A Life in Art

Gallery RIVAA Roosevelt Island at 19, Better With Age

As Gallery RIVAA, the Roosevelt Island artist collective, turns the corner into its twentieth year, let’s look back… and forward to Vernissage XIX.

By David Stone

I’ve covered the annual Vernissage at Gallery RIVAA for over a decade. Each year brings out a flavor and context of its own.

Newcomers, sometimes even children, contribute for the first time while veterans impress again with current variations on admired skills. Artists are always in development.

Arlene Jacoby, Fall for Arts 2020
RIVAA co-founder Arline Jacoby, still creating, at Fall for Arts on Roosevelt Island in September 2019.

This year’s no different.

Vernissage XIX opens March 14th with a public reception from 6:00 to 9:00, and it stays on the walls until May 10th.

Get to know Roosevelt Island in history…

Gallery RIVAA (Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association) is a modern art gallery at 527 Main Street on Roosevelt Island. It’s a locally oriented, creative collective. Many members came to the U.S., seeking artistic freedom, landing in New York with fresh ideas.

Manhattan’s “little island,” a miniaturized version stretched parallel along the East River, promotes itself as “The Island of Art,” an idea hatched at RIVAA, but winning wide, local support.

Gallery RIVAA’s unique location close to the subway and in the primary business area makes it an easy stop for visitors.

RIVAA has a second gallery, hosted by The Octagon at 888 Main Street, also on Roosevelt Island.

A Little History

Gallery RIVAA came together as a formal association in 2001.

Local artists set up Art Frenzy, a festival where they teamed up with galleries in Queens and Manhattan. Gallery hopping over a weekend birthed the “Island of Art” idea, seeing Roosevelt as nexus for creativity.

Meanwhile, the Museum of Modern Art relocated in Queens while their main galleries underwent renovations, adding synergy.

Art Frenzy organizer, artist and community leader, Arline Jacoby, brought together a core group of Island artists to form RIVAA.

Tad Sudol, Fall For Arts 2020
Tad Sudol (R) and Ioan Popoiu contribute a mural for the RIOC sponsored Fall for Arts.

Tad Sudol, now president of RIVAA, joined, along with Esther Piaskowski. And Phil Groner volunteered legal help to advance their mission.

RIVAA’s artists also earned sweat equity, rescuing an abandoned Bigelow Pharmacy, turning it into a gallery.

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation committed early, allowing the artists to show their stuff rent free for years.

But it didn’t stop there. As time passed, RIOC partnered with RIVAA in pushing the Island of Art. The Blue Dragon, a kids’ sculpture, landed at the entrance to Southpoint Park.

RIOC also funded The Plinth, an installation in Good Shepherd Plaza.

Both RIVAA galleries are free, but donations are encouraged. Most art on view, unless already sold, is available.

Get Acquainted: Roosevelt Island News

Blue Dragon Roosevelt Island
Kids welcome The Blue Dragon children’s sculpture in 2016.

Gallery RIVAA shows work from internationally known painters Valeriu Boborelu and Ioan PopoiuEsther Piaskowski has a national reputation in photography.

Other artists of note are Georgette Sinclair, Tony Vita, Laura Hussey and Toshiko Kitano Groner. Founding members and still leaders, Tad Sudol and Arline Jacoby also contribute works to shows.

About Roosevelt Island

Stretched down the middle of the East River, Roosevelt Island is only a few minutes from Manhattan’s main island. The surprise is that it remains unexplored by most New Yorkers and many visitors alike.

A waterside promenade circles the island, passing historic landmarks, including a 19th Century lighthouse at the north end, where the land juts into Hell Gate across from Carl Schurz Park and Gracie mansion.

And Blackwell House, a restored, 19th Century farm house, is now open.

Add a walk to your visit to Gallery RIVAA. Stroll along the East River, taking in an unobstructed Manhattan skyline. Sip a coffee from Starbucks next to the subway, or sit and enjoy the quiet on one of many benches or on the Meditation Steps.

Restaurants near the subway are Fuji East, serving Japanese food, and longtime local hangout, Nisi, just steps from the gallery.

Enjoy your trip. Enjoy the art. Come back for more.

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