Category Archives: Arts

Remembering Isabel Gordon

Isabel Gordon died earlier this month. She was 98 years old.

She lived quite a life. She was photographic illustrator for The Shadow Book, a 1960 volume that remained in print until the late 1990s. She wrote and illustrated other children’s books too.

Isabel Gordon

Isabel Gordon

Isabel won 2nd place in a photography contest with over 175,000 entries. When she felt that long hours with darkroom chemicals affected her health, she shifted her interest to studying the local environment. She became a beekeeper, studied horseshoe crab populations, and — using macro photography — documented the transfer of caterpillars into monarch butterflies.

She volunteered as a lecturer and field guide for the Roosevelt School in Bridgeport, the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy.

“06880” readers will recognize Isabel from a recent post on “The High Tide Club.” The story highlighted a video about a group of dedicated, mostly older swimmers at Burying Hill Beach. Isabel loved swimming, and the scene of her easing into the water with a walker — then floating gloriously in the Sound — was one of the highlights of the film.

Isabel is survived by her son Richard, and his wife Ingrid Bernhard, of Ridgefield, and her grandchildren Isabelle, Richard and Nielsen Gordon.

A memorial service is set for Friday, March 20 (11 a.m., Saugatuck Congregational Church). Contributions in Isabel’s name may be made to Women for Women International.

Silver’s Bazaar: A Clever Idea Moves Forward

What’s up with Steve Silver’s plan to open a vendors’ bazaar in his former gift-and-luggage store Compo Acres space?

Lots.

Steve is shooting for April 1 — no foolin’! — as the target date for his innovative venture. He’s already heard from 20 local vendors, but there’s room for more.

Steve Silver in his former gift-and-luggage store. Soon, the space behind him will be filled with artists and entrepreneurs.

Steve Silver in his former gift-and-luggage store. Soon, the space behind him will be filled with artists and entrepreneurs.

Artisans of all kinds — painters, jewelry makers, scarf designers, you name it — as well as entrepreneurs with ideas they’d like to test; people with a product to sell; mom-and-pops that need a smaller space…all are welcome.

“Whether you have 1 item or 100, this will be Westport’s small business refuge,” Steve says. “It’s got the power of an energetic group, uniting for a great cause. The possibilities are endless!”

Local artists or entrepreneurs interested in a space can contact betsy@ourtowncrier.com.

And — because this is truly a crowd-sourcing venture — even the name is up for grabs. “Silver’s Bazaar” is not set in stone. If you’ve got a better idea, email steve@silverofwestport.net.  

A Greenwald Family Two-Fer

In the theater world, a “two-fer” is 2 tickets for the price of 1.

In the Greenwald house, it’s 2 plays written by members of 1 family.

Charlie Greenwald is a junior at Emerson College. On Sunday, March 1, “Surprising Simon” — a play he co-wrote — will be staged there.

The winner of the school’s Rareworks Theatre Playwrights Festival, “Simon” is a farce based on a birthday party gone wrong at many turns.

Charlie’s many friends know he’s a masterful comic (check out his George W. Bush impersonation here). In Staples Players, he participated in shows like “West Side Story” and “Into the Woods.” At Emerson he’s a communications major, involved in both sports broadcasting and play writing.

Charlie and Tommy Greenwald.

Charlie and Tommy Greenwald.

Though his father Tommy is also one of the funniest folks around (check out his “Charlie Joe Jackson Guide to Not Reading” franchise here), the play he co-wrote is an intimate musical.

Set against the background of a changing America between 1950 and 1990, it probes the complex relationships between brothers and sisters, parents and children. It’s all about connections, commitments and the healing of the human heart.

John & Jen” — starring Kate Baldwin and Conor Ryan — was first produced at Goodspeed. It opened off-Broadway in New York in 1995.

The show continues to have a healthy life in small theaters all over the country, and abroad. Now — 20 years later — it’s being revived by Keen Company at the Clurman Theatre on 42nd Street, through April 4.

Tommy — himself a 1979 Staples graduate — was not in Staples Players. (He was a soccer team captain.) But he’s an avid fan of the program. And he understands good theater: his day job is advertising Broadway shows.

So both Tommy and Charlie know something about two-fers. Of course, if you want to see both shows, you’ve got to buy 2 tickets.

(For ticket information on “John & Jen,” click here.)

Neighbors Help Neighborhood Studios

For a long time, Neighborhood Studios needed a good documentary film, to show to prospective donors and sponsors.

The weekend and summer music and arts program serves 1600 Bridgeport youngsters each year. It’s very effective — but low-key, and chronically underfunded. There was no way to find the thousands of dollars a film production would charge.

Harold Levine

Harold Levine

A few months ago, Westporter Harold Levine — the organization’s 93-year-old chairman emeritus, still very active after a long career as a storied ad agency owner — approached a former colleague.

Tony Degregorio is a noted adman himself — and a Westporter. He agreed to be creative supervisor of the film.

Levine then asked Jim Honeycutt, director of Staples High School’s Media Lab, for help finding students to collaborate. Senior Arin Meyer volunteered to shoot the film. Levine calls her “extraordinarily talented.”

Junior Daniel Pauker joined as production assistant.

Levine’s next call was to longtime friend Doris Jacoby. For decades, her Jacoby Storm company has produced documentaries for major corporations and non-profit clients. She too eagerly signed on.

Neighborhood Studios logoThe result — a volunteer effort by talented Westporters, to help boys and girls in nearby Bridgeport — premieres on Sunday, March 15 (7 p.m.) at the Westport Country Playhouse. The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company will perform.

They’re not from Westport. But like Harold Levine, Tony Degregorio, Arin Meyer, Daniel Pauker and Doris Jacoby, they’re eager to help Neighborhood Schools — our Bridgeport neighbors just a few miles away.

(Tickets to the Neighborhood Studios gala are available here.)

Bradley Stevens: Portrait Artist, Basketball Player, Rock Star

In 2007, Brad Stevens met Hillary Clinton. Someday, he said, he’d paint her presidential portrait.

She roared with laughter. He was serious.

That’s just one anecdote in a long George Washington Magazine profile of the 1972 Staples High School graduate. He earned a BA from George Washington University in 1976, and an MFA from there 3 years later.

Bradley Stevens' depiction of Vernon Jordan hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. (Photo/GW Magazine)

Bradley Stevens’ depiction of Vernon Jordan hangs in the National Portrait Gallery. (Photo/GW Magazine)

Stevens is now one of America’s leading realist painters. His work — depicting Vernon Jordan, Allen Iverson, Felix Rohatyn, Senator Mark Warner, and dozens of other politicians, financiers, educators and judges — hangs in the Smithsonian, US Capitol, State Department, Mount Vernon and Monticello.

The GW story notes that Stevens has won praise “not just for his original portraiture and sanctioned copies of great works, but also for his landscapes and cityscapes. From the warmth of the sun to a face in the crowd and the visage of a president, he seems to find inspiration equally.”

Stevens says that his fascination with people-watching helps him “seize upon what makes someone special and different.”

The story describes the artist’s youth in Westport, where he inhabited 2 separate worlds: Staples basketball starter (he’s 6-5), and rock guitarist.

Bradley Stevens, at work in his studio. (Photo/GW Magazine)

Bradley Stevens, at work in his studio. (Photo/GW Magazine)

“I’m sure my hometown had an influence on my path toward the arts,” Stevens says. “It’s a culturally progressive place with many New York-based artists, illustrators, writers, actors, musicians and the like.”

At GW he played lead guitar in a comedy band, and received his 1st professional art commission: a caricature of George Washington himself dribbling a basketball on the court of the new Smith Center.

His early career included noted re-creations of the works of Degas, Monet, Manet and others. He’s been commissioned to reproduce famous works, including Gilbert Stuart’s famous full-length portrait of the 1st president (and university namesake).

Based now in Virginia, Stevens says that portrait painters “should have a certain lack of ego.” That’s because their work is entirely about the subject.

Portraits should link the present with the future, he says. Who knows? Maybe the future does include a presidential portrait, done by the talented Bradley Stevens.

(To read the entire story, click here. Hat tip to Jon Fraade.)

Bradley Stevens' mural of the Connecticut Compromise of 1787 hangs in the US Capitol. (Photo/GW Magazine)

Bradley Stevens’ mural of the Connecticut Compromise of 1787 hangs in the US Capitol. (Photo/GW Magazine)

Baby, It’s Cold Outside…

…but Lynn U. Miller keeps us all warm, with these spectacular photos.

While the rest of us were snuggled up yesterday afternoon, she ventured out to Jesup Green, and the snowy riverbank behind Oscar’s.

The results are definitely worth it. Click on, hover over or swipe to enlarge!

National Hall - Lynn U Miller

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photos/Lynn U. Miller)

 

 

Tess’ Bench

The other day, I posted a few of Lynn U. Miller’s photos of the library Riverwalk, at dusk. 

I was struck by their beauty. Many “06880” readers were too. But for Suzanne Tanner, one picture was especially poignant. She wrote:

I want to thank Lynn for capturing such a profound and welcoming photo of my daughter’s memorial bench on the grounds of the Westport Public Library.

The bench was inspired by and appropriated with a memorial fund started in my daughter’s name to establish points of figural beauty in and around one of Tess’s favorite places in town — our riverfront library.

Library bench sunset - Lynn U Miller

I want to remind others how important it is to pause and reflect on all of the love that is given to us in life, be it the warmth of a child’s hand in ours or the generosity of a singular smile resonating in the crevices of time’s travel. It always pleases me to see another appreciate the beauty in the structure of the bench and the delightful setting for all to share.

A portion of Tess’s fund has been allocated to the Levitt Pavilion to continue the effort. I am currently searching for outdoor sculptures, favoring any with the essence of poetry, discovery, mythology and hummingbirds to create a Riverwalk Sculpture Garden in Tess’s honor.

If anyone has any ideas or suggestions, please contact either myself (suzannetanner@aol.com) or the Levitt (levitt@westportct.gov). I welcome the energy and opportunity to share in the journey of remembering a most delightful spirit with an inspiring path along the riverwalk.

 

Westport, Through A Window

(Photo/Dayle Brownstein)

(Photo/Dayle Brownstein)

Chamber Seeks That “Special Shot”

After I posted a slew of gorgeous weather-related photos recently on “06880,” several readers floated the idea of producing a book filled with Westport scenes.

I will add that to my to-do list, because I definitely need another project*. But until I get to it**, here’s an idea for everyone who has ever taken a Westport photo:

The current Chamber of Commerce guide is 5 years old.

The current Chamber of Commerce guide is 5 years old.

The Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce is looking for a cover photo for its new Membership/Visitor’s Guide.

Inside will be an upgraded pull-out map, a focus on our ever-changing restaurant scene, and a section highlighting the arts.

The cover — well, that’s up to you.

The Chamber wants “that special shot that represents the best of our town.” The winner — selected by the Chamber’s board of directors — will also grace the front of the map, to be distributed both with and without the guide.

Runner-up photos will be used throughout the guide. Submissions can be emailed to: contest@westportwestonchamber.com (subject line: “Photo contest”). The deadline is February 15.

I know “06880” readers have plenty of fantastic photos to submit. Though I’m not sure the Chamber is looking for any of this type, which also define our town:

Stop and Shop parking

* Like President Obama needs another Republican in Congress.
** In 2027

Remembering Sarah Herz

Sarah Herz — a gifted, demanding yet beloved English teacher at Bedford and Coleytown Middle Schools, and Staples High, who made a national mark as a pioneering advocate for young adult literature — died Thursday at home, after a long battle with cancer. She was 83.

Sarah was an avid supporter of the arts; a swimmer, traveler, longtime feminist and active League of Women Voters member.

Her friend and colleague, former Staples English instructor Dr. Gerry Kuroghlian, offers this tribute: 

Mythological goddesses are eternal. But those born of man pass away.

Sarah Herz

Sarah Herz

Perhaps bringing up her own teens, Kate and Mark, gave Sarah Herz the willpower and determination to become a national advocate for the inclusion of young adult literature in middle and high school classrooms.

Perhaps simply understanding her students and their problems propelled her to include books dealing with the ups and downs of being a teen in today’s world.

Whatever her motivation, Sarah’s role as a teacher in Westport spurred her on a nationwide odyssey for the National Council of Teachers of English to bring teachers and authors together, to discuss books that young people would devour.

Her goal was to form bridges between the everyday problems of teen life, and great works of literature. With University of Connecticut professor Don Gallo, Sarah wrote From Hinton to Hamlet: Bridges Between Young Adult Literature and the Classics. The book helped change the scope of teen reading forever.

As a reviewer for major publishing houses, Sarah read hundreds of books a year. She annotated and recommended titles for almost every situation in adolescent life. Her reviews helped library media specialists and teachers select relevant material.

Sarah Herz bookPerhaps more importantly, she then sent the books to school libraries in Bridgeport, where they inspired students to read. Kolbe Cathedral credits Mrs. Herz with doubling the number of books checked out from the library.

As a vice president of the Westport Education Association, Sarah was forthright in her ideas for classroom change.

I was fortunate to be Sarah’s colleague and friend, and witness the impact she had on students, teachers and curricula. In my life’s teaching odyssey Sarah served as my own Athena, wearing the helmet of knowledge, holding the owl of wisdom and wielding the spear of change. She will be missed by many, but her legacy of increasing literacy lives on.

Sarah is survived by her husband of 61 years, Stephen of Westport; her son Mark Herz of New Haven, and daughter Kate Herz, son-in-law Paul Ballew and grandsons Jacob and Elijah, all of Brooklyn. 

A memorial service will be held in Westport. Charitable contributions may be sent to The Mercy Learning Center (637 Park Avenue, Bridgeport, CT 06604).