Honors For Paramount At Arts Council’s 50th
Despite drawing massive crowds of music lovers to Huntington village for two years now, it took a little recognition from a local not-for-profit for the founders of The Paramount to finally feel truly accepted by the community.
The Huntington Arts Council on Saturday celebrated its 50th anniversary in part by honoring the men behind the rising of The Paramount. The speakeasy-themed Founders Room at the theater served as the setting for a gala that drew more than 200 supporters of the arts.
The theater and its owners have been recognized several times already for industry achievements – in July, mid-year ticket sales placed The Paramount in the top 25 music venues in the world, according to a trade publication – but being honored by the arts council in some ways meant more to founders and town residents Dominick Catoggio, Jim Condron, Brian Doyle and Stephen Ubertini.
“We finally feel like we’re a part of the community,” Catoggio said. “This is more about being accepted.”
The setting couldn’t have been more appropriate to celebrate an organization that has advocated for artists since July 1963. The arts council was formed after the Huntington supervisor asked the town’s Committee of the Arts to create and maintain a cultural identity in Huntington. The arts council’s first annual budget was expected to be about $500-700, which was raised by the community.
“Since its approval from the town, it’s amazing to see how much it has grown since,” said Diana Cherryholmes, the executive director of the Huntington Arts Council.
The arts council is responsible for several of Huntington’s top arts events. Galleries on Main Street in Huntington and at the Art-trium in Melville give local artists a chance to shine, and its Summer Arts Festival has lit up the stage in Heckscher Park for 48 years.
Looking forward, Debbi Honorof, president of the Huntington Arts Council’s Board of Directors, said the council will focus on fundraising and Long Island’s changing demographic.
“We need to make local businesses understand how many advantages there are to Huntington being so rich in culture,” she said. “We also want to recognize the changing demographic and make sure we have programming for all ages.”
The Huntington Arts Council has been making a pointed effort to reach out to young artists through SparkBoom, an arts initiative with a goal of cultivating artists ages 18-40, several of whom performed at Saturday’s gala. College student Salvatore Valentinetti, electric violinist David Wong, and 20-year-old musician Trish Torrales turned heads with their tunes, as did singer-songwriter Glen Roethel.
The lively banter paused when town and state officials as well as arts council staff honored The Paramount’s founders, recognizing them not only as industry leaders who put Huntington on the map, but also as dedicated citizens who have immersed themselves in the community by hosting fundraisers and opening their doors during Superstorm Sandy.
Catoggio, Doyle and Ubertini (Condron was not present that evening) beamed as words of congratulations and gratitude echoed over the microphone. Accepting proclamations, citations and a framed photo, the three thanked the community for its support throughout the process of gutting the former IMAC and creating The Paramount.
“‘It’s kind of fun to do the impossible,’” Ubertini said, repeating one of the founding quartet’s favorite quotes from Walt Disney, a man whose business approach and vision inspired the founders along the way.
“I still stand here now saying it’s hard to believe we actually went through with the whole project,” Doyle said. “I don’t believe it would have been possible if the town didn’t do so much.”
As for the arts council, each time glasses clinked on Saturday, it was to wish the organization another successful 50 years.