Locals here, as in similar places like Cape Cod or Nantucket, often view visitors “from away” with dread or derision, but this year we have been grateful that several South Fork cultural institutions have highlighted the work of artists from very far away indeed. It is a critical time to be thankful for a multicultural and multiethnic harvest like the one that has blossomed on the East End arts scene this summer — in words, music, visual art.
For its 35th anniversary, the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival has a “Destination America” theme. Its series of concerts, which continues through Aug. 19, is “presenting and framing music by composers who came to this country for reasons both creative and otherwise.” They include immigrants fleeing oppression, such as Igor Stravinsky, and the descendants of slaves or immigrants, including William Grant Still, Aaron Copland, and Leonard Bernstein. On Monday at the Parrish Art Museum, the festival presented a concert to celebrate the museum’s permanent collection of American art, portions of which were also created by émigrés or their immediate descendants. Taking part in a festival concert celebrating Felix and Fanny Mendelssohn, not one of the musicians, including the festival’s founder, Marya Martin, was born in the United States, but all make their home here.
Guild Hall’s Guitar Masters series in July imported world-renowned musicians such as Bodi Assad from Brazil and David Broza from Israel, as well as Richard Thompson and Andy Summers from England. The astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who has a house here, was also on the John Drew Theater calendar, as was Questlove, the percussionist and producer, who visits here from his home in Philadelphia.
Also, through October, the Parrish is presenting an exhibition of works from Barthelemy Toguo, a Cameroonian artist who lives in Paris. He has transformed a space in the museum into an African street cafe. In another gallery, he has installed a life-size boat filled with bags made from African fabrics and placed on a sea of glass bottles that highlights the precarious journeys of those seeking exile. The museum’s “Road Show” artists include Jeremy Dennis, whose Shinnecock lineage makes him the most native of all Americans, and Esly E. Escobar, a Guatemalan-born and Westhampton-raised artist.
Mr. Toguo began this art project at the Watermill Center, which for years has been attracting international artists from far-flung nations to its residency program. These artists’ visions are freely intermingled with their domestic counterparts’ efforts in the center’s annual summer benefit and Discover Watermill Days (Sunday), where their installations and performances are presented side by side, blending together.
This is just a casual accounting of those events we have taken notice of; there are many more. There hardly has been a moment in American history, except perhaps the period following the Civil War, when it was more necessary to build bridges — not walls — and to celebrate differences and common experiences through cultural exchange. Art is a space in which we can fully engage as global citizens, and, at its best, it reminds us that we are all in this together.