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The Outer Reaches: Arts Institutions Worth the Trip

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There is so much to do and see in Manhattan. An endless stream of social events, art exhibitions, and general tasks fill our days and nights. Such manageable frenzy is part of the island's appeal, but also the reason we should leave it every once and a while.

Here are four arts institutions — all of which will have openings and host events this month — to check out in The Bronx, Staten Island and Southampton: Wavehill, The Bronx River Art Center, The Alice Austen House and The Parrish Art Museum. Each arts space’s unique cultural history and location feeds its mission in the arts and relationship to community.

Wave Hill in the Bronx The 28-acre public garden and cultural center Wave Hill on West 249th St. in the Bronx was built as a country home in 1843, and rented by Theodore Roosevelt's family during the summers of 1870 and ‘71, when the young Roosevelt was just a pre-teen. Overlooking the Hudson river and the Palisades, Wavehill became a nonprofit in 1965 and is today one of 34 cultural institutions owned by New York City. Among Wave Hill's principle goals is, "To explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts."

Armed with the curatorial criteria that its exhibitions need to engage in dialogue with nature, culture and site, Wave Hill has one gallery and two project spaces, and provides related educational programming. At the moment, the artist Caitlin Parer is exhibiting "Half Life" in the Sunshine Project Space, for which she’s created a to-scale model of Wave Hill’s Glyndor House (wherein the Sunshine Project Space sits). The model sits outside to expose it to the natural world. Using motion-sensor cameras affixed to the miniature house, Parker recorded the changing, shifting fauna and flora around the model house, eventually editing the feed into time-lapsed sequences that are displayed as part of the exhibit.

Next up in the Sunshine Project space, Sreshta Rit Remnath will create a miniature garden of plants that are being contested by various “biopiracy” task forces around the world for his "Pillbox" series. Opens on October 22.

The Bronx River Art Center

The Bronx River Art Center  in the Bronx Seven miles south of Wave Hill, sits The Bronx River Art Center (BRAC, pictured at right) at 305 East 140th St. Formed during the mid 1970's, this was the first project to benefit from the Bronx River Restoration Project, which works in partnership with the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation to protect and restore the Bronx River and enrich its bordering communities. The BRAC offers studio and exhibition spaces for artists along with education programs and workshops, all of which, according to the BRAC Web site, are designed "to engage in creative activism towards the revitalization and future of their neighborhood."

Much like Wave Hill, the BRAC curates shows and education programming in relation to its natural environment and its specific, revitalizing history. The current show there, "Shifting Communities," is the first of its four 2011-‘12 exhibitions, and the beginning of a roundtable dialogue series. The group exhibition features the work of artist Nicky Enright, and the collectives BroLab and J&J. All of it re-imagines how art practice can intersect with broader aspects of culture and community.  The J&J collective, for example, will contribute to the exhibition by working (in uniform) in the nearby neighborhood by weeding, cleaning up trash and stewarding city trees and street parks. The collective will also draw a map of its progress on the BRAC gallery walls.

The Alice Austen House in Staten Island The Alice Austen House in Staten Island, located in the former home of photographer Alice Austen, is located at 2 Hylan Boulevard at the entrance to the New York Harbor. After falling into disrepair, it was restored in 1984 and declared a national landmark in 1993. Now the New York City landmark regularly hosts events, fairs, screenings and fundraisers, including the annual coming out day party — which takes place each October. The Austen House also has an exhibition space (recently on view was "Burning Images: Photographs From the FDNY Photo Unit”) as well as two nine month-artist in resident positions for emerging New York City photographers.

If you've lived in New York for many years and never found yourself in Staten Island, this incredible house-cum-cultural institution is reason enough to hop on the ferry.

The Parrish Art Museum in Southhampton, Long Island Now for the furthest out of all, and perhaps the most disparate on this list: The Parrish Art Museum. On a day off, take the Long Island Expressway or the Hampton Jitney out to Southampton to visit the Parrish Art Museum. The exhibitions on view have a remarkable range — from solo shows like Alex Katz's “Seeing, Drawing Making” on view last winter to group exhibitions such as "All the More Real: Portrayals of Intimacy and Empathy," which was on view in 2007.

The museum’s current exhibition, "Artist Choose Artists," will close this week. "American Portraits: Treasures from the Parrish Art Museum," opens in its place, which will feature over 45 works from the collection, including those by Elizabeth Peyton, Richard Avedon and Chuck Close. I've dropped enough names - it's worth the visit. And isn't it refreshing to take a deep a breath outside the city’s five boroughs?

The Parrish Art Museum is currently located at 25 Jobs Lane in Southampton. Below, a rendering of the future Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, New York. The site is currently under construction and is designed by Herzog & de Meuron.

Parrish Art Museum