Lauren Reiss of Baldwin reflects on art exhibits


Lauren Reiss, 74, of Baldwin, never pictured herself dabbling in the arts, and even hesitated when her girlfriend, Nancy Levy, invited her to join a drawing workshop at the Baldwin Public Library right before the coronavirus pandemic.

“I really wasn’t interested,” Reiss said. “I wasn’t going to go, but my girlfriend wanted to go, so I went with her. That is what got me started in doing artwork.

“It all began at the Baldwin library,” she added.

Now, Reiss has recently hosted two art exhibits — one at the Baldwin library and another last month in her childhood town of North Bellmore.

The North Bellmore exhibit was particularly meaningful to her because it not only featured her artwork, but also honored her late mother, Mildred Scherpich, who was a staple in the community, she said.

Born in 1950 to Harold and Mildred Scherpich, Reiss grew up in North Bellmore, with her three older sisters, Millie, Nancy and Faith. She graduated from Jerusalem Avenue School, which is now a Nassau BOCES facility, and later Wellington C. Mepham High School. Reiss fondly remembers visiting the North Bellmore library with her mom, in the days when it was a wooden frame house.

Reiss got married in 1973 and later moved to Queens, and has since resided 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.

Her mother died in 1989, and at her funeral, Reiss recalled sitting in the church listening to how people would describe the woman who raised her. As friends and family shared their stories, Reiss was confused because they described a side of her mom she never knew — one that liked to do artwork.

“My sisters and dad started describing my mother, but I didn’t have a clue who they were talking about because that was not the mom that I experience in my lifetime,” Reiss said.

Reiss discovered her mother’s drawings after the funeral when relatives sent them to her and while cleaning out her childhood home. She also learned that most were created during the 1930s and 1940s, before Reiss was born.

During the last four years, Reiss has shared a connection with her late mother through art. One piece turned to more than a dozen, and this past spring, she hosted an art exhibit at the Baldwin Public Library, which showcased the artwork she has completed over last few years. Her pieces mainly involve painting with acrylics and watercolor.

After her exhibit in Baldwin, Reiss received a call from Rosemary DeFrancisci, media librarian at North Bellmore Public Library, on the possibility of exhibiting her artwork at the library  a building that holds special significance for Reiss.

She told the Herald that her mother was instrumental in the creation of the new North Bellmore library on Newbridge Road, which was built in the 1960s.

“While the original North Bellmore Library occupied an old house with delightful creaky floors, Mildred arranged for qualified instructors to run evening classes in Art and Dance at the library,” according to a letter that was posted at the library. “When the community outgrew the original library, Mildred was instrumental in the building of the current North Bellmore Library, in which you are standing.”

The art pieces of both mother and daughter were on display at the library through the end June, with 21 pieces from Reiss and eight from her mother. While organizing this exhibition, Reiss gained significant insights into her mother’s impact on the community, such as establishing a school lunch program at the Newbridge Road Elementary School in North Bellmore.

Reiss said many emotions ran through her mind as both their art pieces were on display in June.

“Just like I didn’t get to see her artwork, she didn’t get to see mine, so now they’re melded together into one location,” Reiss said. “There’s a lot of emotion in that. I am sure she appreciates finally getting recognition not only for her artwork and for her daughter’s artwork, but for her own civic contributions to the community that she lived out most of her life in.”