Taking Flack for Guild Hall

by Kelly Laffey Photographed by Patrick McMullan
Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The recent bout of nor’easters may convince New Yorkers to flee South, but on Monday, they didn’t have to cross the Mason-Dixon Line to get their fill of bluegrass music.

Artist Audrey Flack, who was honored at Guild Hall’s annual Academy of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Awards, came to the Rainbow Room prepared with an acceptance speech and an original bluegrass song. With a chorus that referred to Jackson Pollock as “Action Jackson,” Flack strummed the banjo and sang about how one of East Hampton’s most famous residents enjoyed splashing paint on his canvas as much as he enjoyed a splash of liquor in all his beverages. The song followed on the heels of Flack’s speech, in which she told the crowd that she spent a night with Pollock “[although] not a whole night;” and that she gave him the fateful introduction to Ruth Klingman.

A pioneer in photorealism, Flack was honored for her achievements in the visual arts. The event also celebrated Gail Sheehy for her contribution to literary arts, Harris Yulin for performing arts, and Sheri Sandler with a special award. The night was hosted by artist Eric Fischl and Iris Smyles. 

Though not formally on the docket, the evening also played homage to East End humor, as presenters introduced their colleagues with a mix of admiration and good-natured teasing. Smyles, for example, revealed that she and Tom Wolfe, who presented Sheehy’s award, were once co-conspirators in a murder. She used her platform to tell Wolfe, “I forgive you.”

The night also served as a major fundraiser for Guild Hall, providing the East Hampton institution with funds for its year-round arts programming. “We’re trying to change it up a bit,” said Josh Gladstone, the Artistic Director of Guild Hall, of the institution’s upcoming summer schedule. He is currently in the final stages of preparing for Romeo and Juliet, which opens on March 14. Among the new events for the season are a creativity series with Quest Love. “He’s going to have an informal chat about creativity and the creative process with three different guests from different fields,” said Gladstone. Guild Hall boasts a theater, museum, and education spaces, and Gladstone reflected on how that allows for synergy between all the arts.

“We’re going to take more risks than Evel Knievel,” echoed Andrea Grover of the programming. Grover is entering her second year as Guild Hall’s Executive Director, and many at the event commented on how she has brought more eclectic exhibits to the institution.

The evening ended as Alec Baldwin introduced Yullin.

By honoring achievements across all media, Guild Hall recognizes that art is about expressing opinions, celebrating individuality, and creating a conversation. Or, as Flack put it: “To me, art is like making love. You don’t have somebody else do it for you.” 


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