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Artist James Ding’s “Hugs & Kisses” sculpture. (Photo credit: Nancy Kane/Kallie Gordon)

Valentine’s Day 2024 may be officially over, but love lasts, especially when it’s lit up in bright red LED light.

Installed on February 13, North Sea artist James Ding’s sculpture “Hugs and Kisses” will light up the grounds at Southampton Arts Center until mid-March, keeping love and light alive until spring officially arrives. Part of the artist’s “Inspired by Love” series, Ding offered to install and loan the sculpture to the town as… well, an act of love for the East End.

SAC executive director Christina Strassfield, artist James Ding, and deputy mayor Gina Arresta at the “Hugs & Kisses” unveiling. (Photo credit: Nancy Kane/Kallie Gordon)

“I’ve been a working artist my whole life. Over 40 years ago, I fell in love with Southampton,” Ding said in a released statement. “I am very appreciative that Mayor Bill Manger recognized that my ‘XOXO Hugs and Kisses” sculpture’ would be good for the community. I am grateful to be able to contribute and be part of the village and community that I have loved from the start.”

It couldn’t come at a better time of year. While winter in the Hamptons offers a multitude of quiet charms, reasons to be outside require a little more thought and planning (and occasionally, fortitude).

An important cultural staple, the Southampton Arts Center has much to offer inside and out. (Photo credit: Amy Zavatto)

The beloved sculpture garden and pretty park-like grounds of Southampton Arts Center — a community arts staple with four galleries, a theater, art studio and summer performance stage — are always a cultural draw for community members.

While part of the allure here is indeed exhibitions that display the work of global art icons, as in last summer’s “Iconic Images of Harry Benson” and the more recent “Heroines of the Abstract Expressionist Era,” the influence of the East End on artists both local and from afar here has long been celebrate, as evidenced in annual exhibitions like “East End Collected.”

Ding’s 6-foot-by-6-foot aluminum and steel sculpture doesn’t just fit in nicely with the institutes ethos, it adds a little extra warmth during this frosty time of year.

“Any time we can encourage folks to enjoy our beautiful downtown is an opportunity we cannot pass up,” said Mayor Bill Manger in a press release. “When James suggested this, I just had to say yes. What better way of celebrating our beautiful village than with a message of love?”