Lifestyle: Spotlights

Haute Spot

Designed to make a difference, this stylish space exemplifies gracious living and generous giving.
By Dawn Watson - November 10, 2017

For Joan Hornig, philanthropy is much more than whatever the cause du jour might be. Giving back, for her and her husband, George, is a way of life.

The Water Mill residents are mightily and actively engaged with the causes that they support. So much so that they’ve built them into their everyday lives. Quite literally, in fact. The philanthropic pair are so dedicated to doing their part that a few years ago they actually erected a structure on their property specifically for that purpose.

Resurrected from the original wood and hardware of a circa-1860 barn that had once graced the Hornig’s land, the 3,000-plus square-foot structure is a place where giving back has been framed into the foundation. Filled with artwork and prized pieces from the Hornigs’ various collections, the “art barn,” as they call it, is nonetheless not about the what’s in it, but instead what is meant to happen there.

“Well that is why we built it,” says Ms. Hornig of the barn’s higher purpose of charitable endeavors. “We try really hard to touch on the ideas that matter: chiefly the arts, the environment and education.”

The space is made for learning, giving back and generating calls to action, she continues. As such, it’s been home to fundraisers for such diverse groups as Southampton Hospital, The Retreat, Riverkeeper, the Bob Woodruff Foundation, Sundance Institute, the Fashion Institute of Technology, Polyphony Youth Orchestra and the Blue Sphere Foundation. As such, it’s also been visited by at least one former President of the United States, several MacArthur Fellows, and a host of other notables, such as James Lipton, Fern Mallis, Christie Brinkley, Chuck Close, April Gornik and Eric Fischl, Lee Woodruff and Wynton Marsalis, to name a few.

Ms. Hornig is quick to point out that, as far as the barn goes, “it’s not about the people, it’s about the doing. That’s much more important to me.” But, she adds, “it’s pretty amazing to think that we might be hosting something that brings the next person who makes significant positive changes in the world.”

Showcasing her flair for entertaining in style (she is the creator of the Philanthropy Is Beautiful jewelry line, which pledges 100-percent of the profits to be donated to the charity of the purchaser’s choice), Ms. Hornig loves to pull out all the stops for the benefits she and her husband host. Using locally sourced items and things that she has repurposed from the grounds—whether it be flowers from her gardens; apples from her orchard; or even napkin rings, umbrella stands and tables made from old stumps—she sets the stage differently for every themed event.

“It’s fun to take things and put them to use in a different way, especially in an ‘ecotaneous’ way,” she says. “And I love to use things that matter, things that have a story. There’s nothing like it when you are able to open your heart and your home and share something so personal for a good cause.”

Though her calendar for 2018 is fast filling up, Ms. Hornig says she’s always on the lookout for appropriate barn-based opportunities. As such, the founder of the Joan B. Hornig Foundation is keen to put her resources to use for those in need.

“No space can be overused when it’s for something good,” she laughs. “That’s how we do it in the barn. We want to do what we can to be a part of the continuum of change. It’s the spirit in which the barn was created.”

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