Winter on Long Island’s East End doesn’t mean things come to a halt. They just move at a different pace—one the locals love. —Emily Weitz
There’s a rhythm to life on the East End. It accelerates in July and August, with music on the beaches and parties on every great lawn. Then the crowds depart. The winds turn chill, the days grow shorter, and a slower, more soothing tempo takes hold—along with a delightfully intimate vibe. It just might be the East End’s best-kept secret.
The Hamptons have historically been a destination for artists and writers, and the winter months give them valuable time to create. But long days alone in the studio or practicing with the band bring out a natural desire to share. And if you know where to go, you can join the creative community at a number of venues for casual, personal winter get-togethers ranging from jam sessions to readings of works in progress.
Around the Table
Almond Zigmund inspired more than just the name of Bridgehampton restaurant Almond. When she moved to the East End from New York City, she found herself missing the sense of community that came from artists emerging from their solitary studios hungry for connection and camaraderie. So she instituted Artists & Writers Nights at Almond throughout the off-season. For $45, which includes a glass of wine, people come together for a family-style meal prepared by Almond’s husband, executive chef Jason Weiner, and to listen to artists, actors, poets, and writers share their work. “Art, albeit a solitary endeavor, is a social conduit,” says Zigmund. “And to gather is to share in the performative and communal aspect that is a necessary part of the process.”
The local music scene is great in the summer because it’s great in the winter. Local musicians on the East End get frequent boosts from world-class performers, and we’re not just talking about Jimmy Buffett showing up at The Stephen Talkhouse, though that happens. Grammy winner Randy Brecker is a familiar fixture at Bay Burger’s Thursday night Jam Sessions, and Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers sits in with Nancy Atlas at her Fireside Sessions at Bay Street Theater.
This year, Claes Brondal, drummer and founder of the Jam Session, continues Live from SAC, a Saturday night series at the Southampton Arts Center. “Live from SAC is committed to displaying world-class musical performances and the many great cultural roots of music,” says Brondal. “Showcasing that the human race is culturally interconnected is my favorite aspect—and the most important part—of this music series.”
Major cultural institutions including Guild Hall in East Hampton, the Parrish Art Museum in Southampton, Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor, and Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center in Westhampton Beach make sure the arts calendar is never empty. And one particularly rewarding aspect of life on the East End in the off-season is that, because there’s not quite as much going on, you’ll often bump into friends when you venture out to the “thing to do” on a given night.
This winter, JDT Lab at Guild Hall offers staged readings on Tuesday evenings, like Gutless & Grateful on November 21, when Amy Oestreicher will share lessons learned from a decade of trauma. The Parrish Art Museum’s exhibition From Lens to Eye to Hand is open through January and explores photorealism from 1969 to today. And this year’s Literature Live series at Bay Street, which aims to expose students across Long Island to the joys of live theater, will feature Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. Chloë Dirksen, who played Hester Prynne in last year’s rendition of The Scarlet Letter, will play The Woman in Death of a Salesman.
“I know from being involved with several of these shows that the kids are so affected by seeing these stories performed onstage,” says Dirksen. “It ignites an interest in the story, the history, the time period—as an actor it makes me realize why you tell stories.”
Add to all these cultural happenings the beauty of a muted winter afternoon at the beach, the meditative quality of a quiet yoga studio, and the best restaurants offering fixed-price menus every day of the week, and you might find yourself falling under the spell of winter on the East End.