NARRATOR: Reggie (Reginald) Levine
INTERVIEWER: Mollie Glazer
Home of Reggie Levine
1 Prospect Street, Nantucket, Massachusetts
DATE: October 13, 2000
GLAZER: Today's date is October the thirteenth in the year 2000. this is Mollie Glazer doing an interview for the Nantucket Historical Association of Reggie. Can I call you Reggie or Reginald?
GLAZER: Reggie Levine. And I'm at his home at 1 Prospect Street. Okay, speak whatever you like, and I will say hello first, and thank you so much for doing this for the Historical Association.
LEVINE: Ah! It's certainly my pleasure! Hope that I can contribute something to the record of Nantucket.
GLAZER: [Chuckle] To the record! So, why don't you begin by telling me-- You were born in New York City?
LEVINE: Mmm hmmm.
GLAZER: So, when did you first come to Nantucket?
LEVINE: I think it was 1933--'33, '34. And I do have memories of that period, and rather vivid ones, actually, which I think is one of the reasons why Nantucket started to be very important to me at a very early age.
GLAZER: Well, what do you remember?
LEVINE: Well, I remember the children's beach. I remember a rather grizzly accident that occurred to--on the beach, which I won't go into details about. But I know the child was rather severely injured on the swing, and that really appalled me! So, after all these years, I remember it. I remember the murals in Sy's Green Coffee Pot, [Chuckle] which I think might have initiated my career in the arts.
GLAZER: Was that a restaurant?
LEVINE: A restaurant, yes, which--
GLAZER: Oh! Where was that?
LEVINE: It was on South Water Street.
GLAZER: Sy's Green Coffee Pot?
LEVINE: Green Coffee Pot.
GLAZER: Oh, wonderful!
LEVINE: And it was a wonderful restaurant, and run by wonderful people. And, as I said, I can still see the murals in front of me. They were not-- The Sistine chapel they were not. They were rather quite primitive and very naive, but they just fascinated me. And one of the things I regretted when the building was turned over to what is now the Atlantic Cafe, the murals went except for, I think, a hint here and there which they retained.
GLAZER: So you could still see that if you went over there?
LEVINE: I could-- Yeah, I could still see some of it.
GLAZER: Oh, it must bring a flood of memories when you go.
LEVINE: It does. Also, Sy's was the first restaurant that I remember, and I so enjoyed going there with my parents. I kept on enjoying going there 30 years later--40 years later.
GLAZER: So you came with your family, and where did you-- Did you summer here, or-- ?
LEVINE: Yes. The Levines have been merchants on the island since the mid twenties. And the Novice Shop was and is the family business--which is on Main Street.
GLAZER: Also, can you tell me the history of that, in terms of your family?
LEVINE: Well, My Uncle Hyman bought the business, I believe, in 1929. In the early fifties my uncle retired, and my father took over the business.
GLAZER: And what was his name?
GLAZER: Sam ____.
LEVINE: And now, today, my brother-in-law--married to my dear, dear sister--is manager of the Novice Shop.
GLAZER: And what is his name?
LEVINE: His name's Sam also.
LEVINE: Sam LaPerrit[sp?] So that's-- But it's still in the family, I'm happy to say.
GLAZER: And does your sister-- What's your sister's name?
GLAZER: Does she have anything to do with the business?
LEVINE: She has a great deal to do with the business.
GLAZER: Yeah? What does she--
LEVINE: I do not, I'm afraid. I never got into socks and underwear! [Laughter]
GLAZER: Except in the morning! [Laughter]
LEVINE: Except in the morning. [Laughter]
GLAZER: Okay. So, do you just have one sister?
LEVINE: Yes, and she has a son Michael who's married to a lovely lady named Diane, and they have four children, who are my pride and joys!
GLAZER: So your family of four came to Nantucket in the summers, starting in 1933. You were three years old?
LEVINE: Yes. Like--there was--not every summer, and during the war not as often as I would have liked. But beginning around 1946, I don't think I've missed a-- Well, obviously now since I live here, but from 1946 until 1968, when I finally moved to Nantucket, I've been there visiting every summer.
GLAZER: So you moved here year 'round in 1968?
LEVINE: About then, yes, and then I opened up the Main Street Gallery in 19-- First, the year 1969 was the year that we did a lot of the preparation, but the actual year when we opened the doors was in 1970. But I was an artist at that time and also doing ____ work in restoration in New York City.
GLAZER: Oh, okay. Well, let me come back to that. I just want to talk some more about your childhood, if you don't mind, because I'm so interested in the early--your early memories of Nantucket, besides Sy's Coffee Shop. Where did you live? Did you live always at the same place?
LEVINE: We lived at the family house, which no longer exists--was on Washington Street. And--
GLAZER: Did it get torn down?
It did get torn down. It was--probably if it wasn't
torn down, it would have fallen down! It was not
in particularly good shape. [Chuckle] But I'm very
fond of the place. And during a very severe storm,
the Atlantic Ocean managed to move in and through
the building, which caused my Mother to insist that
we move and that we
move to the highest point on the island and as far away from the water as possible, which accounts for this house that you're in.
GLAZER: Oh! So this was your family house?
LEVINE: Right. This they bought-- My mother and dad bought this in the mid fifties.
GLAZER: So, if you came here summers, how did your father run the business? Was it only a summer business?
LEVINE: No. They moved to the island much earlier than I did ____. They left New York City, and that was in the mid fifties ____. And that's when I began to spend a great deal of time here, into the winters, visiting them during the holidays. And, as I said, that was on-going. And I always felt--knew that I was going to move to Nantucket, as much as I loved--and love New York! New York is still my home town.
GLAZER: What do you remember-- How did the island change, in your mind, from being a--from those early memories on Children's Beach in the thirties to when your parents moved here? What--
Actually the changes were minimal up to the fifties.
When I-- As I said, the first year that I really
began to spend a lot of time here was my-- I was
17. I came to work in the Novice shop during the
summer, for my uncle, and had a wonderful, wonderful
time as only a young kid from New York City, or
any city, can have on Nantucket. I mean, it's just
a very exciting--had a wonderful time.
The differences between the thirties, forties, and the fifties, as I said, were minor. During the sixties you began to feel the changes, and they just accelerated, so that by the seventies the feeling of the island--the tone, that curious poetry of something--distance from the mainland, from your life in the city, it was totally different. There was a real departure. Now the difference is not as great, because what people are doing, they are bringing their city life and trying to replicate it on Nantucket.
GLAZER: So what would you say, for example, was some of the changes in the sixties?
LEVINE: Well, of course the wharf area--the downtown area. This was before the extraordinary development outside of town--the building on the moors, the developments along the Polpis Road, and what happened at Madaket was about ready to happen. But the first real sign that things are going to change was the development at the wharf. The wharf areas were really pretty bedraggled, and they were--some areas literally falling down. But because of that, then I think there was a sort of poetry about it. There was something mysterious, strange, and quite wonderful--a wonderful place to walk and explore. And you'd see fragments of old boats and ____.
GLAZER: So, it's ____ from the past?
LEVINE: --and you know. And you really sensed a two-hundred-year history. And there is something rather beguiling about decay of that sort! It's very romantic! The romance has been removed from Nantucket, as wonderful as it still is. It is still my home, and I still love it because of associations, and also because it is still a very, very beautiful place. But it is very, very different. It's-- One thing Nantucket was not was manicured.
GLAZER: And now it is.
LEVINE: And now it is. But I don't want to, you know, stress the negative, because I still have some very, very positive feelings about Nantucket and where it might be going.
GLAZER: And where do you think it might be going?
Well, I am obsessed with the idea that the arts
are the answer for the island! I've been very involved
in the Athenaeum. I'm just retired as its president.
I am now president of the Nantucket Arts Council,
an organization I was involved in the very beginning--27,
28 years ago, and founder president of--along with
others, may I say--add very quickly, of the Nantucket
Arts Alliance. So the arts have always played a
very important part, not only from a very personal
interior standpoint, but from a social standpoint.
I believe the arts have an extraordinary thing to
give to a community, and I believe that is particularly
true of Nantucket now, because they are-- In a sense,
the island is under siege. There are so many changes
taking place! There is such an aggressive movement
on the part of developers ____ to change the whole
fabric of this community. Some of it is based simply
upon greed, a lot of it indifference, but some of
it's actually ignorance. They don't mean to do what
I'm afraid they are accomplishing.
So tourism is here to stay. It's a reality that we're not going to turn time back and suddenly 30 years are just sloughed off as if they never happened. But we can affect the quality of tourism. And I don't want to get too elitist feeling at all. I don't want to communicate that, even though the arts by their nature tend toward an elitism that can't be avoided. But you have to try to still keep the democratic principal flag flying, you might say. But if and when this community began to really appreciate and foster the arts and make this into a center of the arts for this whole region in New England, you would suddenly have a--I really feel--a group of people who would respect what makes Nantucket so unique. They would want to preserve that and keep that, and not make these extraordinary efforts at change which just ultimately end up being very insensitive to what this community is truly about--both its history and where it is now and where it could be going. And I think the arts not only would attract that type of person, but they could still encourage and still contribute to a very healthy financial situation on the island. But we would be concentrating not on building, not on other forms of development, but on creating a center for the arts--for the performing arts, for instance.
GLAZER: And in your inner fantasy--
LEVINE: Which it well might be! [Laughter]
GLAZER: Well, time will tell! But in your fantasy, the center for the performing arts would be where, and what kind of programs would be there?
LEVINE: Well, we're just really beginning. There has been--beginning to really study what we mean by a center for the performing arts, or a set for the arts, period. There are many options. The great problem, of course, is how expensive land is. There is no reason to assume that-- It doesn't have to be located in one place. There can be satellites, you know, throughout the Island, that would be devoted to specific disciplines--the creation of studio space, for instance, is really needed.
GLAZER: For visual artists?
And for performing artists, where dancers can rehearse,
where musicians can rehearse. The need for theater
is obvious, housing for artists, and it just goes
on. The Nantucket--the Artists' Association of Nantucket
is a superior organization. It does a wonderful
job. But I would like to see, in conjunction with
that organization, the creation of a space where
we could have exhibitions from other museums, other
communities, come to the island. There is no space
to do that, but there is hope that the Fair Street
Museum--on Fair Street--would take on that role.
But it is being turned into the study library, and
it is going to be an extraordinary building! I just
went through it the day before--two days ago, and
I was really impressed. It's-- So though I had other
ideas concerning that wonderful building, what it's
ultimately turned into is still part and parcel
of what we're talking about, but it's taken on another
The Macy warehouse, which is now occupied by an excellent gallery, The Sailor's Valentine-- I was hoping that would one day be a center for special exhibitions.
GLAZER: Good spot.
LEVINE: But the Historical Association needs that income. The building has been beautifully restored. It is certainly being well maintained. And, in a sense, it is devoted to the arts--commercially--but still a fine gallery is there, so-- But that was the last space that we had. So I'm hoping that something can develop in that area.
GLAZER: So, in addition to having visiting exhibitions, what do you fantasize for performing arts?
Well, we certainly have-- We have a theater group,
the Theater Workshop of Nantucket, which almost--I
mean, really is a part of the cultural history of
this island. It has a history going back for 50
years and has produced an extraordinary range of
plays. It has played a very important part in the
life of this community. It introduced, in its early
days, theater to a community that really had very
little experience of theater, not only as audience,
but participating as actors, as set designers, constructing
sets, making the costumes. And they-- They're now
at the Congregational Church and theater. It's more
than adequate. I think it's a wonderful little theater.
But who knows how long they will have that space?
And the space now is used for church needs as well
as theirs and possibly for other needs that I'm
not aware of.
I would like to see a theater that is nothing but a theater. And I think you need more than one theater. You need probably two or three theaters. We certainly need a theater ____ movies. A recent development is the Film Festival, which I think is becoming certainly--I mean, a class act! And I know that they are having problems with the space that they have. They've done wonderful things in it, but they, too, need something far more ample.
I always feel that the stress that I put on the arts is not so much the arts working in a vacuum, but how the arts can affect this community--how they can make the quality of life here that much greater. I'm not particularly interested in creating a--or being involved in group that just wants to bring a musical comedy, you know, to the island during the summer, and then pack their bags never to be seen again. I mean, that doesn't interest me. I want to be sure that whatever I'm certainly involved in, it has a tremendous impact on this island and it really is felt and experienced by the island community! And there's a lot of work to be done in that area. Regrettably I feel that the arts have-- They tend to be ignored, or they're not taken seriously.
GLAZER: Do you think that's true only in Nantucket, or do you think that's a national-- ?
LEVINE: Well, America seems to have had a history of almost a bias against culture. I mean, many people have written about it. This is not just an observation of mine--possibly because the early history of this country was involved in getting ahead, you know, building a house, getting a farm, producing. And art played a very minor roll. That certainly doesn't mean that we avoided having a great culture, because we do. But by enlarge, after a certain point in society, it doesn't loom very large as an interest. And that should be remedied. That--because once people realize how diversified and vast a subject art is-- It's not just paintings in a museum! It can be murals painted on a subway.
GLAZER: And on a coffee shop.
LEVINE: And it's the music we dance to--the popular music that we so enjoy. This is, I think--can be, not always. Even on television I've seen some extraordinary that--because television is nothing but a medium. And if used imaginative and creatively, what a medium it could be! So if we awake to the fact that art is such a vast subject--it means so many things--we might be so intimidated by it and so frightened by it.
GLAZER: So, let's talk more about you and your training as an artist. Are you-- You went to Queens College. Were you an art major at Queens College?
LEVINE: Yeah, I was an-- Yes.
GLAZER: And what is your medium?
Medium? Well, in-- That was art history. But my
medium is, you name it! It's oils, acrylics-- I'm
very fond of ____ very interested in draftsmanship--drawing.
Regrettably I've done very little in the etching
and in the medium of print making. I mean, I hope
to remedy that. I bought a press two years ago,
and I go down into the basement and look at it.
[Laughter] One of these days I might even use it!
That's-- I'm looking forward to that!
During the years that I was director of the Main Street Gallery-- When I started the Gallery 30 years ago, I knew it wasn't going to be lark. I mean, I was aware that, if it was going to be successful I had to devote time to it and a great deal of energy. But I really thought that, well, I could do this for three months--four months at the most and then close the door, lock it, and go retire up to my studio and create. Well, it did not work out that way! The gallery took off and became the showcase for many Nantucket artists. At its beginning-- At that time, there were very few galleries. There was the Lobster Pot Gallery and, of course, the Artists' Association--and some private galleries--artists that opened up their studios.
GLAZER: And do you remember who you represented in those early years.
LEVINE: Oh, there were so many! I'm almost fearful of starting to name, and then forget some leaping artist! But until the sixties almost-- I would say all the artists painting in the sixties and on through the seventies to the eighties, at one time or another, exhibited at the Main Street Gallery, whether they had solo exhibits or whether they were even associated with other galleries, they were involved in special--you know, in subject shows--theme shows at the gallery, or they were involved in benefits. So, in other words, I don't think one of the major artists avoided the Main Street Gallery.
GLAZER: Do you remember a particular theme that you were really fond of--a particular show?
LEVINE: Well, yeah. There were a few. There's the "Mobsca"[sp?] was a ship--boat that I just, you know, had very, very intense memories about! And when that was being-- They knew that its time--its days were numbered and that it was going to either be--I mean, just sold as scrap or moved off, there was a move afoot to save the Mobsca. So we gave a benefit at the Main Street Gallery, and every artist--and there were many artists involved in this--did a painting of the Mobsca. And some of them were almost abstract, near abstract, to very, very realistic. We had some children involved in it, so we had their interpretation of the Mobsca. And it was just a wonderful show, because not only was the reason for the show wonderful and exciting, but the response of the artists was so immediate. Everybody had a memory of the Mobsca. And it really got the community in. I mean, a lot of Nantucketers really stepped foot into the gallery, or any gallery, trooped through! So it was-- That was wonderful. And the same way with the Great Pond fight. We gave a benefit for that with the same idea--artists would paint paintings of it. And that, too, had a mighty response from the public. It was just wonderful to see all those people that I never saw before come in.
GLAZER: It just makes a through line to what you were saying before about having the arts be a part of the community and what they can do to enliven the community. So that's a good example of that.
LEVINE: Yeah. Once you get over that feeling that the arts are exclusive, that they are only for those who have been either trained in it or have been surrounded by it-- Once you get over that and realize what a wonderful--just simple entertainment the arts can be and give them a chance-- And that's what I'm hoping will happen.
GLAZER: So, in those years when you had your gallery, were you also creating work yourself?
LEVINE: The first-- I tried, and I developed medium-- I worked in medium-- [Change to Side B of Tape]
GLAZER: Okay, so we don't lose any information, I was asking you, during those years when you had your gallery, if you were creating work yourself. And you said that you tried-- which you tried!
Right! [Chuckle] Well, I certainly did not do as
much as I should have done, and-- But one of the
things that I did do, I worked in mediums that I
could literally do on the run. I mean, I would run
into my studio, which is next door--which is now
being used as storage, because I just moved in here--work
for an hour, and then I'd have to run to a meeting.
The first years of the gallery, I was president of the Theater Workshop, and that was a time when the theater was going through some tremendous changes. They were beginning a summer series; they were working with equity; we were having some very painful growing problems. We were also trying to work in conjunction with John Wilke, who had started the Nantucket Stage Company, and the idea was to have the Theater Workshop as the winter theater--John Wilke's highly professional theater, during the summer. They were to redo the building--the Theater Workshop building on Straight Wharf--the Straight Wharf Theater. They were to begin, let us say on Monday of a certain--or Tuesday of a certain week, and that weekend the theater burned down to the ground! It was one of the most frightening-- I went there and watched it burn, and I watched it with Matt Dickson, who was the director and founder of the theater--Theater Workshop.
GLAZER: What year was that?
LEVINE: In the early seventies--say '73.
GLAZER: So that must have been an incredible thing--standing with him.
LEVINE: Oh, but he was in shock! And I was pretty close to it. The relationship between the Theater Work and the Nantucket Stage Company was a very difficult one, and I can see now that we were expecting too much. Certainly we were expecting too much of the Theater Workshop and its board to move into a highly professional--working with a highly professional ____ group such as the Nantucket Stage Company, and-- But who knows what would have happened? Maybe we would have solved all our problems if the building had been completed--made into a wonderful little theater. John was a--Wilke was a genius, really, and was really an extraordinary theater person. And he had an extraordinary vision. He could be rather ruthless. Maybe I shouldn't have said that "ruthless" bit, but he was.
GLAZER: Is he-- Is he no longer living?
LEVINE: Yes, he is, and doing very well up in-- He lives-- He now lives in Maine.
GLAZER: Still in theater, I presume?
LEVINE: Still in theater.
GLAZER: Yeah. Did you ever do any theater yourself or any music? Have you trained in anything?
LEVINE: Yes, I used to-- I did quite a bit of acting. The last bit I did was Puck in Midsummer Night's Dream, and--
GLAZER: Was that here?
LEVINE: That was here. And I did act in the St. Joan, and I played the ____. And that was with ____ Company. And it was quite an experience. And I did a great many sets for the Theater Workshop.
GLAZER: When you say it was quite an experience, [Chuckle] what do you mean?
LEVINE: Well, again, working with professional actors, you know-- It wasn't that they were, you know, particularly difficult to ____, but I mean, a professional actor as compared to an amateur actor, they are worlds apart! [Chuckle] And so that was an experience for me, but I enjoyed it, and I certainly, you know, enjoyed working with them. And I learned a great deal. And, of course, St. Joan is a great play. And we don't have to talk about Midsummer Night's Dream! [Chuckle] But Puck almost killed me! [Laughter] It was very gymnastic.
GLAZER: And what about music?
LEVINE: Music? Just I love! I'm like Gertrude Stein. I really don't want to know too much about it. I want to keep that sort of distance, so I can enjoy it in a sense of--but not be academically in it, which I am in the other--in the visual arts and in the literary arts. But I love music, yes.
GLAZER: Oh, so what-- What about the literary arts?
LEVINE: Well, I collect books. In fact, I'm waiting to give my library on American Art to the Athenaeum, which they have accepted. It's just that storage is an on-going problem. So books are very important to me. And I do, as necessity as president of the Athenaeum--as now president of the council, and also--well, also in the Alliance, a lot of writing is required. I don't call it literary--you know, necessarily art, but writing is something I have to do a great deal of. And I do quite a bit of criticism. [Interviewer sneezes.] God bless you!
GLAZER: So you do a bit of criticism on--
LEVINE: I did, yeah.
GLAZER: What ____?
LEVINE: Well, on art--on the visual arts. You know, writing for--articles, press releases.
GLAZER: Okay. And what publications would they-- ?
LEVINE: They would just be here on the island.
GLAZER: Here on the island, very good. What else would you like us to know about the other interests or hobbies that you have?
GLAZER: Well, that's very artistic also.
LEVINE: Love to garden. The garden that I have here is relatively small, but every time I get into it, it begins to take ____ like proportions of ____. [Laughter] So a small garden can still be very time consuming.
GLAZER: How many years have you had it?
LEVINE: Almost as long as this house--that--as long as my family has had this house, even though it's now taken on many changes, and probably will change a little bit in the next few years. I have some very big plans for it next summer which I'm looking forward to.
GLAZER: What kind of garden is it? Is it a flower garden?
LEVINE: It's-- There are flowers in it. There are no vegetables, mainly because of space, because I would love to have a vegetable garden, but it's not possible. It's basically plants that are perennials and with flowers interspersed. But you'd have to see it, because I'm also interested in creating a garden that is visually interesting and pleasing during the winter, since I live here during the winter. In fact, I'm-- I think I'm more conscious of it in the winter than I am in the summer. Summertime can be so frantic and busy on the island.
GLAZER: So, since you-- You retired from the gallery in '99?
GLAZER: And so, how do you spend your time now?
LEVINE: Well, what I'm doing now is consulting--art consulting, which is actually assisting people who are putting collections together. It's not just one painting. In fact, I'm working on a very big job which will probably take me about a year to complete. And I work with architects and designers.
GLAZER: Is that on Nantucket, mainly, or-- ?
LEVINE: This is on-- Yes, I would limit most of a job of that nature to Nantucket. I mean, I have no desire to start traveling and working off island. I mean, I love to travel, but that is for pleasure. And I don't want to start, as I said, developing a clientele off of Nantucket. But I have to go off of Nantucket to research and get, you know, material. Most of it is on Nantucket, because that is what I'm really interested in, is fostering Nantucket art. So I work through galleries on Nantucket.
GLAZER: Where do you go when you travel off island?
LEVINE: Off island?
GLAZER: For research and--
LEVINE: Well, Boston, primarily, and my hometown, New York. But Boston is where I would more or less go with the idea of actually working with other galleries. I'm sort-- I'm definitely out of the New York gallery scene. That is such a vast, complicated--you know, sometimes almost unreal world. Boston is just more manageable.
GLAZER: Must be fun to visit, though, and then be able to come home.
LEVINE: Oh, it's ____, yes. Well, I mean, I still walk down--you know, streets of Manhattan, where I remember almost, you know, growing up! I mean, Third Avenue, even with the el taken down. But something startling did happen to me about two years ago. And I went and spent some time in New York with friends of mine. And I really wanted to walk on the east side, going to-- I had a studio on 74th Street. I lived on 53rd Street. And I knew that area very well, because in the morning I would walk up to the studio when I wasn't working, and I would walk back. And I would walk back. And I would be sure that I never repeated the route. So I really knew that area. Well, I did not recognize it! It could have been a city in--somewhere in-- I just didn't recognize it. It was so foreign to me. And it really gave me a very uncomfortable feeling. But once I hit Madison, and even Lexington, and Park and Fifth and that area, things kind of changed back.
GLAZER: So what street really looked different?
LEVINE: Second Avenue, First Avenue, and most of Third. I mean, I like to say that Third Avenue-- There was enough there that I can ____ home ____.
GLAZER: So you're also busy with the various organizations on the island, besides being a consultant?
LEVINE: Oh, yeah.
GLAZER: So they-- We recently had an arts festival here, for example.
LEVINE: And a wonderful one!
GLAZER: And so, what was that about?
LEVINE: Well, that-- Jenny Garneau, working for the Beacon, was the first one to organize the Arts Festival. She quickly realized that if it was going to succeed, and organization would really have to take it over. So she turned to the Arts Alliance. And for nine years the Arts Alliance was custodian of that project. And they-- Over a nine-year period they really developed, I think, a formidable event. And there's still a lot more that can be done with it. Last year the alliance was absorbed by the older organization, the Nantucket Arts Council. The Nantucket Arts Council for--oh, for about 15 years, concentrated on its winter concert series, and more or less ignored the other disciplines. Margareta Suitro[sp?], who was their president and a dear friend of mine, felt she wanted to do one thing and do it very, very well. And she did. But in the process, she more of less lost sight of what the Council was really about. It should--originally intended to involve all the disciplines. And slowly the council has begun to--again to return to that premise. And through its grants, it gives in the neighborhood of between 15--and we probably will go as high as $20,000 a year to various organizations. It was obvious that the reason for the Alliance was becoming obsolete. And because of this change, the merger was inevitable, and it happened. So now the Council is responsible for the ____.
GLAZER: So between the Arts Alliance and the Arts Council--became one organization?
LEVINE: Right, and it's called now the Council. I mean, we decided not to do anything tricky with the name--you know, try to combine the two. The Arts Council was the oldest of the organizations and more or less started the whole concept of council--of an organization devoted to the arts, so-- And that was agreed upon by the members of the Alliance. I was the first president of the Alliance, and even then we were beginning to talk about--at even that early stage, that ultimately we would join. We didn't know exactly how at that point, but--
GLAZER: So that's-- So the festival and the giving of grants and a concert series and--
And then isolated things like The Nutcracker ballet,
which is a wonderful-- The first showing of it was
last year, and it was two performances. And it was
magical! It was just wonderful! That is a-- We were
very much-- The Council was very much involved in
that. And that was independent of the grants. We
gave money, but it was not through the grants.
The puppet--marionette theater, which has been a dream of mine for 20 years-- Twenty years ago when I was vice president of the Council, I requested--and did not have any trouble, but requested that we build a marionette theater, which we did. And it was beautifully constructed, and it was not only beautifully made, but it involved everything that goes into a real marionette theater. And the person who's-- Marg Carrey[sp?] was going to be director of it, and for various personal reasons she was not able to. So at the last moment she bowed-- She had to bow out. In fact, she left when she left the island. So there we were with this marionette theater. And every year I would ask--almost stop people on the street-- "Are you interested in marionettes?" [Laughter] Finally Marg returned to the island, and low and behold she took it over again! But it took 20 years for this to happen! [Laughter]
GLAZER: It was only supposed to be her project, I guess.
LEVINE: It was just that-- You're right! It was only to be hers, and she has done an extraordinary job! And we're hoping that it's going to be a--not only on-going and, I mean, just every year that the marionette theater functions, but that it's going to be a hands-on project where young people and their family--children and their family--will be involved in not only manipulating the marionettes and their voices, but making the costumes, painting the sets, playing the music that accompanies it, composing it if that's possible--to be totally involved and emersed in that! And what an introduction to theater!
LEVINE: That's one of our-- I hope it's going to be one of the Council's big projects, because these things-- Another thing that we really wanted to start was the--to create a space where a press--a private press could be started, so that books could actually be made on the island, where artists could design and illustrate the, the printing, the binding--everything done here on the island.
GLAZER: That's an old fashion thing now, with computer ability to do desk top publishing, right?
LEVINE: Oh, right, but I talked to many people who are actually, you know, working in high--many computers and what not. And they do not feel that books as books, as objects, as things that are loved and used are going to disappear quite as quickly as--
GLAZER: Well, there's still that wonderful book binding school in Boston, right?
LEVINE: In Boston, which is that same class where they make instruments. So, anyway, these projects, of course, to get to develop a private press--a press, that involves ____ a lot of money! I mean, we're talking initially $100,000. So-- But I'm still hopeful that I will not only-- We had an artist that would have been perfect--David Lazarus--absolutely perfect--a very talented illustrator, draftsperson. But he's no longer on the island to the degree that-- You have to have somebody here all the time, because you'll be teaching, developing other talented people--interests--what not. And of course it can't be someone who just appears for a month or two. But that was a great loss in many ways. I wish he'd come back! [Chuckle]
GLAZER: [Chuckle] I'm sure he would if someone would buy him a house! [Laughter]
LEVINE: Yeah, that's the big bugaboo!
GLAZER: That's the big bugaboo. And what other programs do you support? I know that grant money to the Boyd Endowment.
LEVINE: Right, the Boyd is no longer--no longer use the term "Boyd," mainly because the Boyd represented a certain amount of money which has been invested in order to create the grants. And that, regrettably--because we have to be very cautious the way you invest in a nonprofit-- I mean, you do not start speculating, you know, and doing funny things on the market--engenders a very small fraction of the money that goes into the grant, so that it was somewhat unfair to refer to it as "The Boyd," even though we are most appreciative to the Boyd, and we're always, you know, mentioning them as one of the great benefactors--if not the greatest benefactor that the Council has experienced along with the Tupanzee[sp?] Parish. Been very generous.
GLAZER: So what other programs have-- You've mentioned marionette theater and your other dreams. What other programs have you supported?
Well, you see, now that we have gone--the Alliance
is absorbed, we are really beginning to develop
programs. So we're at that point where-- As I said,
the first thing that we did was The Nutcracker,
the marionette theater. In back of our minds--all
of our--the trustees of the Council, of course,
is the Art Center. You're going to have a feasibility
study. We have already talked with people who are
beginning for the first time to talk money, because
you're talking $15,000,000. We have to discover,
"Is it practical? Does it make sense to think
of an art center as one location?" I think
we were talking a little earlier than this. Should
it be the Dreamland Theater for one thing, the Methodist
Church for another--other locations, because to
have a center that is able to supply housing, space
for building sets, the theaters themselves, dowries
and all that. You're talking a big chunk of land,
and I just don't think it's to be had anymore. Maybe
the town, ultimately, get involved.
One of the things the Council is very interested in doing is getting greater representation in the town, on the Board of Selectmen.
GLAZER: Well, it's a very worthwhile effort in my opinion, and I'm sure in many others' opinion, too. And you're to be applauded for your vision and your work so far. I hope it happens.
LEVINE: Well, the chances of everything we dream about happening is very slight, but what you do, you dream, and then--
GLAZER: You have to!
LEVINE: You concentrate on that which is possible.
GLAZER: Yeah, you have to dream!
LEVINE: But you have to-- You still have to dream and always be convinced of the importance of what you are doing!
GLAZER: And the value.
LEVINE: Oh, well, that's why it's important.
GLAZER: Yeah! Well, anything else--
LEVINE: God! [Laughter]
GLAZER: --you want to be immortalized with? [Laughter]
LEVINE: I think we've covered everything.
GLAZER: You have, you've covered a lot. Any final words for posterity?
LEVINE: Let's see. Yeah, about Nantucket and my experience of Nantucket, I think I can truly say the best and the worst have happened to me here! That's what makes it such a living--such an important thing for me personally.
GLAZER: And we want to elaborate on the best and the worst? [Laughter]
LEVINE: That's a ____ idea, because the best and worst happens to everyone, and I'm happy that it happened to me on Nantucket!
GLAZER: Okay. Well, thank you so much. We'll say 'bye.
[End of Interview]