RTC, we also have The Bayswater Players, which has been boasting quality theater for the east end for many years. In addition to all the theater and art, RMAC continues its Summer Concert Series on the great lawn at Fort Tilden and the RAA hosts its Movies by Moonlight. With the ocean and its natural beauty.

Our rich Native American history, diverse culture, turn-of-the-century Architecture, and now the Artist Community, Rockaway has it all!
***Nuptials! Congratulations and best wishes to Mary and Jim Kelly who were married last Friday June 21 at Saint Frances De Sales Church in what has been described as a community event as hundreds came out to celebrate this special and much beloved couple. May you have many years of wedded bliss and continue to inspire all those whom you touch.
***Don't miss the Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular. Kudos to Barbara J. Morris for organizing this event.
***See you there.... On the Beach!

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