By Tiffani Golding
On Nov. 4th the Suffolk County Historical Society Museum in Riverhead featured Diane Alec Smith’s exhibition “Quiet Places of the North Fork”. The gallery featured over 10 acrylic paintings of landscapes and seascapes of actual locations in North Fork.
Smith has lived in the same home in North Fork her entire life and as the days go by, the town she is most familiar with has been changing. With more buildings appearing and less plantations, Smith is worried that there will be no preservation of the plantations and historic landmarks around her so she says she captures it in her artwork to save the memory.
“It’s disappearing so fast I can see it, all the farmers have left, everything has changed,” Smith said.
In April the officials on the town’s Architectural Review Board and Landmarks Preservation Commission came up with a plan to build five-story apartment buildings on Riverhead’s Main Street. The Review Board and Commission want to integrate the apartment buildings and the public green spaces along the riverfront to enhance the historical district. “There used to be cabbage farms and then it was potato farms now it’s vineyards and all the housing developments that came along, it’s all changing so fast,” Smith Said.
The SCHS museum focuses on artwork and artifact collections that contain history and preservation of the material culture in Suffolk County. The museum includes over 20,000 historical artifacts, some of which date back to the 19th century. Smith received a personal invitation to showcase her artwork from the Executive Director, Victoria Berger, at SCHS Museum.
“ We open our doors to any historical archives or artifacts that help preserve our Suffolk County history,” Berger said. “I think that as a community the people of Riverhead are very passionate about maintaining their history.”
It’s not just the artists who are raising concerns about preservation in Riverhead. “I think the reality is we all have to be vigilant to save what’s left,” Stephen Irwin, a resident who was visiting the SCHS museum, said. “I want my grandkids to come and to enjoy the birds and the woods and creeks.”
Smith’s strives to show the “One thing is people can see the beauty in it and help take care of the land or help keep it as it is rather than just building buildings or shopping malls,” Lee Cleary, resident and one of Smith’s art students, said.
Since smith began her career she sold over 1,300 paintings and has been teaching studio art classes for 37 years. Most of her paintings are all drawings of places are familiar to her. “What I’m painting is things that are right around my neighborhood. I don’t have to go far, it’s right here,” Smith said. Her exhibition can be viewed at SCHS museum until Dec. 22nd.