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Building a New Sanctuary on Long Island for Culture Lovers

By Dorothy Spears
The New York Times, Sunday, May 31, 2020


This article is part of our latest Design special report, which is about crossing the borders of space, time and media.

Almost two years ago, the married artists April Gornik, 67, and Eric Fischl, 72, bought a deconsecrated white clapboard church in Sag Harbor, N.Y., a former whaling village on the East End of Long Island, where they have lived for more than three decades. Inspired by its stone foundation, rare in an area with mostly sandy soil, and the craftsmanship of its soaring rafters, the couple were loath to see yet another local building become an opulent private home.

Eager to draw upon Sag Harbor’s history — the village is home to a vibrant and longstanding African-American community and Long Island’s first synagogue, and is a haven for artists and writers — Ms. Gornik and Mr. Fischl have transformed the church into a community arts center and artists’ residency...

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Eric Fischl and The Saints of Sag Harbor

By Bridget LeRoy
The Independent, Sunday, January 28, 2020


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Anthropologist Margaret Mead’s quote still holds true. And nowhere is that more apparent locally than in Sag Harbor, where April Gornik and Eric Fischl have given generously of their time, talent, know-how, and cash to bring the arts and the history of the village even more to the forefront.

While Gornik is currently taking the lead “midtown” with the Sag Harbor Cinema, Fischl is busy “uptown” with the new Prime House Writers’ Retreat at 31 Madison Street, and, diagonally across from that, the old Methodist Church — now known simply as The Church — which has been gutted in preparation for its new role as an arts and culture center.

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New Church Residency Conceived by Artists Eric Fischl and April Gornik Names First Director

By Alex Greenberger
ARTNews, January 16, 2020


As it prepares to open later this year, the Church—a new residency program and exhibition space being created by artists Eric Fischl and April Gornik in a former Methodist church on New York’s Long Island—has a new leader.

Sara Cochran, the former director and chief curator of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona, will serve as the executive director and chief curator of the Church in Sag Harbor. She will oversee the space’s staff and board, and will help organize exhibitions there.

In an interview with ARTnews, Fischl said he had known Cochran for 15 years, having worked with her an educational program facilitated in collaboration with Phoenix College in Arizona, where Fischl has lectured. “She contacted me to ask if I would find it awkward if she applied for the job, and of course it was quite the opposite—I was thrilled,” Fischl said, praising Cochran for her “dynamism.”

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Guild Hall Presents ‘Art As Ecosystem’ With Eric Fischl And The Church

By Staff Writer
27 East, July 14, 2019


On Saturday, July 20, at 2 p.m. at Guild Hall in East Hampton, Eric Fischl will lead the first itinerant event sponsored by The Church, Mr. Fischl and April Gornik’s new arts initiative in Sag Harbor. The Church is a former Methodist Church that is being renovated by the couple, who are both artists, as an arts-incubator and artists-in-residence center.

Although presently under construction, the collaboration with Guild Hall gives The Church an opportunity to host this discussion that brings together luminaries of the art world known for their philanthropy and vision. Called “Art as Ecosystem,” the panelists are: FLAG Art Foundation’s Glenn Fuhrman, Roy Lichtenstein Foundation President Dorothy Lichtenstein, and MacArthur Genius artist Rick Lowe, head of Project Row Houses. The focus of the discussion will be to identify the way art impacts communities and the world, and the way in which philanthropy invests in a community’s future and connection.

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Building on Faith in Sag Harbor

By Jennifer Landes
East Hampton Star, May 23, 2019


Last June, as the summer crowds returned to Sag Harbor, the buzz was about the sale of the old Methodist Church building on Madison Street and a short-lived mystery surrounding who had purchased it. The buyers turned out to be the artist couple Eric Fischl and April Gornik, who announced plans for a public and humanistic purpose for the building and its distinct nature — to make it an arts center.

The site has had a history of false starts since the United Methodist Church sold it in 2008. These included two separate plans for elaborate private residences and another for a commercial space to showcase design. Now, the building might be described (in real estate parlance) as on its way to achieving its “highest and best use,” after its initial one. 

With the exterior almost near completion and its original bell reinstalled, the building looks refreshed and slightly modernized this year. Soaring clear-paned windows have taken the place of stained glass, and the clapboard is clean and bright white. New landscaping will develop over the next several months. 

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Artists Eric Fischl and April Gornik Are Launching a Residency Program in an Old Hamptons Church

By Eileen Kinsella
Artnet News, June 6, 2018


After decades of living full time in Eastern Long Island and supporting the burgeoning local art scene, the husband-and-wife artists Eric Fischl and April Gornik are kicking their philanthropic activity in the area up a few notches.

Fischl and Gornik are acquiring a historic former Methodist church in Sag Harbor, which they will turn into a center for artists and the community. They plan to offer residencies to four artists at a time, as well as public space for programs and exhibitions. (The sale of the building is scheduled to close later this month.)

While artist-led foundations have become a growing force in cultural philanthropy for more than a decade, Fischl and Gornik are part of a growing group of established artists—including Bosco Sodi, Alex Katz, and Jasper Johns—who are putting the money they’ve made from their art back into cultural initiatives while they’re still alive to see the impact.

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The Church: Road Rage

Surface, July 1, 2021

“Our relationship to cars is massively complex,” says Sarah Cochran, executive director and chief curator of The Church, a Sag Harbor arts institution housed in a deconsecrated 19th-century Methodist house of worship. “Over the years, they’ve been lionized and fetishized due to their design, performance, and engineering. They’ve also been vilified and disparaged as a factor in climate change and as symbols of homeless and the decline of manufacturing in this country.” 

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Eric Fischl’s Saints of Sag Harbor: A 10-part Series, Part 1

by Bridget Leroy

Dan's Papers,, June 1, 2021

The religious past and the art-as-religion future have intersected within the walls of the Sag Harbor Church, a former house of worship turned cultural hub, with famed artists/activists April Gornik and Eric Fischl as the founders of the movement to create and open the space, and Sara Cochran as executive director.

The soaring Sag Harbor Church is home to 20 windows—the center of each a large square of glass—it is there, explained Fischl while The Church was still undergoing renovations last year, where the “arts saints of Sag Harbor, the dead saints, will be canonized.”

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