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Earlier this month, the Parrish hosted a business owner panel discussion titled “The Art of Business Growth.” (Photo credit: Melanie Tolan)

When the off-season hit this past autumn, the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill hosted a couple of panel discussions, “The Art of Great Service” and “The Art of Business Growth,” two events spearheaded by the museum’s business membership program. Featuring a handful of both new and established local business owners speaking on their respective experiences, opportunities and challenges, the discussions provided attendees not only with pertinent information on the competitive business world here on the East End, but how they work with and within the community on a consistent, year-round basis.

“Our year-round businesses helps keep the East End viable,” says Shariee Calderone, membership and annual fund director at the museum. “We wouldn’t have this year-round community if it weren’t for these business owners.”

After speaking with Calderone, it’s clear the Parrish is not only serving as a cultural center for the South Fork, but also acts as a hub for both prospective business owners and veterans of local industry to band together, a move the East End institution’s been doing for years.

Heading into 2024, the program has several off-season events on tap to generate and nurture interest among business professionals, both established and new. “We wouldn’t have this year-round community if it weren’t for these business owners,” Calderone says. To check out current council members, sponsors and other vital people and organizations involved click here.

Here, we caught up with Calderone to find out more about the Parrish’s new series of talks.

Most discussions and events hosted by the Parrish Art Museum’s Business Members are short, intimate discussions. (Photo courtesy of Shariee Calderone)

Emily Toy: Tell me a little bit of background about the formation of the Parrish Business Membership. How did the idea for panel discussions with East End small business owners come to be?

Shariee Calderone: The Parrish Business Membership is an excellent way for local business leaders to connect with our surrounding community and support the museum through their membership and involvement. The program began when the museum was in the Village of Southampton. It continues to be a popular community connection point for business in the village and those all throughout the East End. The Parrish Art Museum business program has expanded to include many businesses and is now a connection point for business growth and the brainstorming of ideas.

Our series of speaking and networking events are organized annually by the Museum’s Business Council, a volunteer group of business leaders from among the Business Membership. Programs are scheduled during the off season when we all have a little more breathing room than we do during the busier summer season.

“Our future sessions will focus attention on technology in the workplace as well as how design and art often inform the work we all do.”

Shariee Calderone, membership and annual fund director, the Parrish Art Museum

ET: What is the process/criteria like for selecting topics for discussion and for choosing panel discussion members?

SC: The museum’s business council works hard to select relevant topics that are timely for the audience and the team receives input from those who attend events and share their interests with us. The Museum’s business council also serves an informed group of local business leaders who have a pulse on what their own clients and customers are saying and sharing. We also want to have a bit of fun and attendees always walk away learning something. The East End of Long Island changes rapidly and business leaders benefit from these amicable conversations and important relationship building opportunities.

Dubbed by Calderone as “prop circles,” attendees are able to talk one-on-one with their peers about the challenges and opportunities of being a business owner on the East End. (Photo credit: Danea Sharpelletti)

Local business leaders hold a wealth of knowledge and experience about the community and operating their businesses, and we want to bring that intel to the community in creative ways. Whether you’ve been in business for 30+ years or less than 3 years, we know that our local leaders have something important to share and we’re proud to provide a beautiful, comfortable setting for that to take place. Members of our business council often make the initial recommendations for speakers based on the topics or format of the program.  This is a community that supports one another, and we have seen a lot of good will built in supporting and recommending peers for our events.  

ET: Who is your audience?

SC: Our audience is primarily made up of small business owners and those who play key roles in sales, customer engagement, and marketing in the hospitality, design, finance, real estate, tourism, retail, architecture and arts businesses. Attendees are drawn to the events based on the topic themes and through word-of-mouth. Many know the success of the businesses involved and are eager to learn more. Also, we can often count on the moms and dads of our speakers to show up!

ET: Aside from building a network, what are the benefits and opportunities that current and potential members have?

SC: Members in our business program enjoy visiting the museum with their families as well as bringing clients to the galleries free of charge. They also enjoy discounts on our robust public programming (like concerts and films) and attending invite-only special events such as tours, socials and exhibition previews. Business members also receive free admission passes to gift to customers and clients, which help them share their love of the arts and introduce new people to the museum.

While becoming a member may be a little steep, the panel discussions are usually affordable, costing only the price of admission to the museum. (Photo courtesy of Shariee Calderone)

ET: How do you think these discussions/member events will help benefit the East End as a whole?

SC: The Museum recognizes the important role the year-round business community plays on the East End of Long Island, and we value dialog between people with diverse backgrounds, interests, talents, and resources. We are working to reach many audiences in the East End. Business growth, awareness building and many productive connections occur between community members at the Parrish. We aspire to be a transformative and engaging institution, where people share their stories and help support others.

ET: What do you anticipate for the next year?

SC: Our goal is to continue to grow engagement with local businesses from Montauk to Westhampton and beyond. We conduct regular surveys with our attendees and really listen to the feedback we receive. We want to understand attendees’ interests, and provide meaningful opportunities to learn, network and be inspired by others, art, and ideas. Our future sessions will focus attention on technology in the workplace as well as how design and art often inform the work we all do. We are also interested in welcoming others onto our Business Council and are excited by new energy, ideas and adding a diverse group to our programs. After January’s unique BizShine program on the 19th which features local business leaders sharing five-minute stories with visuals, we will be gearing up for our biennial benefit event Two Forks and a Cork on March 22. This event supports the museum’s art and education programming and features live music and tastings from local wineries.

Access to relevant cultural engagement in all its forms is what we do here. The Parrish is a unique destination that attracts people from all of the world, we are thrilled that the business community can benefit from what we offer, and we are grateful for all of the business members.