Instead of driving 20 minutes to the beach, locals can take a short trip to the AHRC Nassau East Meadow Art Gallery on East Meadow Avenue to see its new art exhibit, “A Day at the Beach.”
The exhibit, open to the public through the end of the month, features art from AHRC members who live with intellectual and developmental disabilities. One highlight of the exhibit is a 5-foot-tall papier-maché lighthouse sculpture.
AHRC Nassau is a chapter of The Arc of New York, a nonprofit organization that helps people with developmental disabilities.
Every January, the artists and the mentors at the gallery pick a day to brainstorm ideas for their upcoming exhibit, according to site manager Lisa Moosemueller. After they think of a few ideas, they vote through ballots to decide the favorite. After voting on the theme, the artists work on their pieces — either with a mentor or individually — working in various media.
“We had a vote, and ‘A Day at the Beach’ was born,” Moosemueller said. “From there we spent a lot of time thinking about things that you find and see at the beach.”
The gallery previously has displayed artwork inspired by Vincent Van Gogh and by safari life. Last year it hosted an exhibit full of art pieces with a garden theme.
Nearly 30 people contributed to the exhibit. The lighthouse sculpture is joined by paintings, drawings, diamond art, jewelry, shell art and more for people to peruse and buy. All of the money earned goes back to the East Meadow gallery — either for party supplies or any activities the group does.
To get even more inspiration, the group takes excursions. They headed to the library to look at books, they went to the beach multiple times, and they went to stores like Home Goods to find nautical items.
Richard Infante, 30, who sells numerous of his paintings every year, painted some beach scenes. One in particular, he painted just from looking at a photo.
“He’s so talented,” Moosemueller said, “it’s ridiculous.”
The group has been working Monday through Friday since February on their artwork for the exhibit. To get people to come in and view it, the group hits the town and asks different stores and other businesses if they can hang fliers in their windows.
“Not many people buy things, but that’s okay,” Moosemueller said. “That’s not what it’s about. This is a whole experience, a social experience, for our artists, and just for them to hear some feedback about their artwork.”
Davis Hernandez, 39, spent nearly three months with his hands covered in glue and paper as he worked on the lighthouse. The idea for the sculpture came from Arielle Dugue, an art instructor with AHRC Nassau who visits the East Meadow location on Wednesdays. Together, she and Hernandez got to work on the lighthouse.
“It feels amazing to see it,” Hernandez said. “I love doing papier-mache. I love getting my hands messy.”
Hernandez said the paint layers on the lighthouse — red and white — had to be done one at a time. The artists had to paint a layer and then let it dry, or it would bleed onto the next. His favorite part of the sculpture is the light on top that rotates like a real lighthouse beacon.
“I love lighthouses — I think they’re gorgeous, and I thought it would be a nice main piece for the art gallery,” Dugue said. “Davis offered his assistance from day one, and we worked really well together, and we were great partners in this project.”
The gallery is open Mondays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. All of the artwork is for sale.
“The exhibit, ‘A Day at the Beach,’ is a joyful expression of self-advocacy — a way of saying, ‘This is what interests me; how about you?’” Saundra Gumerove, president of the board of directors at AHRC Nassau, said in a statement. “It’s about creating new points of connection and celebrating shared experiences while highlighting the talent of the artists at AHRC’s East Meadow Art Gallery.”