Historic church becomes a muse for art

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The second-oldest church in Suffolk County, dating back to colonial times, St. John’s in Oakdale has inspired art and ardor for over 250 years of its history. On Wednesday, July 20, it provided itself as a muse for both the Patchogue Arts Council sketch club and photography club.

With over two-dozen artists in attendance, St. John’s was a centerpiece for contemporary art expression. The Oakdale Historical Society is one of a number of caretakers of the building and the surrounding land, especially the cemetery that has Revolutionary War-era graves.

With most statues on the grounds being gifted to St. John’s, photography club leader Holly Hunt was particularly moved to be in attendance, as her “family has dedicated a fountain and bench to grounds in memory of my late mother, who would visit the property often to walk the ivy labyrinth.”

Dating back to 1689, when it was known as Charlotte Church, St. John’s was the “mother church” to many of the Town of Islip’s surrounding churches that still function today.

St. John’s was the name bestowed to the church in 1764 when it served as a hospital for the Revolutionary War.

Running mostly on volunteerism and funds raised from the attached thrift store, St. John’s most recently had a 5K fundraiser in its honor that had over 500 runners. The money raised from the Firecracker Run will go towards new windows for the church.

“We wanted to help in those efforts and will be doing so by selling the sketches and photographs captured at the St. John’s field trip at the March of the Scarecrow event at St John’s on Oct. 23 from 9 a.m. to noon,” said Hunt.

The event was held between to 6 to 8 p.m. and Hunt said, “Honestly, the best light to photograph in is at dusk. This is no different for St John’s.”

The architecture of the church, its history, and beauty drew PAC organizers to host a field trip to the over 250-year-old church. With the stained-glass windows and details of woodwork serving as highlights for the artists, many perspectives were covered by the attendees.

“The upstairs of the church, where the servants gathered, offered a sky view that was perfect for sketching,” said Mark Propper, the leader of the sketch club.

The front windows, donated to St. John’s by another house of worship in Brooklyn, are originally from a medieval church in France. 

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