The Parrish Art Museum, a long-held artistic treasure on the East End of Long Island since 1898, underwent a grand rebirth in 2012 when the museum built a new 34,400 square foot space in Watermill. Designed by the talented Swiss architectural team of Herzog & de Meuron, the museum’s new home has celebrated significant milestones and accolades since opening its doors just under two years ago. This summer the institution continues its artistic legacy by presenting an eclectic array of programs, exhibits and events celebrating the world’s most talented artists while expanding its collection and growing its membership.  

Art Gallery Hallway inside The Parrish Art Museum

In January the museum received the Design Award for Best Museum by Travel + Leisure magazine in its tenth annual International Design Competition. The previous year Wallpaper magazine bestowed upon it a 2013 Design Award for Best Public Building of the Year. In 2012 The Wall Street Journal listed it as one of the best new museums. Critical accolades abound for the new building itself, but the museum made sure there was purpose behind the architectural undertaking. When laying the groundwork for the design of the new museum, it was important for the organization to pay tribute to the rich heritage of the area and community surrounding the building. Terrie Sultan, the Director of The Parrish Art Museum, spoke about this. “The core values of the Parrish are inspired by the artistic life and natural setting of Long Island’s East End. The design of the new building beautifully underscores this in every way. It reflects the vernacular, agricultural architecture of the farming community, and references the artists’ use of converted barns for studios. This was very purposeful. The simplicity of the structure, the skylights in the galleries, and the reinforcement of the relationship of art to nature, inside to outside, were all concepts that the architects embraced.”  

With the architecture gaining praise from the critical press, it seems only fitting for an art institution that strives to embrace and celebrate the creative endeavors of those talented artists who make the East End such an creatively-rich and diverse area. “What is so surprising and special about this area is the depth and breadth of the artist community, from those with well-established international careers, to mid-career and emerging artists,” says Sultan. “Our goal in everything we do is to reflect this unique circumstance, to illuminate the importance of artists and artworks connected to the area within the larger context of art history.”

The new 34,000 foot space designed by Herzog & de Meuron

This commitment to the area’s artistic community is what provides the foundation for the exhibitions and programs that the museum presents daily. This year is dubbed the “year of connections” at the museum. “This thread runs through the new permanent collection installation, the special exhibitions, and all the various programs — the music, talks, and workshops — that we produce. Our goal is to make connections among artists and audiences, and this is what drives our ideas for the future,” Sultan says. Two exhibits of note for this upcoming summer season are Jennifer Bartlett: History of the Universe--Works 1970-2011, which is the artist’s first full-scale solo museum exhibition and William Glackens, his only museum exhibit since the mid-1960s. “Both artists are well-deserving of this exploration of their work,” says Sultan. “We are very proud of our work in developing these projects and sharing their respective creative contributions.”  

Sultan says that what the museum is most proud of, however, is the spike in new membership the organization has gained since opening the new building. “More than any other benchmark this growth demonstrates a level of commitment from our audience — they  have seen the new architecture and grounds, have experienced the permanent collection, special exhibitions and programs, and have voted to become an integral part of the institution long term.”  

Along with increased membership and an increase in visitors, the museum also acquired 173 new gifts of art to add to its permanent collection. Ranging from paintings to sculptures, photographs and works on paper, many of the new works are by artists new to the Parrish Collection. Sultan recognizes how grateful they are for these new pieces. “The number and quality of the gifts of artworks from a number of collectors and artists has been extremely gratifying, and has allowed us to give back to our visitors in even more exciting and transformational ways.”  

The Parrish Art Museum continues to look towards the future in their new space. The upcoming summer calendar is packed with a wide array of exhibitions, programs, talks, and concert series celebrating art in its many forms. Nestled in an area that multiplies with occupants in the heated summer months, The Parrish Art Museum provides a little something for everyone looking to savor the artistic riches of the East End.