In Sag Harbor, April Gornik and Eric Fischl are converting a former church into a community arts center.
Almost two years ago, the married artists April Gornik, 67, and Eric Fischl, 72, bought a deconsecrated white clapboard church in Sag Harbor, N.Y., a former whaling village on the East End of Long Island, where they have lived for more than three decades. Inspired by its stone foundation, rare in an area with mostly sandy soil, and the craftsmanship of its soaring rafters, the couple were loath to see yet another local building become an opulent private home.
Eager to draw upon Sag Harbor’s history — the village is home to a vibrant and longstanding African-American community and Long Island’s first synagogue, and is a haven for artists and writers — Ms. Gornik and Mr. Fischl have transformed the church into a community arts center and artists’ residency.
The conversion of the Sag Harbor United Methodist Church has been a labor of love for the couple, who sold their lofts in SoHo to raise money for the project. It is also the latest and most ambitious of their arts-related initiatives in the area. For the Sag Harbor Partnership, Ms. Gornik has already researched a number of walking-tour apps, one featuring the local cemetery, where George Balanchine, Spalding Gray and James Salter were laid to rest.