Lenz Winery showcases paintings by disabled artists

09/13/2016 12:13 PM |

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If you pick up a bottle of the 2014 White Blend from Lenz Winery in Peconic, you might notice the label is decorated with a gold and blue design. If you sit in the tasting room, you will see that same design on the wall as a part of the winery’s latest art exhibition, Landscape Constructions.

The 73-year-old artist behind the label is Peter Bolze, a member of Family Residences and Essential Enterprises, an organization supporting individuals with developmental disabilities.

This is the fifth time Lenz has featured the work of artists from FREE. The collaboration started back in 2012 when Patrice Radowitz, the public relations director for FREE, approached Jerol Bailey, the director of sales at Lenz, about hosting the organization’s artwork there.

“It was a no-brainer to partner with them,” Mr. Bailey said. The winery usually features a different local artist’s work each month and he said he was glad to use some of those months to feature the work of artists from FREE.

The most recent installment has been up since July and each artist created an abstract landscape scene using paint.

Five of the paintings from the collection have been sold already, each going for about $175 to $250. While the winery will usually take out commission for the paintings sold there, Mr. Bailey said all of the money made off these particular paintings goes right back to FREE.

“It’s a way that we could give back to a great organization,” Mr. Bailey said.

On the walls of the winery tasting room near the art, tags feature a photo and quote from each artist.

“I like to do art. I can show people how I feel,” Mr. Bolze’s quote reads. “I get sad when people do not understand what I am saying. But when I work on art I am not sad.”

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Danny Kramer. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

This is the third year Lenz has featured one of the artist’s pieces on its wine bottle. At a July 8 artist reception, Mr. Bailey said the winery also sold bottles of wine to guests, with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the organization.

“If somebody wants to get involved and support the artists and the organization, but they don’t want to buy the art, they can purchase the bottle for $30,” Mr. Bailey said.

Jessica Gallone, senior director of day services supports and developments at FREE, said the exposure the artists get from experiences like the one at Lenz helps them by giving them a different form of interaction. FREE also has exhibits art at other locations across Long Island, like MacArthur Airport and will have an exhibit at the Smithtown Library in October.

“It’s an amazing program,” she said. “It gives the artists an opportunity to connect socially, not only as a group but with the community.”

Danny Kramer, a 47-year-old from Calverton, has participated in FREE’s fine arts art therapy program since its inception eight years ago.

“It makes me happy,” Mr. Kramer said. He said he always liked to draw as a child and now he gets to learn more about art once a week when a group from FREE travels to Wantagh for an art therapy class.

Mr. Kramer, who can also be found working at Ace Hardware in Wading River, said he likes to go to his art class on Tuesdays, where he meets with a group at Saddle Rock Ranch in Middle Island and takes a bus to the studio in Wantagh.

“He has a lot of energy,” said Julie Dell’Aira of Saddle Rock Ranch, who accompanies the group to its art class. She said Mr. Kramer’s art has also been displayed at Lenz Winery in the past.

“I am proud of my work,” Mr. Kramer’s artist tag reads at the winery. “It feels so good to do my artwork in art therapy. It helps me focus on myself.”

The fine art program is designed to challenge the artists, teaching them to use different media than they are used to. Ed Regensburg, the program’s creator, described it as “deep.” He teaches about four classes a week to a different groups of people in Wantagh and said this form of therapy allows for the participants’ emotions to come out and for them to get in touch with their soul.

Mr. Regensburg described what a good feeling it is for him to see how proud the artists are of their work when they get recognition from the people who attend the receptions.

“It’s an experience of love in action,” he said. “It’s a big deal [for them].”

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