Film festival features Islander Harald Olson

C.B. GRUBB Photo || “Outsider” artist Harald Olson and his gas pump art at Jimmy O’s. It took him 56 hours to paint one pump.

“p + Discovery,” a 77-minute film, tells the story of Island “Outsider” artist Harald Olson, his gallery at O’s Place and his friendship with gas station owner Jimmy Olinkiewicz. It will be shown at the Hamptons Take 2 Documentary Film Festival on Friday, November 30 at 8:15 p.m. The three-day festival, now in its fifth year, will be held at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor.

Tickets cost $15 for each film; $100 for a festival pass to all the films; tickets can be purchased at the Bay Street Theatre box office (725-9500) or online at

The documentary, directed by award-winning filmmaker Michael Canzoniero, has been shown at six film festivals and this month was named the best biographical documentary of the year at the ArcLight Cinema Film Festival in Hollywood. That award will probably qualify the film for Academy Award consideration, Mr. Canzoniero said this week. “Shelter Island” will have its New York City premiere in the near future.

This is a real Island story. Mr. Canzoniero was visiting his in-laws on Shelter Island, Tom and Marjorie Melley, a couple of summers ago when his father-in-law asked if he would like to see the art gallery his friend Jimmy Olinkiewicz had built onto his gas station for Harald Olson, a self-taught abstract artist from West Virginia who came to Shelter Island, by way of logging camps in Alaska, in 2003.

The idea of an art gallery in a gas station caught Mr. Canzoniero’s interest but, as the festival’s program notes, when “he was introduced to Jimmy and Harald he knew something extraordinary was happening. So he grabbed his camera and began documenting the poignant relationship and captivating art he saw blossoming before his eyes.”

The film follows the artist and his patron on what Amazon’s Internet Movie Database describes as an “amazing journey from selling paintings alongside a picket fence to a major showing at a Chelsea art gallery in Manhattan.”

Islanders can get a sense of what that journey was all about by watching the film’s trailer — a two-minute introduction that opens with Harald bicycling into the Recycling Center, announcing “Here it is, the shopping mall,” and finding materials and paint for his work. “I can see abstract art in a lot of things,” he says later and the viewer begins to see it that way, too. Visit “Shelter Island movie Harald” online for a preview.

When the film was shown at the Breckenridge Festival this fall, a reviewer wrote, “Simply put, ‘Shelter Island’ is an uplifting account of how compassion and human connection can unlock great potential in hidden places.”