Category Archives: Library

Down By The River

It’s a beloved tradition: In mid-July, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association  hosts a Fine Arts Festival on Parker Harding Plaza and Gorham Island.

Across the Post Road, the Westport Library fills a jinormous tent with over 80,000 items, for its annual books (and much more) sale.

Part of the tradition: It’s always held on the hottest day of the year.

Today marks a nice break from that tradition. Rain did not keep 300 folks from lining up before the book sale opened. Every artist, sculptor and photographer was good to go too.

By mid-afternoon the clouds lifted. Over 3,000 books-and-more lovers hauled boxes and bags to their cars. A similar number strolled along the river, admiring (and buying) artwork.

The 42nd annual Fine Arts Festival continues tomorrow (Sunday, July 19) 10 a.m.-5 p.m..

The “Bookstravaganza” continues tomorrow and Monday (July 19-20), 9 a.m.-6 p.m. It ends Tuesday (July 21), 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Scores of artists invited art-lovers to admire their works.

Scores of artists invited art-lovers to admire their works…

...like this painting...

…like this painting…

...and this piece of glass.

…and this piece of glass.

Parker Harding Plaza is a great location for the art show. The river provides a welcoming backdrop -- and permanent art lines the walkway.

Parker Harding Plaza is a great location for the art show. The river provides a welcoming backdrop — and permanent art lines the walkway.

Living art was on display too this afternoon.

Living art was on display too this afternoon.

Noted art patrons Bill Scheffler and Ann Sheffer enjoyed the show today, with Ann's daughter Betty Stolpen (she works at the Whitney Museum) and her friend Matt Glick.

Noted art patrons Bill Scheffler and Ann Sheffer enjoyed the show today, with Ann’s daughter Betty Stolpen (she works at the Whitney Museum) and her friend Matt Glick.

Meanwhile, at the Westport Library book sale, there was something for everyone...

Meanwhile, at the Westport Library book sale, there was something for everyone…

...no matter what your taste in books ... (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

…no matter what your taste in books … (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

... or magazines. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

… or magazines. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

New library director Bill Harmer does not officially begin until July 27. But he was at the book sale today, checking out the legendary event.

New library director Bill Harmer does not officially begin until July 27. But he was at the book sale today, checking out the legendary event.

One satisfied customer, among thousands.

One satisfied customer, among thousands.

 

 

Christy Colasurdo Celebrates Connecticut’s Farm Tables

Christy Colasurdo  says her son Charlie was “somehow born to be a farmer and environmentalist.” To ensure that other kids would have a place to learn where their food comes from, how to care for animals, what it means to recycle and compost, and just spend time in nature — Christy got involved with Wakeman Town Farm.

While Charlie apprenticed at local farms, Christy — a former New York magazine editor — began writing about the farm-to-table movement. That led to her launch of Graze (now called The Simple Scallion), a service that delivers milk, eggs and the like from small farms to people’s front doors.

Christy Colasurdo

Christy Colasurdo

Christy admires and respects the endless hours of hard work farmers put in: working the land; handling weather, pests and disease; marketing their products; packing and unpacking wares at farmers’ markets, and (these are not farmers of yore) navigating social media to educate people about good seasonal food.

While getting Graze off the ground, Christy met Tracey Medeiros. She’d just published a book about Vermont’s farm-to-table scene.

Christy described Fairfield County, where fantastic chefs are partnering with local farmers, fishermen, oystermen and honey connoisseurs.

A new book was born. Christy identified restaurants, chefs and farmers, then wrote the profiles. Tracey and a tester tried hundreds of the chefs’ best recipes.

A year and a half later, The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook is a beautiful homage/culinary travelogue. From Greenwich to Groton, Norwalk to Litchfield, Christy and Tracey tell great stories, using intriguing stories and stunning photos.

And, of course, mouth-watering recipes.

Preparing a recipe at the Westport Farmers' Market. (Photo/Oliver Parini)

Preparing a recipe at the Westport Farmers’ Market. (Photo/Oliver Parini)

Among the local places and recipes:

  • The Whelk and Le Farm (deviled eggs with cornmeal, fried oysters and pickled red onion)
  • Blue Lemon (fresh peach tart)
  • Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens (Brussels sprouts and petite edibles)
  • Saugatuck Craft Butchery (slow-roasted porchetta with cilantro and smoked paprika; dry-aged steak tartare crostini with pickled garden turnips)
  • SoNo Baking Company and Cafe (strawberry frangipane tartlets; caramel-apple tart)
  • Tarry Lodge (rosa bianca eggplant caponata)
  • Terrain (salt-roasted beets with blood oranges, pistachios and goat cheese salad)
  • Westport Farmers’ Market (various vendors)
  • Wakeman Town Farm (chipotle veggie chili)

Christy Colasurdo book“The chef/farmer relationship often goes unheralded,” Christy says. “Yet it’s exponentially more difficult for a chef to source from small local and organic farms and fishermen than from a large commercial supplier.

“It’s a lot easier to let the Sysco truck pull to the back door,” she adds. “Instead, they get out to the farmers’ market. They take ‘field trips’ to local organic farms. They forge old-fashioned relationships with their suppliers that often include bailing out a farmer with too much zucchini or kale, or asking the farmer to plant special crops like Peruvian purple potatoes or Asian specialty greens, just for their restaurants.”

The Connecticut Farm Table Cookbook is available at Terrain and Barnes & Noble. This Thursday, July 9 (10 a.m.) there’s a talk at the Westport Library. At 10:45, Christy and Tracey will stroll over to the Farmers’ Market. Local farmers and vendors featured in the book will be introduced, and Tracey will give a recipe demo using fresh market produce.

Get set for a delightful, delicious day.

Howard Munce Turns 100!

Westport’s famous artists — and Famous Artists School — have come and gone.

The “Mad Men” era — the real 1950s and ’60s ad agency scene, and the TV show celebrating it — are both just memories.

But Howard Munce endures.

Howard Munce, in his 90s. (Photo/Kristen Rasich Fox)

Howard Munce, in his 90s. (Photo/Kristen Rasich Fox)

In a town long known for its great artists, illustrators and painters, he’s a towering figure. Advertising director, graphic designer, sculptor, cartoonist, book author, teacher — and, above all, longtime and beloved civic volunteer — Munce turns 100 on November 27.

The Westport Historical Society — one of the many organizations he’s served so well for so long — has the perfect gift: his own show.

“Howard Munce at 100: A Centennial Celebration” opened June 29. A gala reception is set for this Sunday (July 12, 4-6 p.m.).

Howard Munce at work.

Howard Munce at work.

It’s hard to capture a century of life — and 8 decades of professional work and life in Westport — in the walls of one building. But the WHS tries.

The exhibit is curated by Leonard Everett Fisher, Munce’s longtime friend. In his 90s himself, he’s the perfect choice to organize the show.

There are 2 parts. The Sheffer Gallery showcases Munce’s paintings, drawings, illustrations and sculptures.

The Mollie Donovan Gallery chronicles his Westport connections as a young artist (he first came here in 1935); his military service, when he sent illustrated letters to his Westport artist friend Stevan Dohanos; Munce’s Pulitzer Prize nomination for his essay on the folly of war; his role in a legendary ad campaign for Rheingold beer, and his community involvement.

The exhibit includes documentary films, interviews, photographs by Laurence Untermeyer, and a lenticular photo of Munce by Miggs Burroughs.

It’s dedicated to Munce’s wife Gerry. She died in November, but her memory is vivid to all who knew and loved her.

Howard Munce has worn many hats. (Photo by Brian Ferry for Harry's)

Howard Munce has worn many hats. (Photo by Brian Ferry for Harry’s)

Munce’s resume is beyond impressive. Trained at Pratt Institute, he was a Young & Rubicam art director beginning in the late 1940s — after World War II, when he saw action as a Marine platoon sergeant at Guadalcanal.

Munce is professor emeritus at Paier College of Art; honorary president of the Society of Illustrators in New York City, and an honorary board member of the Westport Arts Center. For over 25 years, he volunteered as graphics director for the Westport Library, and — with Fisher — co-curated the black-and-white drawings by Westport artists in its McManus Room.

But those are facts. Far more important is Munce’s humanity.

Whenever he is asked to help — donating dozens of paintings and illustrations to the Permanent Art Collection; curating exhibits for the WHS; mentoring young artists — he always says “of course.” With a sparkle in his eye, a smile on his face, and a handshake as firm as a 20-year-old’s.

Until a couple of years ago, he clambered up ladders to make sure every exhibit he oversaw was properly hung.

At 99, Howard Munce no longer climbs ladders. Then again, he doesn’t have to.

He long ago reached the top.

BONUS FACT: In 2008, Howard Munce was grand marshal of the Memorial Day parade. Here’s his speech: 

 

Goodbye And Hello

As sad as Westport is to see Maxine Bleiweis go — and we are very sad — we’re not the only town sorry to lose its library director.

The Chelsea District Library bids farewell to Bill Harmer. And throughout Michigan, the tributes are pouring in.

Board president Elizabeth Sensoli calls him “brilliant … his talent and spirit have made our library a very special place … I will miss his unquenchable enthusiasm and ‘out of the box’ thinking.”

Trustee Robin Wagner adds, “Bill is a remarkable leader, driven by a contagious passion for continuously improving the library experience for guests, staff and community. Bill’s constant focus is understanding what is this library today, envisioning how can it be better tomorrow, and wondering how to get there sooner than tomorrow.”

Well, Chelsea’s loss is Westport’s gain. All those plaudits are for the Westport Library’s new director.

Harmer takes over from Bleiweis on July 27. Sounds like we’ve got ourselves another world-class winner.

Bill Harmer

Bill Harmer

“Maxine, We Already Miss You!”

More than 400 of Maxine Bleiweis’s closest friends packed the Westport Library tonight, to bid a fond farewell to their favorite library director.

From the Maker Space (“people thought I’d lost my mind when I brought that in,” Maxine joked) to the tables where puzzles and chess sets often entice users, boldface names and “regular” patrons sat together — as they always do there. All were united in their love of the library, and the leader who is leaving after 17 years.

Like Beyoncé or Pele, Maxine needs only one name. And like those superstars, she is one of a kind.

Maxine does it all.

Maxine does it all.

Diane Wildman expressed the sentiments of many in the crowd.

Dianne Wildman expressed the sentiments of many in the crowd.

Tech guru David Pogue -- who joked that Maxine got him involved in the Westport Library before he even moved from Stamford -- performed an original (and never-to-be-heard again) number:

Tech guru David Pogue — who joked that Maxine got him involved in the Westport Library even before he moved from Stamford — performed an original (and never-to-be-heard again) number: “The Bleiweis Zone.”

A small part of the large crowd tonight. Some stood on the balcony above.

A small part of the large crowd tonight. Some stood on the balcony above.

New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz presented Maxine with a special gift (see below).

New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz presented Maxine with a special gift (see below).

Shortz's gift was a word game, in which every 2-word answer starts with the letters

Shortz’s gift was a word game, in which every 2-word answer starts with the letters “MB.” Each includes a circled letter. When read in order, you’ll never guess what they spell!

Westport's state legislators Jonathan Steinberg, Tony Hwang and Gail Lavielle were in the house (Toni Boucher was also there, meeting a constituent). Steinberg presented Maxine with a  proclamation signed by

Westport’s state legislators Jonathan Steinberg, Tony Hwang and Gail Lavielle were in the house (Toni Boucher was also there, meeting a constituent). Steinberg presented Maxine with a proclamation signed by “a governor who tried to cut library funding.” Hwang praised her for educating him on the vital importance of public libraries.

Maxine said that she was almost speechless -- in English. So instead she pronounced herself

Maxine said that she was almost speechless — in English. So instead she pronounced herself “verklempt.”

Down By the Riverside

Today’s weather is not exactly the get-outside-and-enjoy type.

But a couple of days ago, it was. Westporters did.

And alert “06880” reader/photographer Fred Cantor was there — at the Riverwalk — to capture them.

Rodin's "The Thinker"? No, Cantor's "The Reader."

Rodin’s “The Thinker”? No, Cantor’s “The Reader.”

A late lunch, and great light.

A late lunch, and a great view.

Fred Cantor - 3

Not an abandoned bicycle. The rider walked down the nearby steps, to the water’s edge.

 

Maxine Bleiweis, Sam Gault: “1st Citizens Of Westport”

One is leaving. Another is staying. And 5 more have fantastic futures ahead.

1st CitizenThis Tuesday (June 9, Westport Inn, 6:30 p.m.), the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce presents First Citizen Awards to Westport Library director Maxine Bleiweis (she’s leaving, after turning it into an amazingly lively and innovative place) and Sam Gault (5th-generation president of the company that bears his family’s name; driving force behind Saugatuck’s wonderful rebirth — he’s staying).

The Chamber will also honor 5 “Young Entrepreneurs”: Staples seniors Harry Epstein, Nick Massoud and Scott Pecoriello, and Weston High’s Rebecca Marks and Michael Sitver. They’ll be cited for their efforts in creating “new and intriguing business ventures.”

Scott developed a subscription weather service, a weather app and a general interest blogging platform. Nick owns Top Hat Tutors, employing 22 tutors in a variety of subjects. Michael blogs about emerging technologies, and is a website consultant to businesses.

That makes sense — the Chamber of Commerce is all about supporting local businesses.

So — this also makes sense — Tuesday’s keynote speaker is Ron DeFeo. He’s CEO of Terex Corporation. It’s a local business (in the sense that it’s headquartered here). But it’s also a  $7.1 billion manufacturer of heavy equipment, with over 15,900 employees and 50 manufacturing facilities on 5 continents.

The library. Saugatuck. Construction cranes.

That’s a paragraph that may never have been written before, in the history of the world. But it’s all on tap here this Tuesday — plus catering by Garelick & Herbs.

(For tickets and more information, click here.)

Sam Gault and Maxine Bleiweis.

Sam Gault and Maxine Bleiweis.

Westport Library Names New Director

And the new Maxine Bleiweis is — William Harmer.

The Michigan librarian — one of 2 finalists introduced to the public last month — takes over as Westport Library executive director on July 27.

William Harmer

William Harmer

In a press release, the library called Harmer “an experienced and innovative leader in the library field.” He spent the past 6 years as director of the Chelsea District Library, after serving 3 years as head of adult services.

The Chelsea website calls it the “best small library in America.” That’s no idle boast: The selection was made by The Library Journal and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Library Journal also named Harmer to the Class of 2009 Movers & Shakers — emerging leaders from around the world making a difference in the library field.

The “Movers and Shakers” writeup — titled “Buzz Master” — said that in 2005, Baldwin Public Library (Birmingham, Michigan) teen services librarian Harmer “became nationally known for the buzz he created with his Rock ’n’ Roll Library Tour. A former DJ, Harmer convinced the Detroit-based band The High Strung to take its act to Michigan public libraries and then to over 200 libraries in 48 states.”

The story continued:

Now, as head of adult services at Chelsea District Library (CDL), he’s generating buzz around such programs as a senior “lock-in” and “A Day in the Life of Chelsea,” in which seniors document their town using library-provided disposable cameras. Chelsea Senior Center director Tina Patterson says, “Some days I feel we need a leash or a butterfly net to keep up with him.”

Harmer helped CDL earn LJ’s 2008 Best Small Library in America Award with his aggressive outreach to community organizations, including a grant for a 6-year local oral history initiative.

William Harmer leaves

William Harmer leaves “the best small public library in the country.”

Harmer came late to librarianship, which means, he says, “I didn’t have any previous conceptions, so there were consequently no boundaries.”

But he does more than just push boundaries. Former CDL librarian Elizabeth Goldman says that “once his ideas come—and they do with startling frequency—he not only brings them to fruition but shares them.” In fact, he’s starting a business called Black River Group, which combines consulting and program planning for libraries.

Buzz is contagious. Stand next to Harmer, and you’re likely to catch it.

In 2013, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation chose Harmer as one of 120 world library leaders to attend its global conference on the future of libraries in Cape Town, South Africa.

This year, the Chelsea District Library was cited by the area Chamber of Commerce for its support of local economic development, and its focus on community-building programs and services.

Harmer has also served on the Board of Directors of the Michigan Library Association and as president of the Rotary Club of Chelsea. He has been a  keynote speaker at many library-related conferences, including the Ontario and Alaska annual conferences and at the University of Illinois.

“I am delighted to be joining the talented team of library professionals at the Westport Library; an organization that exemplifies what a world-class, 21st century library can be,” he say.

“I look forward to getting to know the staff, our patrons, developing collaborative relationships with organizations and leaders throughout the community and building on the exceptional work of Maxine Bleiweis.”

William Harmer swoops into the Westport Library on July 27. (Photo/Dave Elgart)

William Harmer swoops into the Westport Library on July 27. (Photo/Dave Elgart)

Mike Guthman, president of The Westport Library board of trustees, says, “Bill Harmer possesses the intellectual, creative and entrepreneurial spirit that is at the heart of the Library. He comes to us with the experience, talent and leadership skills to maintain the Westport Library at the forefront of innovation, and to propel the Library into its next phase of development and transformation.”

Harmer began his library career in 2001. He has held leadership positions at libraries in Farmington and Birmingham, Michigan. He earned a bachelor of arts in literature and creative writing from Eastern Michigan University, and a master’s in library and information science from Wayne State University. He is married, and has 3 children.

Eric Burns Remembers 1920

Like Sam Cooke more than 50 years ago, most Americans today don’t know much about history.

Eric Burns does.

Eric Burns

Eric Burns

The longtime Westporter — an award-winning media analyst and former NBC News correspondent– has just written a new book: 1920: The Year That Made the Decade Roar.

The few folks still alive then probably don’t remember much about that year. The rest of us probably wouldn’t peg it as any different from, say, 1919 or 1921.

But Burns does. In a recent interview with Salon, he explained:

 1920 was the year of the first terrorist attack on U.S. soil. It was the only year in which there have been 2 amendments to the Constitution (Prohibition and the women’s vote). For the entire year, we had a female president— not elected, obviously; she was the de facto president, not the president de jure— because of Woodrow Wilson’s stroke. Isn’t it ironic that for the entire year of 1920, the year women got the vote, there was a woman running the country?

1920 was also the year of Charles Ponzi (cue the Bernie Madoff comparisons); debates over “homeland security” (following the alleged terrorism by anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti), and immense changes in art and literature.

In fact, according to the Salon writer who interviewed Burns:

The America of the 1920s, especially during the very first year of the decade, really was eerily similar to America today! The country was recovering from a war of choice that not only led to results far less inspiring than originally promised, but caused a toxic level of division and rancor within the body politic; the economy was turbulent, with new technologies and social norms wrenching an agricultural society ever-more toward the cities; immigration was changing the very face of the average citizen, often in a way American nativists could not stand; and terrorism was forcing a political culture built on dual loyalties to liberty and safety to engage in a precarious rebalancing.

There’s much more — and Burns will talk about it all at the Westport Library this Thursday (May 21, 7:30 p.m.).

Attendance is free for anyone 95 years or older. And everyone else, too.

1920 book - Eric Burns

Community Conversation Set For Sunday On #WhiteLivesMatter Flyer

Last week, some Westporters woke to find #WhiteLivesMatter flyers thrown anonymously onto their lawns and driveways.

Some were outraged. Others shrugged.

When “06880” reported the story, some commenters talked about hate groups. Others talked about the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Still others countered, “All Lives Matter.”

It was an intense discussion. And it deserves to be played out not only in cyberspace, but in real time, with real faces.

Several local organizations are giving Westporters the chance to do just that. This Sunday (May 17, 4 p.m., Westport Library), everyone is invited to a community conversation. The topic is: “Why Does the Flyer Matter?”

Participants include First Selectman James Marpe, Police Chief Dale Call, Rev. Alison Patton of the Saugatuck Congregational Church, and yours truly.

TEAM-Westport-logo2The following statement announcing the event was signed by TEAM Westport, Interfaith Clergy Association of Westport and Weston, the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County, Westport Human Services Commission, the Westport Board of Education, and Westport Police:

On the night of Thursday, May 7, 2015  flyers containing the slogan “#White Lives Matter” were left anonymously at a number of residences in Westport. We are deeply troubled by this campaign. While some have raised questions about the intent of the slogan, it is clear from similar campaigns in neighboring towns that this message was motivated by racism, which we reject absolutely and without qualification.

Further, we contend that dismantling racism requires us to attend to the impact of actions, regardless of intent. These flyers attempt to co-opt a movement that has been created by citizens of color across our nation to redress disparities in treatment, based on race. We are united in declaring that these flyers have no place in Westport, which aspires to be an inclusive community that values a diverse population.

We affirm the principle that all lives matter equally. However, there is much more work to do before our nation achieves genuine equality across race and ethnicity. In circumstances where this equality is not upheld, we affirm our commitment to support and pursue constructive efforts to redress institutional and cultural racism which tears at the fabric of our nation.

In the next several months we will organize a number of opportunities in Westport for education, discussion and engagement on matters relating to race relations in the United States. The initial event will be a community conversation held at the Westport Library on Sunday, May 17 at 4 p.m. regarding the topic:  “Why Does the Flyer Matter?” We hope you will join us.

Flyers like these were tossed onto lawns in Westport in the middle of the night last week.

These flyers were tossed onto Westport lawns in the middle of the night last week.