The Fifth Annual PortFest will be held on Saturday, May 14, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., on the campus of Schreiber High School. The event, a community-wide arts and music festival, is organized and hosted by HEARTS (Help Enrich the Arts of Port Washington). HEARTS is an independent, grassroots nonprofit community organization whose mission is to add meaningful value to children’s lives and the community by supporting and enriching the arts in Port Washington and its public schools.
Damon Gersh, founder and chairperson of HEARTS, started PortFest because he believes
passionately in the importance of arts in public schools. “The idea for PortFest came to me while
I was meditating on the beach while on vacation in Montauk during the summer of 2010,” said Gersh. “I had reached a point in my life that I was looking for an opportunity to utilize my entrepreneurial experiences to help make a difference in the world. My wife, Rachelle, is a professional artist and I sing and play guitar. When we moved to town in 2004, we met all kinds of creative people including artists, musicians, writers, filmmakers, photographers, etc.
I recall feeling that they were like a vast untapped natural resource. At that time, the national economy was in rough shape and school budgets everywhere were being cut. It’s almost cliché that music and arts programs get cut first when budgets take a hit and I thought there was something I could do to help. When the idea for PortFest hit me, it seemed to capture everything I was looking for. Rachelle and I enjoy attending music festivals and it seemed like a fun way to celebrate and promote the local artists and musicians while raising money to support the arts in the schools.”
Gersh didn’t know what kind of reception he would get from the school district when he proposed his idea for PortFest. He contacted Sheri Suzzan, who was director of creative arts for Port schools at the time. “The school board unanimously embraced the idea for PortFest and was totally supportive from day one,” said Gersh.
Stephanie Hall, a member of the board of directors of HEARTS, lives in Port Washington and graduated from Schreiber. “All of the board of directors live in Port and have some connection to the arts,” said Hall. “Damon is entrenched in the community and has brought together an incredible group of people and built a great organization. PortFest reaches everyone in the community,” said Hall.
To perform, volunteer or become a PortFest sponsor, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Go to www.pwportfest.org for information about volunteering, donating and advertising.