Situated between the more suburban hamlet of Bridgehampton and the rugged, cliffy town of Montauk is East Hampton, last in the strand of Hamptons towns. Remarkably, as those places have changed, East Hampton has stood as a rock of resistance, committed to its farm-and-stock legacy- some aspect of high Bohemia in an otherwise summer colony scene.
Vast stands of trees, carpets of moss, tables of ferns, and busts of stray sand contain years of ecological history. The climate offers a calm humidity and the sun is intercepted by ocean mist, providing a glassy warm light making everything in view practically glow. Even to this day, some roads remain unpaved and unkempt in the most organic manner.
All of this in mind and it becomes clear why, in 1975 Jack Lenor Larsen, chose East Hampton to create a microcosm of what he treasured as a world-renowned textile designer. You can watch the PBS “Craft in America: Visionaries” series on Jack Lenor Larsen here. At the 16-acre LongHouse Reserve, there is a deep dive into an organic soul, with every inch of its territory not only preserved, but reconsidered and critically respected. LongHouse Reserve is a remarkable integration of nature, art, and design. Unpredictable, extensive, unlimited in inspiration, its gardens present entire landscapes as an art form.
While awe-inspiring scenes of stillness can define the experience of Longhouse Reserve, the Reserve tends to be bustling with activity on any given day. Under the leadership of interim director Carrie Rebora Barrat, a former deputy director at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and former president and CEO of the New York Botanical Garden, Longhouse Reserve has become a dynamic place to be, with all sorts of events take place all through the year.
To this end, Longhouse Reserve has become a meeting place for creative people who appreciate the environment and arts. The events schedule this summer is extremely robust, including a well-received conversation series which has included the likes of Lee Skolnick, Bjorn Amelan (whose work is now on view at LongHouse Reserve), and Michele Oka Doner, whose Florida-based childhood was the fuel for a lifelong study and appreciation of the natural world. The talks, situated under a shade tree and near a pond, offer an inspiring sense of clarity and ritual to attendees.
Just this weekend, LongHouse Reserve supporters celebrated with ONWARD, LongHouse Reserve’s annual summer benefit which managed to raise over half a million dollars for the garden. The likes of actor Nathan Lane, sculptor Alice Aycock, fashion executive Fern Mallis came together to support the East Hampton institution with dancing, food, and an opportunity to experience the LongHouse Reserve after hours.
The summer benefit is LongHouse Reserve’s largest event of the year, with all proceeds going towards the mission of teaching living with art in all its forms; including diverse educational outreach, community programming, and maintenance of the grounds.
“Botanical gardens across the country have invested huge resources over the past 10 years only into bringing art to their properties because they recognize that the combination of arts and nature draws more people.”
– Carrie Rebora Barrat
Global travels and art defined Larsen’s legendary practice (with works now in the collections of MoMA and the Louvre, among so many others) and they are fully reflected in the territory of Longhouse Reserve. Today, it includes the house, a tranquil and human-oriented interpretation of an A-frame design, and the extensive grounds filled with roughly 60 contemporary sculptures, a combination of pieces on loan and permanent works, including Buckminster Fuller’s “Fly’s Eye Dome” and Yoko Ono’s giant, monochromatic chess game, “Play It by Trust.” The Pavilion is set at the end of Peters Pond, which accepts the sun with joy and lily pads stage against grand Dale Chihuly works.
The grounds are intentionally divided by privet hedges, offering “rooms” to explore, with some areas featuring human-made art (particularly immersive is the Sol LeWitt sculpture) while others indulge in the beauty of the environment (The Dunes and Grass Garden, for example). Wherever you walk, elements of surprise and amusement are baked into the experience. Less anticipated is the sense of oneness and control in the environment, delightfully rare by today’s standard. And that’s just in the daytime. LongHouse Reserve can be illuminated to provide an entirely new experience by night.
LongHouse Reserve is located at 133 Hands Creek Road, East Hampton NY 11937. Learn more and reserve tickets here.