Category Archives: Arts

Amy Oestreicher: Show Me Your HeART!

Amy Oestreicher is a 28-year-old Westport artist, actress, musician, speaker and writer.

Ten years ago, all those dreams were interrupted. A blood clot left her in a coma for months. For 3 years, she was unable to eat or drink on her own.

Almost 30 surgeries later, Amy continues to fight medical setbacks. But she still has her art.

Amy uses painting and mixed media creations to transcend 10 years of physical and emotional trauma. Her art demonstrates her journey into daylight, to a life of normalcy.

Amy Oestreicher, with some of her work.

Amy Oestreicher, with some of her work.

Amy’s work has guided and inspired her. Now, she is sharing what art has taught her with her community.

Amy is offering mixed media “Show Me Your HeART” workshops. Through eclectic materials, unique insights, messy fun and guided prompts, she helps people of all ages and abilities discover creativity as a means of personal expression.

Using mixed media art, Amy says, anyone can “discover what being in the ‘flow’ of creativity feels like, and use art as a way to navigate through life’s messy detours.”

Amy Oestreicher

Amy Oestreicher

All artists — all people, in fact — face detours. Amy will help workshop attendees learn innovative strategies for “conquering a blank page or empty canvas.” She shares tips on “silencing the ‘inner critic’ and ‘can’t’ voices that often surface as we outgrow elementary school art classes.”

Amy’s workshops include music, mingling and guidance. Her sessions are great for children’s parties, company workshops, teambuilding events, bridal showers, fundraisers, family get-togethers and more.

“All materials are provided,” she says. “Just bring your heart!”

Amy has brought her heart into her everything she does. Her journey — and her art — now inspires us all.

(For more information, email amy@amyoes.com or click here.)

Frederic Chiu Does Debussy

Frederic Chiu is a pianist who has pushed boundaries in the world of classical music — from performance protocols and recording, to teaching and technology.

He’s also — with his wife Jeanine Esposito — host of the wonderfully eclectic Beechwood Arts salon series, in their warm, welcoming home. Check it out!

Chiu is in the spotlight once again. His latest recording combines state-of-the-art audio and video technology, masterpieces of the Western classical music canon, and contemporary works rooted in the East.

Frederic ChiuTitled “Distant Voices,” it’s the inaugural classical music release from Yamaha Entertainment Group of America.

The recording includes iconic Debussy, and music of the Szechuan-born, French- and Russian-influenced  Gao Ping. There’s both an audio CD and video DVD of Chiu performing a unique combination of favorites, and groundbreaking newer music from the piano repertoire, plus commentary from him about his background and music-making.

Chiu calls Debussy’s music “a test for the artist and instrument both.” The recording artist’s performance was captured on the Yamaha Disklavier, a true acoustic piano that incorporates fiber-optic sensing systems and the most modern technology to record and and reproduce every note with unpralleled precision.

Listeners with a Disklavier piano can replicate the performance on their own instruments.

Which is almost as good as hearing Chiu perform live, in his own Westport living room.

 

Together At The Playhouse Table

In today’s always-connected, over-scheduled world, many family traditions are lost: sharing meals. Going to live performances together. And talking about them afterward.

Which is why the Westport Country Playhouse‘s “Together at the Table Family Dinner” is such a fantastic idea.

Created to make live theater accessible to more families — and introduce young audiences to the Playhouse in a warm, informal atmosphere — the program begins with a 5:30 p.m. communal dinner in the rehearsal space next to the theater.

Actors and directors wander in, for casual conversations about the show everyone is about to see.

The meal is wonderful — and not just because kids, parents and other adults are actually eating and talking together. When the show begins, there’s a palpable connection between the audience and the actors they’ve just met. The strong feeling continues through the entire play.

Sharing a meal before the show.

Sharing a meal before the show.

A recent attendee said, “Sharing a live performance with my kids is thrilling. It’s like taking an imaginative journey together.” The shared experience is far beyond watching TV or a movie together.

On the car ride home, she added, her children could not stop talking about the play. They kept asking when they could come back.

Jim and Libby Liu of Westport have taken their 8- and 6-year-olds to the Playhouse’s children’s productions. This year, they brought them to 2 adult shows: “And a Nightingale Sang” and “Love & Money.”

Libby says the program is a great way to get younger audiences involved in mainstage shows. Her kids loved asking questions of the actors during dinner, before they got into costume.

She appreciates both the early start time (7 p.m.), and the price: $10 per ticket, which includes the pre-show meal.

Playhouse logo

Erin McAllister calls the Playhouse’s program “a rich cultural experience for the community. Without programs like this, the arts would be inaccessible to many individuals and families.”

The next 2 “Together at the Table” events are “Bedroom Farce” (Tuesday, September 1) and “Broken Glass” (Tuesday, October 13). Both are appropriate for ages 14 and up; younger at a parent’s discretion.

There are only 2 rules for “Together at the Table”:

  1. At least one family member must be a student-aged child.
  2. Have fun.

(To purchase “Together at the Table” tickets, call 203-227-4177. For more information, click here.)

Old Mill Art Show: A Resident’s Dissent

Yesterday, “06880” previewed Clark Hanford’s art show. Set for Old Mill Beach this weekend, it drew readers’ praise for its open-air creative funkiness.

But Westport is not Westport without controversy.

A beach-area resident writes:

The so-called “art show” has an impact on the neighborhood, legal and otherwise. It makes the already difficult parking situation horrible for residents, and anyone else wishing to use the beach.

This event is a commercial enterprise. As you can see in the sign, there will be an auction. Old Mill Road, Compo Cove and the beach are zoned residential areas. The parking lot isn’t Jesup Green or Parker Harding Plaza, serving commercial businesses.

A Parks & Rec study indicated there are not enough spaces for residents and fellow Westporters. There will never be enough spaces. Adding in the folks on Hillspoint and in the area who “dump” their cars there, and regular legal usage for enjoying the beach, it is problematic at best.

Is there a need to hold a for- profit event during the summer months? Wouldn’t a time before Memorial Day or after Labor Day be more appropriate (unless of course there is a financial incentive)?

Should someone be compelled to support this art show, park at Compo Beach and walk over. It’s a lovely walk (ask Dan Woog — he does it!).

There is limited parking at Old Mill Beach. An arrow (top right) shows the site of this weekend's art show. (Photo/Google Maps)

There is limited parking at Old Mill Beach. An arrow (top right) shows the site of this weekend’s art show. (Photo/Google Maps)

Down By The Old Mill Art Show

Two of Westport’s identities — arts town and beach town — meet this Saturday and Sunday (August 29-30). Clark Hanford presents his annual Old Mill Beach Art Show.

Westport is also a hedge fund town. Fortunately, you don’t need to be a billionaire to buy some great art at this show.

It’s a wonderful, funky event. There’s a neighborhood feel, but everyone is welcome.

Clark — a 1962 Staples High School graduate — is a very talented artist. (If you’ve ever wandered by his house — the yellow gingerbread-style home bordering the Old Mill path to Compo cove — you’ve probably admired some of his work, in and around his yard. You’ve also seen his old-time electric car, but that’s another “06880” post.)

Clark Hanford advertises his art show, in front of his gingerbread-style house.

Clark Hanford advertises his art show, in front of his gingerbread-style house.

This year, Clark’s added a few others to his show. There’s noted designer (and 1965 Staples grad) Miggs Burroughs; whimsical clockmaker Steve Lunt; Westporter Ade Van Duyn; Compo Cove artist Greg Puhy; Old Mill artist Isaac Sonsino, and Claudia Schattman, whose mosaics decorate (among other things) the old-time parking garage behind Old Mill. (Click here to see her very cool work.)

The works will be spread out on Clark’s lawn, and hung on his front and side gates and fence. Every piece is unique. It’s all for sale — including this great wooden doghouse advertisement Clark created just for the show:

Clark Hanford - Old Mill Art Show

(The Old Mill Beach Art show runs Saturday and Sunday, August 29 and 30, 10 a.m.-5  p.m. The address is 31 Old Mill. Of course, parking is very, very tight.) 

Local Playwright Scores At The Fringe

With 200 theater and dance offerings at venues spread throughout the East Village and Lower East Side — the New York International Fringe Festival has something for everyone.

TimeOut New York says:

The wild variety of Fringe offerings includes musicals, experimental pieces, classical revivals and ramshackle new works about small penises, Lena Dunham and pretty much every subject in between. Some may go on to glory (like Fringe Festival alumni “Urinetown” and “Silence! The Musical”), while others will fade into well-deserved obscurity.

One of those shows — perhaps the next “Urinetown”? — is “To Each Their Own.” It was written by Westporter Tracy Knight Narang.

The 5-actor show is about a couple who — after years of infertility — suddenly become pregnant. Soon, however, big moral issues and dark family secrets threaten their marriage.

It’s been called “provocative,” “intriguing” and “beautifully directed.”

To Each Their Own

The 1st 2 performances sold out. The next — and last — 2 are set for this Saturday (August 29, 7 p.m.) and Sunday (August 30, 12 p.m.) at the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center, 107 Suffolk Street.

Support your local playwright! Buy tickets here.

(Hat tip: Martha Aasen)

Sticking With Poetry

Some folks wander around Westport, waxing poetic about their surroundings.

If you’re on Sturges Highway, you’ll find poetry — literally.

Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Vie walk their dogs every day. Around the corner from their house, there’s “poetry on a stick.”

Poetry 1

Anyone is welcome to enjoy the offerings, which change regularly.

Poetry 2

Robert Frost took the road less traveled.

If you’ve got a choice in Westport, try Sturges Highway.

Farmers’ Photo Fan Favorites

Two of our town’s most creative institutions — the Westport Farmers’ Market and Westport Arts Center — have teamed up to showcase the creativity of one of our town’s most important assets: our kids.

The Young Shoots Digital Photography Competition highlights images taken all summer long at the Farmers’ Market.

The remarkable shots — from every angle imaginable — pulse with life. Fruits, vegetables, flowers, people — they’re all there, showing off the vitality of the Thursday market in colorful, imaginative ways.

If you like what you see (and you will) you can vote for your favorite. There are 3 age groups: 8-11, 12-14, 15-18. But hurry: voting closes at midnight tomorrow, Sunday, August 23.

Winners will have their work shown in a gallery-like setting at Sugar & Olives (a favorite Farmers’ Market vendor), and will receive a membership to the Arts Center. Really though, virtually every image is a winner.

Click here for the photos, and to vote. Warning: Don’t do it on an empty stomach.

(Photo/Shira Friedman)

(Photo/Shira Friedman)

Picture Wendy Nylen’s Gallery

For 20 years, Picture This owner Wendy Nylen enjoyed a good relationship with her landlord.

Her art gallery and custom framing shop was in Village Center, aka “the strip mall with Dunkin’ Donuts opposite Fresh Market.”

Six years ago, her lease ran out. Since then, she rented on a month-to-month basis.

Last year, Equity One bought the shopping center. They offered Wendy a new lease — almost exactly double what she’d been paying. They would not negotiate.

Wendy moved out (to the former Great Cakes, just down the road). She paid Equity One the rent and property taxes, up to her move date.

Picture This in its new location, the former Great Cakes. (Photo/Billy Scalzi)

Picture This in its new location, the former Great Cakes. (Photo/Billy Scalzi)

The owners now claim she owes $576.73, for some maintenance charges — not damage to the space — and for removing the sign. Wendy says that neither were her responsibility while Kowalsky owned the building.

She told Equity One exactly that, and noted that she had no lease with them.

Wendy was rewarded with a letter from a law firm threatening to sue her business — and “enter litigation against the principals on a personal basis should the corporate judgment appear uncollectible.”

“They may be counting on the fact that hiring a lawyer to defend myself would cost me more than the amount they claim,” Wendy notes. “I find this bullying and despicable. What do you think?”

Hey, don’t ask me. Ask the readers of “06880.” I’m sure they’ve got opinions!

Phyllis Kurzer’s Karma Mala

Talk about good karma.

After Westporter Phyllis Kurzer finished yoga teacher training, she wanted to wear a mala (a string of beads or knots, used in praying or meditating) to enhance her spiritual connection.

She could not find a mala with the unique, artistic design and metaphysical properties she was looking for. So she taught herself how to make one.

She found a source in Nepal, and created her first hand-knotted mala with a prayer box pendant.

The interest it generated launched a business. It’s called Karma Mala.

One of Phyllis Kurzer's malas.

One of Phyllis Kurzer’s malas…

Phyllis designs every mala. She acquires pendants from India and other tribal reaches. She pairs them with beautiful semi-precious stones, hand-knotting between each bead.

It’s a meticulous process, but true to tradition.

...and another.

…and another.

Phyllis’ goal is to make malas that are beautiful to wear — and also offer hope to the most vulnerable people.

The Westport artist learned that every year, 20,000 girls are trafficked in Nepal. Within 2 years, most become HIV positive. By age 20, they are dead.

Phyllis discovered the American Himalayan Foundation’s Stop Girl Trafficking project. It prevents young girls from becoming victims of their family’s poverty and desperation, by putting them in school, then weaving a safety net around them.

The program provides everything a girl needs. It then mentors her, and educates her family and community about the dangers of trafficking.

There are now over 10,750 girls in more than 550 schools throughout Nepal. Once enrolled, not a single girl has been lost to trafficking.

Amazingly, Phyllis says, it takes only $100 to keep a girl safe and in school for one year.

Phyllis Kurzer

Phyllis Kurzer

Where does the money come from?

A lot of it comes directly from Karma Mala. Phyllis donates 100% — yes, every penny of profit — to Stop Girl Trafficking. Since she began last year, that’s over $20,000.

Phyllis has just introduced a brand-new collection. Half malas (54-bead malas that can be worn alone, or layered with others), traditional malas, wrist wraps, featherweight designs and gemstone layering necklaces are all available. They’re beautiful to wear, and functional for meditation.

Not to mention, life-changing for vulnerable, at-risk girls, halfway around the world from Westport.

(For more information or to order, click www.karmamala.com. Phyllis’ direct email is karmamalallc@gmail.com. For a video on Stop Girl Trafficking, click below. Hat tip: Jamie Camche)