After jabbing at a cube of cheese with a toothpick at the East End Arts 40th birthday celebration on Sunday afternoon, you could have turned around to find a girl in a grey leotard, sparkly tu tu, turquoise tights and elaborate eye makeup striking different poses.
The girl was part of the Neo-Political Cowgirls, an improvisation dance theatre company, that came to the birthday celebration held at the East End Arts Gallery on East Main Street in Riverhead.
Guests dodged strings of blue and purple balloons covering the ceiling of the gallery as they nibbled on food from the Dark Horse Restaurant and enjoyed champagne and mimosas. About 80 people filled the gallery to celebrate the non-profit organization’s longevity.
“The 40th anniversary is a good reason to celebrate and energize the organization,” said East End Arts executive director Pat Snyder. “Now is a really hard time for non-profits — everyone’s struggling. You need the energy.”
Guests were all smiles as they watched the dance performances and listened to Andrew Wargo and Ranny Reeve play the piano.
The milestone birthday follows a logo and name change. The organization was called the East End Arts Council until this past September. It also comes on the heels of a $200,000 grant from Bank of America through its Neighborhood Builders program.
The founder and original director of the arts organization, Liz Richards, joined the celebration and lauded its current leaders.
“It wasn’t what we expected,” she said of the organization’s evolution. “It’s better.”
The celebration didn’t stop with the birthday party. East End Arts in May will have a 40th birthday fundraising gala, including dinner, a live band and art auction, and it will be marking its anniversary at art shows throughout the year.
Elizabeth Greaf, who teachers drawing and color theory at East End Arts, praised the organization. “They’ve grown something from the seeds of a good idea into something that’s valuable not only to the community, but to Long Island,” she said.