Written by Linda Portney Goldstein Friday, 14 October 2011 00:00
The dedication on Sunday, Oct. 9 at the Bay Walk Pier was actually three dedications at once: the Bay Walk Park, the Bay Walk Pier and the Bay Walk Nautical Museum, which is the first outdoor museum in Nassau County.
Mayor Robert Weitzner, who was repeatedly commended by local elected officials as the driving force for this project during the last eight years, spoke of the experience that inspired him to conceive of an outdoor art museum for the waterfront.
Five years ago Mayor Weitzner visited the town of Greenport on the North Fork of Long Island to see how that community had redeveloped its shoreline. Weitzner was impressed with what he saw, but the particular thing that caught his eye and touched his heart was a slab of concrete in the sidewalk with small bronze fish embedded in the concrete. The fish had been sculpted by the children of Greenport. It was then that Weitzner conceived of an outdoor exhibition space comprised of works by local artists and school children.
Weitzner came back to Port, asked for volunteers to serve on an art committee and, in quintessential Port Washington fashion, many stepped forward to participate and the Bay Walk Nautical Art Committee was formed. The mandate for the committee: to explore ways of populating the Bay Walk with art that would tie together the history of Manhasset Bay and Port Washington while celebrating the unique beauty of the setting.
From the beginning, the committee envisioned signage explaining the history of Port along with a variety of artwork that would celebrate elements of the history. The group solicited local artists to submit proposals and from many, four were chosen.
One of the artists, Shula Mustacchi, lived in Port Washington across from Manhasset Bay for more than 33 years and has viewed innumerable majestic sunsets. Mustacchi says that she knew immediately that she would use glass tiles to portray the sun setting over Manhasset Bay. As a mixed media artist Mustacchi generally works in paper collage and fabric but felt that only glass mosaics could capture the brilliant colors of the sun, sky and water. Her work titled Sailing and Sunsets in Manhasset Bay perfectly captures the mood of a sunset over the bay.
Armond Saidai’s work, School of Fish, is an abstract representation of the annual migration of fish in and out of the bay. Saidai said the challenge for him was to decide what it was he really liked about Port Washington. Once he realized that what he loves about the North Shore is the fishing and the boats, the rest just followed. School of Fish is made of copper, which will weather to a green patina over time. Saidai has lived in Port since he immigrated to the United States from England in 1981.
Birds of Flight is a metal sculpture by Jerry Shore. Shore, a long time Port Washington resident has been a sculptor all his life, but it wasn’t until he retired as the CEO of a company that he founded, that he started to sculpt full time, exclusively in metal. He maintains a studio in Port Washington and specializes in large public art.
Aaron Morgan’s work memorializes two aspects of Port Washington history: sand mining and the first Trans Atlantic passenger flights. Not many people know that the sand which was used to build all those Manhattan skyscrapers came out of the sandpits of Port Washington, or that the first transatlantic passenger flights originated in Manhasset Bay. The Pan American Clippers were luxurious airplanes constructed in Port. Morgan’s Sand Miners and Pan Am Clipper is a glazed mosaic.
Also in the museum is a sculpture by the 2008 graduating class of Sousa Elementary School. Each year the Sousa graduating class under the instruction of art teacher Steven Moore designs and makes a major art project for Sousa. The project in 2008 was a nautical bench designed to be donated to the Bay Walk Nautical Museum. Walkers can admire the bench or sit on it and enjoy the vista. A nautical bench was also made for Sousa.
At the most southern end of Bay Walk is the original piece of property acquired for this project. It is called the Thomas Pellegrino Memorial Park in memory of the Port Washington North mayor who, along with Tom Imperatore, first conceived of a Bay Walk more than 15 years ago. In the park is a concrete circle intended to showcase art that may be loaned to the village in the future. It also includes a sculpture of a Star Class Keel for the Star Class Sail Boats that were designed and initially built in Port Washington.
The contributing artists, when asked about their motivation to participate in the project, all said they welcomed the opportunity to “give back” to a community they love.