Local artist to direct art gallery

Jewelry designer will scout artists for exhibitions

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A sanctuary and stage for fine arts, the Bay Area Friends of the Fine Arts (BAFFA) Gallery at the Gillette House in downtown Sayville is a mainstay and focal point for the artistic community of the South Shore.

Jeanette Leonard, a Blue Point artist, will now serve as BAFFA gallery’s manager, a position she was uniquely qualified for as a graduate of FIT and jewelry designer.

“I have been part of a number of local arts organizations in Suffolk County and through those memberships, plus my participation in craft fairs, I have cultivated a long list of artists whose work would be perfect for an exhibition at BAFFA,” said Leonard.

Leonard became a member of the BAFFA family in the fall of 2021 when she joined the BAFFA chorus.

“She immediately impressed everyone with her willingness to help with anything that needed to be done, as well as her sunny disposition and outgoing personality,” said Donna Smosky, vice president of BAFFA, adding, “When she helped with BAFFA’s student art shows this spring, we also discovered that she is a highly organized person who readily grasps what needs to be done and then figures out a way to make it happen. All of these fine attributes, combined with her degree in fine arts from FIT, made her a perfect fit as our new gallery manager.”

Leonard, who owns Blue Harbor Jewelry, which features up-scale, up-cycled beach glass, known for intricate wire wrapping, recently began making clay-infused/encapsulated necklaces that mimic a cross between Byzantine decadence in structure and Mediterranean earthiness in presentation.

Upon being appointed to manager, Leonard modernized the distinctive BAFFA logo with cleaner lines and contemporary font.

“As someone who makes art, I feel more connected to living artists and their creative process,” said Leonard.

While it has been less than a month since Leonard has been installed in her new position, Smosky said, “We have already had positive changes in the furnishing at the gallery as well as increased publicity for our shows, as she [Leonard] has attracted new artists whose work will be shown throughout the year.”

One of Leonard’s first redecorating moves was to eject an old particle board desk that cramped the back room of the gallery.

With some shows, especially the elementary art show, featuring over 100 pieces of work, it was important to Leonard to maximize the viewing potential of the gallery for the crowds anticipated for student shows based on the throngs of attendees this past year.

While certain months are blocked off for returning artist groups such as Women Sharing Art, Bell Street Artists, and Plein Air Limner Society, the calendar is mostly open for Leonard’s scheduling, with most exhibitions likely to be two weekends each.

Founded in 1968, BAFFA began with community members in Bayport and Blue Point fundraising for a piano for the local high school after a member’s daughter was unable to give a recital.

In its 54-year history, BAFFA has hosted thousands of artists of dozens of media in its gallery, choral, and orchestra productions.

Working with over 50 groups in Suffolk County, BAFFA is not only a major player in the Long Island art community, but could be classified as one of the progenitors of the Long Island arts scene. 

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