Homegrown art on display features work of Lauren Reiss, and her mom


Throughout the month of June, patrons of the North Bellmore Public Library will have the opportunity to view artwork rooted in local history.

Lauren Reiss, an artist who grew up in the community and now resides in Baldwin, is this month’s resident artist, and her work in the display spaces around the library will be featured alongside the work of another special artist: her mom, Mildred Scherpich.

Reiss was born in 1958 to Harold and Mildred Scherpich. She grew up in North Bellmore, with her three older sisters, Millie, Nancy and Faith. Reiss graduated from Jerusalem Avenue School, which is now a Nassau BOCES facility with the same name, and later Wellington C. Mepham High School. Reiss fondly recalled visiting the North Bellmore library with her mom, in the days when it was still a wooden frame house.

“I remember the building,” she said. “I have very fond memories of this little old house, the library — the creaky floorboards. And now I live in a 97-year-old house, with creaky floorboards.”

Reiss got married in 1973, and later moved to Queens. She has lived in Baldwin for the last 40 years because it was close to her parents, who still lived in the house she grew up in on Scriven Avenue in North Bellmore, Reiss said.

A teacher for the visually impaired, Reiss worked at the same school she once attended as a child. That school is now operated by BOCES.

Reiss’s interest in art began before the coronavirus pandemic, she said. She took a class with a friend, and found herself enjoying creating pieces with colored pencils.

“I thought, colored pencils?” she said. “Kids do this — I could do this. Well, it’s not as easy. As it turns out, it’s a bunch of layering.”

From there, she continued to venture into different mediums, learning one-stroke painting with acrylics, watercolor, abstract and more over the last decade. She has enjoyed taking classes from time-to-time, perfecting her skills. Reiss has even dabbled in “plein-air painting,” which is the act of painting outdoors — focusing on whatever is in front of you.

Throughout her journey in art, Reiss has been — and sometimes unknowingly — connected to her mom, who died in 1989. It was then, Reiss said, that she began to learn things about her mom she had not previously known.

“It wasn’t until my mom died, and we were sitting around in a circle in the church with the pastor, wanting us to describe the woman that he was going to give a service for,” Reiss recounted. “I listened to my family describing a woman I never knew. I didn’t know about my mom’s artwork. I hadn’t seen my mother’s artwork until recently.”

Reiss described her mom as “an extremely talented, self-taught, creative woman.” She mastered the concert piano, created her own dolls when Reiss was a child, and learned how to refurbish antique furniture, among many other things. But what Reiss didn’t know was that her mom was a painter, just like her.

Since her mom’s death, Reiss has acquired a few of her mother’s works, either from their childhood home, or through relatives who had items. Much of her mom’s work is on display next to Reiss’s at the library.

“I don’t have much of my mother’s work, some of it is just practice pieces, like doing a hand or something like that,” she said. “But others are complete and frameable.”

Looking back on her childhood, Reiss said she always recalled her mom pushing her to be creative.

“She has purchased an art kit for me — I might have been about eight or nine,” she said. “It (had) some pencils, a pad, a kneaded erase. It taught me perspective and the coloring wheel, and she felt that was important for me to know. I do remember that she did not like me having coloring books — she thought that would stop my creativity.” 

What makes Reiss’s exhibit even more interesting is that her mom was instrumental in the creation of the new North Bellmore library — the one that stands today on Newbridge Road, which was built in the 1960s. 

“My mom worked very hard to have a new library built,” Reiss said. “Education was extremely important to my mom. She had been an orphan, and her education was interrupted. So this was extremely important to her, and she emphasized that everybody she came in contact with, and she felt that the new library was needed in the community.

“She and a friend group worked very, very hard at arranging and getting approval for a new library to be built,” Reiss added. “But my mom never got credit for it. And that’s one thing I’d really like the community to know about.”

Reiss’s display has been dubbed a “homecoming” — as both her artwork, and her mom’s, takes the spotlight in North Bellmore for the first time ever, together. 

Having this art show with her mom is extremely sentimental for Reiss.

Describing a family photo from her childhood, Reiss said, “Seeing me on my mom’s lap, both of us artists — and now doing this art exhibit together — it’s just all of a sudden taken on a whole new perspective.”

Their artwork could be viewed at the North Bellmore library, at 1551 Newbridge Road, through the end of the month. For more information, visit NorthBellmoreLibrary.org.