Annual Portfest raises money for arts


Seniors Adam Tuch, Megan Poulos, Noah Milstein, and Sophie Brett-Chin, sophomore Jacob Marshall, and senior Laynie Calderwood perform at Portfest as the band Gag Me with a Spoon. The group performed on the upper field in front of members of the community of all ages.

Emily Ma and Rebecca Muratore, Staff Writer

Music and art in Port Washington are alive and well!  The fourth annual PortFest Music, Arts, and Community Festival was held on May 16 at Schreiber.  This event was sponsored by Helping Enrich the Arts (HEARTS), an independent, non-for-profit organization that works to support, promote, and enrich the arts in the Port Washington community and schools.  PortFest is the largest fundraising event for HEARTS, and all of the funds raised go directly towards grants, programs, and unique opportunities dedicated to the arts in Port Washington.

“HEARTS has proven to be extremely beneficial to the arts community, and it has been thriving ever since it was founded,” said public relations director of PortFest, Ms. Stephanie Hall.  “In the past four years since HEARTS has been around, we have given $100,000 for arts programming in Port Washington.”

Throughout the day, a variety of student and professional artists expressed their artistic and musical talents.  To kick off PortFest, main stage performances from a number of the school district’s music ensembles, ranging from elementary to high school, were showcased. Performances included Weber Middle School’s Pop Choir, the Jazz ensembles from Schreiber, and selections from local theatre productions of The Wiz, Anything Goes, Urinetown, and Big Fish.

Following, several local bands from Bach to Rock and School of Rock, as well as the winner of Schreiber’s Battle of the Bands, Gag Me with a Spoon, rocked out to a captive audience. Gag Me with a Spoon is a group of Schreiber musicians that cover 80’s girl bands.

“One of my goals for high school was to be in a band,” said senior and band member Sophie Brett-Chin.  “It was cool that this band—that was just once an idea—was given an opportunity to perform for the whole community at PortFest.”

In addition to the musical performances, there were a number of activities for families to engage in and explore their artistic and creative abilities.  Tents from all of the schools in the school district were set up with materials for a variety of art projects for kids of all ages to create.

“PortFest is important for families and kids to come together and discover new activities and find what they like,” said junior Rachelle Huitt. “It gives them an opportunity to just to get outside and have fun.”

Displays with artwork from local professional artists were set up for all to view.  Work from around 30 artists was presented, in a number of different styles and mediums.  In addition, student art pieces were also displayed to showcase the talent of the aspiring artists in our town.

People throughout the community have a deep appreciation for PortFest, and the arts as a whole.  Particularly, they value its importance in developing an interest in the arts for the next generation.

“I think that any and all exposure to the arts, for kids especially, is essential for the community and for the health of the culture of our children,” said local artist Ms. Rachelle Krieger.

Throughout Port Washington’s history, the arts have been given deep appreciation from the community as a whole.  PortFest provides an opportunity for people to give back to the arts that they have been a part of for so long.

“I was raised in Port Washington, and I’ve always loved the arts,” said Ms. Hall. “When I came back to Port Washington, it seemed like a lot of things were slowed down a little bit.  Damon Gersh, who founded HEARTS, said we need to provide funding to get the arts strong in the schools. I am so proud that we did all of this, because we have all of the community coming together, and they’re all involved in doing arts and enrichment.”

As PortFest continues to grow each year and expand its reach, the goal is to make an even greater impact on the importance of the arts in our town.  With the support of committed volunteers and donations, HEARTS will continue to improve music and art education in the school district.  In such an artistically rich community, the arts are occasionally taken for granted.  The purpose of PortFest is to raise awareness, and inspire local artists to pursue their talents and interests.

“I feel like the arts often go underappreciated throughout the whole country,” said Brett-Chin. “We have so many talented people in this town, and while we all collectively have a strong love for the arts, we don’t always get to see big appreciation. I love that the whole town and neighboring towns come together just to raise money to support the arts, which is a really noble cause.”