Local distillery overflowing with art and liquor

Old Spirit Distillery hosts second annual Fall Arts and Craft Exhibit in Oceanside


Besides barrels filled with locally distilled hard liquor, nearby and homegrown artists featured a juxtaposition to the surrounding factory equipment, exhibiting photographs and paintings of tranquil Long Island scenes. That was the image Saturday at the second annual Fall Arts and Crafts Exhibit held at the Old Spirit Distillery in Oceanside.

A way to get both the artists and distilleries name out to the public, the event was one of kind, especially since the distillery is the only one in Nassau County. One of the distillery partners, John Dianellos, said the events goal, “basically is to give the people a place to demonstrate their art. People can come in and buy cocktails, buy art and see all the things.”

The exhibit starting out last year featuring the solo watercolor paintings of Lori Blau, an Oceanside artist who’s been painting since she was two. But quickly expanded, with hopes from Dianellos that each year more people will come and not only buy the art but show off their own. “Slowly, slowly we’re trying to get the word out and show people that we exist,” Dianellos said, explaining the timing of the pandemic directly impacted the start of their business which launched its first hard liquor in 2019.

Entering the distillery Saturday, Blau’s calming and colorful landscapes featuring timid deer, grazing cows and water lilies is the first sight to capture the eye. Painting as a side job and serious hobby, it’s second nature for her now, “it’s completely natural, like an instinct,” she said. Starting young, “when I was seven or eight,” Blau was already taking “real serious lessons with adults,” she said recalling her art beginnings, later majoring in art in college. “I kind of pursued it my whole life. It was kind of part of everything.”

Traditionally painting landscapes and objects, Blau has been mixing in more “modern and eclectic” styles into her recent work. “It’s very much a way of relaxing and using my time to not think about anything,” she said. Explaining further her process and how an idea for her work can come from anywhere, “A lot of times I see things I want to paint and that also inspires me, I see something very simple, but I’ll already envision it as a painting.”

Another near lifetime artist on show was Barb Lobosco, who started her passion by running around as a kid with a Polaroid instamatic camera in hand taking photos of her family. Later studying dark room photography in college but taking a break while she “floundered around a little bit” she said, “I went back to school to become a teacher and now I’m retired, so I’m back into it.”

But it’s not the same as before, gone are the days of the hour or more process to develop film, “It’s all digital now,” she noted, “but I like it much better, because I like that instant image, in case I want to correct it. I can change the angle and say, ‘this is how I want it to look like.” Glancing at her landscape photographs, the audience is pulled into a memory, sometimes of lounging on the beach during the sunset or observing fall foliage.

Painter by choice and occasional photographer for reference use, Stuart Friedman was another artists on display that has been capturing moments in time since high school. “I took courses even when I was working full-time, I would always take painting classes at night to stay with it,” he said of his passion. “It was always my hobby but then I got serious about 10, 15 years ago,” he said, “Then I started taking it up a notch by entering shows.”

Events and membership coordinator at the West End Art, Friedman is consistently surrounded by beautiful artwork, that is when he’s not producing his own. Taking particular interest in landscapes, he can be found replicating scenes from Lido Beach to the Hudson River.

“We’ve got really nice sunsets on Long Island and there’s a lot of water, whether the bay or the ocean and a lot of shorelines,” he said of what catches his eye in nature. Commenting that “it’s a great idea to have work here” at the distillery.

Not a photographer or painter, Carla Weinstein makes a different type of art: candles. Crafting them commercially for about a year under the name Black Girl Sparkle, she started creating them for herself and family,  needing to destress during the early stages of Covid.

“I love candles and during the pandemic I needed something else to do besides work,” she told the Herald, “I’m an EMT for the fire department in New York City so (the pandemic) was kind of overwhelming, I needed something else to put my focus on.” This was not Weinstein’s first time at the distillery though, coming on her birthday to take a tour, her and owner Dianellos kept in touch and reconnected at the exhibit. 

Dianellos says what sets his liquor apart from others is the fact it’s organic and Kosher for Passover. “Instead of using animal-based yeast that has animal-based cells, everything is plant based, so it’s a reassurance that the product is clean,” he said. In addition to the different bases used, they work to remove any impurities during the distillation process. “That’s what make our vodka very smooth and easy to drink,” he explained, “It doesn’t give you hangovers, headaches, or anything like that.”