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Graduated Pearl Bench Project Is to Highlight Oyster Bay’s Pearls

Jerelyn Hanrahan is an artist with a sense of humor. She is also an artist who creates both large and small scale projects. You are part of her current public art project, to create a series of graduated pearls that will become a “string of pearls” forming a bench, at Theodore Roosevelt Beach to be temporarily located in the area from the concession stand to the flagpole. People will be able to see them from about Memorial Day to the Oyster Festival, said Tracy Dellomo, Main Street Association economic restructuring committee chair.

Your part in the process is to vote on what you consider to be a “Pearl of Oyster Bay,” a place such as Sagamore Hill or Raynham Hall Museum or the Earle Wightman House – even the Oyster Bay High School building. You can email your suggestions to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or drop them off at Jerelyn Hanrahan’s studio, the Atelier at 9 East Main Street.

The Oyster Bay Main Street Association provided Ms. Hanrahan with the initial grant for the project. Ms. Dellomo said, “We as a group approved the initial funding for the grant for the Graduated Pearls Bench, the seed money. It needs another $30,000 to $40,000 to complete the project.”

She said. “Our goal is to support existing businesses, one of which is Jerelyn Hanrahan’s Atelier Studio, and to attract new business – it fit into our goals and we adopted this project about a year ago, to help her business succeed.

“This public art project is not a money-making project but it is a community project that is soliciting the community on what the Pearls of the hamlet are; and giving the community a sense of pride by celebrating these different ‘Pearls of the Community.’ It is a noninvasive sculpture that will be temporarily installed at the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park.

“Jerelyn Hanrahan [with roots in Oyster Bay] is a world renowned artist with a long history of public art work and making it interactive with this community adds to the project. It is a reflection of what people most admire and would miss if they left the community, so it is a celebration of the community.”

Ms. Dellomo gave an example of how the project will work. She said, “For example, Sagamore Hill is certainly one of the places nominated. Only two of the pearls have been cast so far, so there need to be donations, so the site itself can raise the funds to cast the pearl.  A Pearl will be at Sagamore Hill prior to being put together into the temporary exhibit in the park. When the pubic exhibition ends, the pearls come apart and can return to each site as a piece of garden sculpture. Or if someone wants to write a check for $2,500 to pay for the pearl, it can belong to them. It’s a beautiful opalescent round pearl. So if Sagamore Hill wants it or the donor wants it – they can put it in their garden or discard it. It is their choice.

“The community nominates the site, the site has to raise the money. Our group, MSA, will solicit people to contribute to the project, but the site can raise the money too. The funds will pay for construction, installation and relocation of the necklace in the park, and then, either return it to the site or to the donor of that site.

“When strung together it’s a bench. It’s not invasive, it is temporary,” said Ms. Dellomo.

Jerelyn at Work  

For about two years, Ms. Hanrahan has been involved in the Graduated Pearl Bench project and to create balance in her artistic life, she is turning to making small pieces of clay, and a new series of drawings. “I like to also work on smaller pieces when I am working on a big project – which can take two years,” she said.

 That is what the little Christmas ornaments were all about that were in the Atelier window in December. They were a way to play around with small-scale items.

She said, “I just bought some small action figures and turned them into ornaments. I made them for me, for fun, but people liked them and bought some.”

Another way to view her “scale” of artwork is to see her installation at Tilles Center for the Performing Arts. It is called Nite Out, and it looks as if it represents “Mr. and Mrs. First Nighter” getting ready for a night out at a concert with the iconic pearls for the wife and the white dress-shirt and bow tie for the husband.

“It was done for Tilles Center’s 30th Anniversary celebration. I was very excited about the project because I worked with two local businesses, who assisted in the fabrication. For me and Oyster Bay, it makes it more interesting,” said Ms. Hanrahan.   

“The Tilles Center installations consists of a 15-foot man’s dress shirt. It  was fabricated by the tailor and owner of East Norwich Dry Cleaners on Pine Hollow Road, Charlie Hur.”

“It took a long time,” he said. He does alterations and is well versed in sewing. He made a pattern for the shirt and graded it up to the needed size – “way big.”

Ms. Hanrahan said,“Charlie Hur is a lovely man and an incredible tailor. We worked out the scale and designed it together with about 450 yards of cotton. I got the cotton at a discount in Huntington Station,  Fabric Depot.  I kept making more trips, trying to get what I needed and we always needed more. We also made the bow tie.

“I did the pearls and Jimmy Brown of Sagamore Auto Body sprayed them for me.

“The entire autobody shop was filled with pearls. Jimmy Brown is great. He really knows what he is doing. The pearls are covered with auto body paint and clear acrylic paint.

“The pearls had to be drilled and each pearl itself is self-sufficient so they don’t lean on each other. It will be up for a year.”

The installation opened for the Diana Ross Live concert on Tuesday, Sept. 14. That is when Jerelyn saw them with flood lights on them. It was an awesome sight. “I love that building,” she said of Tilles Center. “It’s wonderful to come around the corner and see that 15-ft. shirt  and 30-foot string of pearls hanging from the ceiling.”

 Ms. Hanrahan was also working on the larger pearls for her bench project. She likes working with round shapes. In 2009 she created a Santa Claus out of red hat, on a pile of “snowballs” resting on a pair of boots. It was the essence of Santa that combined her sense of humor and graphic style.

“You gotta have a joke,” she said.  

Graduated Pearl Bench

The biggest pearl on the graduated series is 30 inches in diameter. “It is done in a poly resin. I buy the parts, the rough shapes and put them together. The shapes are costly. Then I have to make holes and pearlize them. People will vote on what they think are the Pearls of the Community. There are spots for about 10 to 15 in town, and they will show up in the spring when all the pearls come together and we will have a bench. They are really, really strong. It’s like sitting on an exercise ball, but it’s hard.

“It’s fun and interesting having my studio space in Oyster Bay. I’ve been making pearls for the Tilles Center about 9 to 10 hours a day. People would step in and help me and tell their own life stories. They were all very personal and  I wouldn’t want to reveal them. Just interesting people doing something mindless and talking,” she said.

“My daughter Fiona, and her friends Sabrina and Alex came in to help before they went off to college and put in a couple of days work. It was great.

“Also Richard, the son of the owners of the Happy Garden restaurant and his sister Angela were working with me. We really had a sense of community. I got to know them really well,” she said. Ms. Hanrahan has taught art both here and internationally.


Another Artist

“Another person who came and helped is a Viet Nam veteran, Dowey.  He is working on his own project, beautifying all the trees in town. He did my tree. He collects shells and makes a brick outline and fills the bottom of the tree with shell. The dogs don’t like it, a benefit, and the trees look cared for instead of just being in dirt/soil.”

Voting Box

Ms. Hanrahan is actively seeking input on the Pearls of Oyster Bay. She contacted Oyster Bay Post Master Dioenis Perez to see if she can put a voting box for the project and a Pearl at the Post Office. He is confirming it, she said.

“We are also going to go door to door, knocking on people’s doors and asking them to fill out the form, then I collect them. It is really interesting to do. I went into some of the bodegas to get a broad spectrum of people to give answers.

“Then over the winter and spring I will only be working on the bench project. I’m confident we can raise the money needed,” said Ms. Hanrahan. So now, the ball is in your court.