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Island Profile: Artist, psychologist Susan Schrott

PETER BOODY PHOTO |  Susan Schrott shows art journals like those she’ll teach workshop participants to make at the Shelter Island Library.

Susan Schrott shows art journals like those she’ll teach workshop participants to make at the Shelter Island Library.

“It’s all come together,” said Susan Schrott, daughter of Shelter Island’s Victor and Leah Friedman, of her personal and professional life ever since she and her husband Jonathan bought a home of their own on Shelter Island, very close to the Fried­mans, late last year.

“I want to be part of this community,” said the quilt and fiber artist, psychotherapist and founder of the ElizaRose Center, an organization treating eating disorders and mental health issues in White Plains. “I want to give back. I want to hug this community and be hugged by community. I have a sense of permanence now.”

One way this former Shelter Island summer kid will begin to “give back” is with a free workshop at the Shelter Island Library, showing participants how to turn a journal into a work of art with textiles and found objects. The three-hour weekly sessions will begin on Monday, April 21 at 12 noon and continue on Mondays through May 5. Call the library to register at 749-0042.

Just like the quilts she will exhibit this June at the Floyd Memorial Library in Greenport, the latest chapter in Susan Schrott’s life has been woven from many separate threads.

Her parents are well known, Victor for his photography and Leah for her painting and plays. They still live on Strawberry Lane, where Susan and her two brothers spent their summers growing up. Susan remembers meeting the ferry after the “Daddy Train” arrived on Friday afternoons in Greenport and the swimming lessons she and her brothers took at Wades Beach with Jack Wroble.

“What made it special was along the beach, everyone’s mom was there,” she said. “You could run to any blanket to any mom and you’d be toweled off. It was the best, most consistently nurturing fun way to grow up.”

Born in 1956 in Brooklyn, her father a hairdresser at the Kenneth Salon in New York and her mother a playwright and painter, she lived on Ocean Avenue between K and L avenues in a “concrete apartment building.” No wonder “coming out here, year after year, is really where my most consistent friends were.”

Her cultured extended family exposed her to “really good music, a lot of color, a lot of passion, a lot of theatre and a lot of art” and “very early on I knew I wanted to be in theatre.” She trained for the ballet for a time but found her passion singing Broadway show tunes in the car on the way to Shelter Island.

Taught to knit by her Nana Molly, her father’s mother and “a very creative and talented, tough personality,” she also had a passion for sewing and bought her own machine at age 16 with money from waitressing jobs. Sitting on the D train to go to her dance classes at George Balanchine’s school, she crocheted afghans.

Brooklyn College wasn’t for her, she found, deciding to quit after six months to devote herself to auditioning for shows. So began what would be a successful career doing dinner theatre and national road shows, living in Manhattan and waitressing “at every restaurant in New York” to make ends meet.

She won critical acclaim in the New York Times for her performance as the matchmaker’s daughter in “Kuni Lemel” at the Jewish Repertory Theatre. But just at the height of her success, she found she couldn’t enjoy it because she was becoming uneasy onstage. At age 24, she enrolled at Hunter College, while performing eight shows a week for two more years and earning her degree in psychology, magna cum laude, in 1987.

That summer, she started chatting at the start of a half marathon with a marathoner and dentist with a practice in the city named Jonathan Schrott. “We decided we would meet after the race,” she recalled, and after losing and finally finding each other in the crowd after the finish, they were engaged three months later on the night of the New York City Marathon.

Susan went on to earn her master’s degree in clinical social work at NYU, having decided she wanted to be in private practice. “I was very interested in eating disorders because of the theatre and dance world,” she said, which eventually led to a career specializing in treatment.

She founded the ElizaRose Center — named for her daughters Elizabeth and Rose — in 2011, where she provides “a comprehensive and collaborative approach” to treating eating disorders and other issues. She’s also a member of the clinical advisory group at the Avalon Hills Eating Disorder Foundation in Utah.

“I celebrate and create images of women who are courageous, joyful and inspirational,” she says on her “Susan Schrott Artist” website; she has another site that focuses on her professional work. “Whether working in my clinical psychotherapy practice or creating alone in my studio, my greatest desire is to instill in others the ability to connect with the world in a meaningful way.”

Her office is at her husband’s dental practice on 79th Street, where her textiles are on display in the waiting room. After having lived in Chappaqua for most of their married life, Susan and Jonathan sold that house after buying their home on Shelter Island in September and now keep an apartment near Lincoln Center.

Elizabeth and Rose both grew up spending summers on Shelter Island at the Friedmans’ on Strawberry Lane, just as Susan did.

It was just after her youngest, Rose, was born that Susan discovered a new way to use her skills working with fabrics. After joining a quilting guild in Westchester, she “met some great women” and came to the realization that “traditional quilting was actually inhibiting me … I needed to find a way to create artworks” through quilting “and connect it to my therapy with women.”

“My world opened up,” she said, as she began to create art quilts, “using my sewing needle as a paintbrush.” She’s now recognized nationally, has been exhibited in museums and galleries and will be featured in the May issue of Hand Eye magazine.

She is ecstatic to be spending most of her time now on Shelter Island, where she once worked summers slicing deli meats at George Walsh’s old IGA.

“I’m up before the sunrise year ’round,” she said. “Whether it’s cold or warm, I go outside with my dog and I breathe in the fresh air and I set an intention for my day. And I usually talk to my grandmothers … I typically ask them as well as God for a little advice, and then I get busy doing my things. I put actions to those intentions. And I’m very, very grateful and very, very blessed.”