The dog days of summer — and the game that has long been an East Hampton institution — are not here yet, but an exhibition opening on Saturday at Guild Hall will bring together and celebrate artists, writers, and their work.
“Artists & Writers: They Played in the Game,” which runs through July 28, compiles and displays the work of many of the more than 400 men and women who have played in the annual softball game that will mark its 65th contest on Aug. 17. Though it is common knowledge, this gathering of creativity makes clear the sheer quantity and level of talent on the South Fork: Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Eric Fischl, Ben Bradlee, and George Plimpton are just a few of the artists and writers who have work represented.
The exhibit will include book signings by Ken Auletta, who has led the writers team for many years, on June 23, Roger Rosenblatt on June 30, and Mr. Fischl, who will also read, on June 26. A July 21 panel discussion will be moderated by Ed Bleier and feature the writers Mort Zuckerman, Mike Lupica, Juliet Papa, and Carl Bernstein, and the artists Ed Hollander, Walter Bernard, Eric Ernst, and Lori Singer, as well as the longtime skipper of the artists, Leif Hope.
On June 28, Rene Auberjonois will star as Tom Wolfe in the one-man show “Big Bad Wolfe!”
“The exhibition is going to be amazing,” said Christina Mossaides Strassfield, a co-curator of the exhibit and Guild Hall’s director and chief curator. “Because we are a museum that focuses on artists of the area, we are showing a number of pieces from our permanent collection. What we didn’t have, we went to the artists or the galleries and asked them to lend material.”
“It’s exciting to see the variety of work that’s been created, and the art movements that have happened over the years,” Ms. Strassfield said. We had everything from the Abstract Expressionists to the pop artists to the contemporary artists — a little bit of everything. We have Eric Fischl, Eric Ernst, Pollock and de Kooning and Franz Kline. These are top-level artists.”
“It’s not about pigeonholing these artists into one school,” said Elena Prohaska Glinn, a co-curator. “The only thing they have in common is that they played in the softball game and they live here.”
Mr. Hope, a driving force behind the game for almost a half-century, first suggested an exhibition a couple of years ago, said Deb McEneaney, president of the Artists and Writers board and content curator. Work began last August.
“One of the first things we came up with was a photo of Franz Kline in 1950,” Ms. McEneaney said. Then, a photo of Kline, Howard Kanovitz, and de Kooning at an early game. “Our hope was that this would be really great for East Hampton and the East End, bringing two institutions together that normally wouldn’t be, and that we’re going to make a lot more people aware of Guild Hall, and of the charities that we support,” she said. “It’s not just a fun game — which it is — it’s a fund-raiser.”
Artworks by Adolph Gottlieb, Ross Bleckner, Mr. Hope, Dan Rizzie, Billy Strong, Randall Rosenthal, and Robert Gwathmey are also featured. Mr. Gwathmey’s 1970 arrest in East Hampton, for displaying an American flag to which he had affixed a peace symbol, was the catalyst for the Artists and Writers game becoming a fund-raiser, Ms. McEneaney said.
Ninety-six writers will be represented in the exhibition, Ms. Strassfield said, some by first-edition books in showcases, while other books will be available to be read by patrons. A video loop will depict still photographs from games throughout the years, and a timeline, prepared with no small assistance from Jack Graves, the sports editor of The Star, will detail scores and other information.
“I also had a quilt made with old T-shirts of all of Walter Bernard’s designs by a quilter in Georgia, Lynne Corwith Fraas, originally an East Ender,” Ms. McEneaney said. “That’s going to be in the show, and then we’re going to auction it off for our charities.”
A poster commemorating the exhibition includes a photograph of de Kooning, Kanovitz, and Kline, along with a watercolor painting by Mr. Bernard derived from a photo of Mr. Ernst at bat in last year’s contest. “We wouldn’t look nearly as good as we do for the last 25 years if it wasn’t for Walter Bernard, who plays a great second base and also is an incredible graphic designer,” Ms. McEneaney said.
Last year, money raised from the game meant sizable donations to East End Hospice, the East Hampton Day Care Learning Center, the Phoenix House counseling center, and the Retreat. This year’s game will benefit the same groups. “Our mission is that we provide funding for organizations that provide vital human services on the East End,” Ms. McEneaney said. “It’s kind of a family, or community, we’ve built around this game.”
Planning and curating the exhibition, Ms. Strassfield said, “has really been fun because we’ve discovered and reconnected with a lot of different artists that I knew early on but didn’t know played in the game, people who have such fond memories. It’s very exciting.” Ms. McEneaney, she said, “has really helped us pull so many different things together.”
“It’s been fun,” Ms. McEneaney replied. “I love this game, and I love this group, and I’m so happy that it’s getting the recognition I feel it deserves.”