When it comes to the Long Island arts’ scene, chances are Debbi Honorof knows the scoop.
In June, Honorof, a Port Washington resident, was elected to a two-year term president of the Huntington Arts Council Board. Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Arts Council enjoys relationships with prominent organizations outside Huntington, including Tilles Center, Nassau County Museum of the Arts and others.
Patch caught up with Honorof to learn more.
Patch: Tell us about your arts background.
Debbie Honorof: In 2000, I was hired as Executive Director at Landmark on Main Street, with the main goal of creating a full performing arts "season" for the Jeanne Rimsky Theater. I then moved on to Friends of the Arts at Planting Fields Arboretum, where I worked on marketing and fundraising for the summer concert series, as well as arts-in-education programs. Also, for the past eight-plus years, I’ve written a monthly book and author column for Long Island Woman and host book-and-author events. This grew out of a stint at Book Revue in Huntington, where I planned the schedule of author appearances and learned a lot about the publishing world. In my full-time job at Hofstra University Continuing Education, I create the curriculum for personal enrichment courses, which includes art, writing, acting and photography.
Patch: Why are the arts so important on Long Island?
DH: To me, the arts are at the core of who we are as a civilized society. Music, art, literature, film, photography, theater, dance and all other art forms bring so much pleasure–not to mention economic value-–to Long Island.
Patch: How did you first get involved with the Huntington Arts Council?
DH: I first became involved with HAC during my tenure at Landmark, and continued to work with them over the years. I've attended their wonderful free Summer Arts Festival at the Chapin Stage in Heckscher Park, and exhibitions in their Petite Gallery on Main Street in Huntington. They do so much to spotlight and support local talent on Long Island.
Patch: What are HAC’s biggest challenges?
DH: I believe the arts are consistently undervalued. When school budgets are cut, art and music are the first things to go. Many local businesses don't support arts nonprofits, and Long Islanders who attend free arts events ignore donation requests from the nonprofits who host these events. Additionally, we need to understand that the arts means different things to different people. Whereas I revel in a day spent viewing paintings at a museum or at an opera, I know the younger generation wants to play a more active role. They want to be a part of art in real time by tweeting and posting in the middle of a concert. So we have to create arts events that can be enjoyed by all ages, like our new Sparkboom program that's geared toward the 18-34 age group. We also need to continue to advocate for high quality arts-in-education programs and support our talented local artists.
Patch: What do you aim to do in your tenure?
DH: I look forward to working with Diana Cherryholmes, HAC Executive Director, her staff, and my fellow board members to keep the arts a priority on Long Island. I also plan to create a sustainable fundraising plan. Fundraising is a challenge during these difficult economic times, but it starts with educating the public–and especially local businesses–about how vital the arts are to Long Island. We celebrate our 50th Anniversary with a Gala at The Paramount on October 5 and we hope the community will come out to support us–and have fun!