Safe Haven Exhibit from Fire Island Offers a Place of Refuge in NYC

by FIN |

Open-air installation of “Safe Haven” in New York Historical Society Courtyard. Photo courtesy Cherry Grove Archives Collection.

By Leonard Feigenblatt

The New-York Historical Society has partnered with the Cherry Grove Archive Collection in presenting “Safe Haven: Gay Life in 1950’s Cherry Grove.” Through photographs and memorabilia it tells the story of Cherry Grove in Fire Island, a quiet remote beach town. In the 1950s, it became a summer and weekend safe haven for gay men and women, where they were allowed to express themselves freely. This was at a time when men and women hid their homosexuality. Many celebrities would visit the island including: W.H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and Patricia Highsmith among others. Chronicled in this exhibition are the extravagant parties, which included wild costumes, cross dressing and theatrical shows.

This exhibition was first presented in February 2020 at the Stonewall National Museum – Wilton Manors Gallery in Wilton Manors, Florida. Unfortunately it closed early due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the Cherry Grove entertainers pictured in the exhibition is Bob (Rose) Levine who has been entertaining Cherry Grove audiences since 1955 and is still going strong. This year his show, entitled “The Show Must Go On,” will be a benefit for the Cherry Grove Arts Project at the Community House on Saturday July 10, 2021, barring any COVID restrictions.

“Safe Haven: Gay Life in 1950’s Cherry Grove” is being presented in the outdoor rear courtyard of the New-York Historical Society Museum at 76th Street, off Central Park West. Admission is free, but timed-entry tickets must be booked. It is on view until Oct. 11, 2021.

The Museum, which is located around the corner between 76th and 77th streets on Central Park West, has several exhibitions. Of particular interest to people who love the arts is “So Ready for Laughter: Bob Hope and World War II,” which contains many photographs and other memorabilia of the comedian actor. It is on view until Sept. 5, 2021.

FIN’s “Rose’s View” columnist is one of the many performance artists featured in the exhibition.

 

 

 

Robert Levine. 60 years later, attending the exhibition with fellow Cherry Grove resident Dennis McConkay. Photo Courtesy Cherry Grove Archives Collectio

 

New-York Historical Society Museum

170 Central Park West

New York, NY

212-873-3400 • www.nyhistory.org

Hours: Fridays, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. • Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

Curated by Brian Clark, Susan Kravitz, and Parker Sargent for the Cherry Grove Archives Collection and coordinated at New-York Historical by Rebecca Klassen, associate curator of material culture. Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Evelyn & Seymour Neuman Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor. Receive $2 off adult admission to New York Historical Society through September 30, 2021 by using the coupon code SAFE8 during ticket purchase.

 

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