Category Archives: Organizations

Cynthia Armijo: New Arts Center Director Boasts Intriguing Background

Cynthia Armijo has a degree in biology. She spent most of her career in financial services. She’s been a management consultant, a director with regional and national Boys Town organizations, and CEO/executive director of the Norwalk YMCA.

WACThat may seem an odd resume for her new position: executive director of the Westport Arts Center.

On the other hand, the San Francisco native has prepared for her new gig all her life.

A Weston resident for 10 years, Armijo and her husband —  he’s also in financial services — “jumped at the chance” to move east. They knew New York well from work, and their oldest daughter thrived at Weston High.

Growing up, Armijo saw her family constantly give back through service to non-profits. She’s been a board or committee member of various organizations since her 20s. (Her first volunteer effort was with San Francisco’s Sisters of Mercy; she ended up as board chair.)

Starting in 2007, she’s leveraged her financial and management skills in the non-profit world. (That’s where Boys Town and the Y come in.)

“I look for premier organizations wherever I work,” Armijo says. “And the Westport Arts Center has the potential to be the premier arts center in Fairfield County.”

Armijo ticks off its pluses: a passionate base of supporters; an active, engaged board; broad, wide-ranging programs; strong leadership under artistic director Helen Klisser During.

Cynthia Armijo (Photo/Helen Klisser During)

Cynthia Armijo (Photo/Helen Klisser During)

Armijo saw the executive director position posted, applied, and was “hooked right out of the gate. There’s a great strategic vision to continue bringing great art to the community.”

Of course, there are challenges.

“The gallery is in a nice location, but the size limits us,” Armijo acknowledges. “I’d love to have a larger, more accessible venue.”

Her office looks across the river, to the Levitt Pavilion and Westport Library. “We need to be there too,” Armijo says.

But that’s ahead. Right now she’s happy to talk about programs like children’s after-school and summer offerings (“I have to close my door, or you’d hear 50 kids”), and inspiring outreach at Yale-New Haven’s Smilow Cancer Center, and Bridgeport’s Homes for Heroes.

She’s also looking forward to meeting the heads of important Westport organizations — many of whom (the library, Y, Staples High School) are or will soon be new, like her.

Cynthia Armijo's office in the Westport Arts Center overlooks the river -- and the Levitt Pavilion. (Photo/Helen Klisser During)

Cynthia Armijo’s office in the Westport Arts Center overlooks the river — and the Levitt Pavilion. (Photo/Helen Klisser During)

As for Armijo’s own artistic bent, the biology major/financial services professional/management consultant is a huge fan of impressionism. Another corner of her home is filled with 16th-century engravings.

“I dabble in oil too,” she says. “But you will never see anything of mine exhibited publicly.”

Remembering Jay Emmett

Jay Emmett — one of the entertainment world’s leading executives in the 1960s and ’70s, and a powerful influence in everything from Batman to the New York Cosmos — died last Monday night, at 86. The cause was heart failure, at his home in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Emmett was a longtime resident of Westport, while he built his career in movies and sports marketing.

He began his career working for his uncle in a family-run comic book publishing company that owned the rights to a number of superheroes, including Batman and Superman.

Jay Emmett

Jay Emmett

Emmett founded the Licensing Corporation of America, which expanded from licensing comic book and cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny and Tweety Bird into sports marketing, leading to partnerships with Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.

In 1964 Emmett joined Warner Communications — now Time Warner — and was named president, under chairman Steve Ross.

Emmett oversaw great growth in the company’s music and movie divisions during the 1960’s and 1970’s. When the company established the original New York Cosmos, he was instrumental in signing Brazilian star Pelé. The franchise went on to draw more than 70,000 fans each game.

Emmett’s close friendship with Washington attorney Edward Bennett Williams led to his meeting Larry Lucchino, a Williams protégé. Emmett helped Lucchino’s teams — the Baltimore Orioles, San Diego Padres and Boston Red Sox — set home attendance records.

Emmett’s love of sports led him to partner with Sargent and Eunice Kennedy Shriver in the early 1970’s. They worked to develop the Special Olympics into one of the most important charitable institutions in the world. Emmett served in a number of capacities, including as a member of its international board of directors

Family and friends in Westport remember Emmett for his charismatic personality, infectious enthusiasm for life, and his outspoken nature. In recent years, Emmett derived great pleasure from the success of his children and grandchildren.

Emmett is survived by his sons Steven and Andrew, and daughters-in-law Deborah, Marlene, and Geri. He leaves behind 6 grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife Martha and son Paul.

A public celebration of Emmett’s life will be held at Fenway Park this summer. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his name to the Special Olympics.

To express condolences and/or make donations, click here.

special olympics

Oh My 06880 — Photo Challenge #26

Summertime, and the livin’ is — well, for this week’s photo challenge Lynn U. Miller has gone to her wintry files. If you think you know where she shot this scene, click “Comments” below. Of course, add any back stories you wish.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Meanwhile, last week’s photo challenge was the toughest yet. It took 3 days, but thanks to a cross-continental collaboration between Wendy Cusick of Norwalk and Nancy Hunter (Vancouver, British Columbia), Lynn U. Miller’s mystery was finally solved.

The image was part of a plaque from the Lions Club, commemorating America’s bicentennial in 1976. This was the clue:

Oh My 06880 - June 21, 2015

Here’s the full image:

Lions Club plaque - Jesup Green flag pole

It was located — still is, in fact — at the base of the flagpole on Jesup Green. As I said, hidden in plain sight. Lynn and I got all of you (except Wendy and Nancy!)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

 

jUNe Day Busted Out All Over

The weather was cloudy and chilly. A number of potential guests were home celebrating Ramadan.

But Westport’s 50th annual jUNe Day drew nearly 200 United Nations workers and their families to Westport today.

Assistant Secretary-General Carole Wainaina of Kenya and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe traded welcomes at Saugatuck Elementary School. But this was nothing like a General Assembly meeting.

A  little music and a few munchies later, everyone was off: to downtown, Longshore, Compo, Earthplace, Wakeman Town Farm and all points in between.

No translation was needed — beyond the word “fun.”

Flags from around the world replace the Stars and Stripes on jUNe Day. Too bad there was no breeze to flutter them. (Photo/Jim Chillington)

Flags from around the world replace the Stars and Stripes on jUNe Day. Too bad there was no breeze to flutter them. (Photo/Jim Chillington)

No matter where you're from, if you're a little kid it's all about the food. (Photo/Adam Stolpen)

No matter where you’re from, if you’re a little kid it’s all about the food. (Photo/Adam Stolpen)

Visitors from Peru, Spain, Portugal, the Philippines and enljoyed a tour of Wakeman Town Farm, including an expanded chicken coop, productive beehive, and edible marigolds that protect the borders of the gardens from insects.

Visitors from Peru, Spain, Portugal, the Philippines and more enjoyed a tour of Wakeman Town Farm — including an expanded chicken coop, productive beehive, and edible marigolds that protect the gardens from insects. (Photo/Elizabeth Beller)

A pair of Olympians got into the spirit. William Steinkraus Cohen -- brother of jUNe Day founder Ruth Steinkraus Cohen --

A pair of Olympians got into the spirit. Bill Steinkraus — brother of jUNe Day founder Ruth Steinkraus Cohen — was an equestrian in 6 Olympics. He won 1 individual gold medal, and 2 silvers and a bronze as a team member. Ann Marie Flynn of Westport was a high jumper in the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.  (Photo/Adam Stolpen)

For 50 years, Westport soccer teams have taken on their UN counterparts. This trophy is a recent addition to the rivalry. (Photo/Adam Stolpen)

For 50 years, Westport soccer teams have taken on their UN counterparts. This trophy is a recent addition to the rivalry. (Photo/Adam Stolpen)

These REALLY Old Houses

Recently, we announced the end of our “This Old House” series. The Westport Historical Society had run through the dozen or so homes they hoped to identify, prior to next fall’s exhibit of photos taken as part of a 1930s WPA project.

But you can’t keep a good house hunter down. WHS historian Bob Weingarten has sent along a few more photos from the archives. These too are unidentified.

Even more, they don’t have any labels. They could be anywhere in town. And — because they’re from the late 1800s — most are probably long gone.

Yet “06880” readers are an intrepid bunch. You’ve got an eye for architecture and history — and you remember a lot.

So here goes. Each house is numbered. If you recognize any — or just want to chime in on the subject of really old houses — click “Comments” below. (As always, you can click or hover over any photo to enlarge it.)

And if you know any of the people in the photos, I’ll be truly impressed.

#1

#1

#1

#2

#2

#3

Old house 6

#4

old house 7

#5

#6

#6

#7

#7

Old House 5

#8

#8

#9

Old house 9

#10

 

No Moon This jUNe

This Saturday (June 27), Westport marks its 50th jUNe Day.

For half a century on the last Saturday of June, we’ve welcomed guests from the UN. Lawyers, staff members, security guards — they and their families come here for a full day of sports, beach-going, shopping and fun.

You’d think the organizers would go all out to celebrate 50 years. They’d plan great new activities. Shoot off fireworks. Bring Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to town for a ceremonial something.

Not gonna happen.

Longshore is a favorite destination for jUNe Day guests. (Photo/Carroll Hubbard)

Longshore is a favorite destination for jUNe Day guests. (Photo/Carroll Hubbard)

In keeping with the theme of jUNe Day — a low-key chance for UN workers to get out of the city, and Westport to show off its beauty and hospitality — the event will consist of the usual: a brief hello at Saugatuck Elementary School (10:30 a.m.), then the rest of the day filled with soccer, tennis and golf; tours of Earthplace, the Westport Historical Society, downtown and the Westport Arts Center — and of course, Compo Beach.

Okay, the welcome ceremony will include Senator Richard Blumenthal and recent UN special coordinator for the Ebola risis Tony Banbury. But Banbury lives in Westport. And Blumenthal shows up anywhere there’s a camera.

Children of UN staffers enjoy Wakeman Town Farm. Many UN families seldom leave New York, jUNe Day organizers note. (Photo/Carroll Hubbard)

Children of UN staffers enjoy Wakeman Town Farm. Many UN families seldom leave New York, jUNe Day organizers note. (Photo/Carroll Hubbard)

For all the joy, fun and relaxation it brings more than 300 UN folks and their families, jUNe Day is organized by a tiny group. Just a few core volunteers plan everything. (UN, and every other governmental organization: Take note!)

Michaela MacColl got involved 15 years ago, at the invitation of jUNe Day founder Ruth Steinkraus Cohen. MacColl — whose day job is children’s author — liked what she saw. When Steinkraus Cohen died, MacColl took over.

“I love Westport, but sometimes I’m frustrated by the homogeneity,” MacColl — a 20-year resident — says. “For one day, things are different.” Last year, 35 countries were represented at jUNe Day. (Their flags are the ones you’ll see flying on the appropriately named Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge this Saturday.)

On jUNe Day, the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge brims with flags from around the world. (Photo/Jeff Simon)

On jUNe Day, the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge brims with flags from around the world. (Photo/Jeff Simon)

“It’s always nice to see people gob-smacked by Westport’s beauty,” MacColl says. “But they also meet very kind people here. Westporters really like showing off the town, and they help out in any way they can.”

Local businesses do too. Most of the food is donated by area businesses. (The kitchen is run by a teenager, William Amon.)

Little things stand out. A Syrian family is always the first to arrive, MacColl says. They’ve come every year since their son was born. He’s 20 now.

The weather is usually fantastic. One year though, it rained hard. A Filipino man came, with 2 small children. He told MacColl he’d considered staying in New York. But when he thought about how much work Westport put into the event, he realized he had to be here.

Fifty years is indeed a great achievement. But you won’t see or hear jUNe Day organizers boasting about it on Saturday.

They’ll be too busy helping 300 guests, from all over the globe.

(Volunteers are always needed. To help, contact Andrea Dostal: 203-526-3275; andreasusa@yahoo.com. For more information, contact Michaela MacColl at 203-227-9461, or Bill Hass at 203-454-7685.)

United Nations

Tooting MTA’s Horn

On March 1, Westporters living near the railroad tracks — and even not so near — started hearing train horns. Loud horns. And lots of them.

Several readers did the natural thing: They asked “06880” what’s up. I contacted my go-to-guy — MTA spokesman and 1994 Staples graduate Aaron Donovan — who reported that it’s part of a Connecticut Department of Transportation project to replace all New Haven Line overhead wires, first installed in 1907.

For the safety of personnel who are on or near the tracks, trains must sound their horns when approaching work zones. Work will continue through September 2017.

Well, at least we knew…

The other day though, an alert — and very frustrated — “06880” reader emailed me. Though no work was being done near Hillspoint Road, equipment had been left near the tracks. For quite a while, engineers had been honking for no reason.

Engineers were honking at this -- with no workers in sight.

Engineers were honking at this — with no workers in sight.

The reader had called the police, fire department and Metro-North. But the horns kept blaring.

I told her to contact Aaron.

He gave her a number to call — with step-by-step instructions for navigating the dreaded phone tree. Aaron assured her she’d wind up in the right hands.

She did. The Hillspoint resident reports today that the weekend was quiet.

And though work resumed today, things are much better than they were. And she says, “for the first time, they were very helpful.”

Count your blessings. And count the days — just 810! — until September 2017.

Interfaith Vigil Set For Monday

In the wake of the Charleston church massacre, a vigil is set for this Monday (June 22), 7 p.m. on the lawn of Saugatuck Congregational Church.

The vigil is co-sponsored by TEAM Westport and the Interfaith Clergy Association of Westport and Weston.

People of all faiths — and everyone else — are invited to honor the 9 men and women gunned down in a South Carolina church.

Clockwise from top left: Susie Jackson; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton; DePayne Doctor; Ethel Lance; Daniel Simmons Sr.; Clementa Pinckney; Cynthia Hurd; Tywanza Sanders.

Clockwise from top left: Susie Jackson; Sharonda Coleman-Singleton; DePayne Doctor; Ethel Lance; Daniel Simmons Sr.; Clementa Pinckney; Cynthia Hurd; Tywanza Sanders.

 

Westport’s Ultimate Selfie

Church Lane was closed to vehicles today.

It was filled instead with budding Miggs Burroughses — and the actual artist himself.

Miggs Burroughs paints former first selectman and Westportnow founder Gordon Joseloff.

Miggs Burroughs paints former first selectman and WestportNow founder Gordon Joseloff.

Dozens of Westporters — and visitors from as far as Venezuela — traced family members, friends and random strangers on the blue construction fence surrounding the Bedford Square downtown development project.

Then they picked up paint brushes, and added color — lots of it. The fence will remain up for another 2 years.

There was paint for everyone on Church Lane today.

There was paint for everyone on Church Lane today.

The event — “Westport Paints the Town” — continues through 3 p.m. today. It’s co-sponsored by the Westport Arts Center, Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Downtown Merchants Association. Turner Construction donated the paint.

Artists, models and supervisors, all hard at work on Church Lane.

Artists and supervisors, all hard at work on Church Lane.

Dereje Tarrant -- a rising 3rd grader at Saugatuck Elementary School -- waits for his mom Zoe to wash a brush. On the wall behind them are images of Dereje and his  dad Tom.

Dereje Tarrant — a rising 3rd grader at Saugatuck Elementary School — waits for his mom Zoe to wash a brush. On the wall behind them are images of Dereje and Zoe.

This little boy was so intent on his creation, he couldn't stop to give his name.

This little boy was so intent on his creation, he couldn’t stop to give his name.

Marla Velez is from Venezuela. She came to Westport with Maria Velez, from Shelton, just for the chance to paint the wall.

Marla Velez is from Venezuela. She came to Westport with Maria Velez, from Shelton, just for the chance to paint the wall.

Jahmane -- the member of the Westport Artists Collective who painted the Minute Man at the east end of the wall -- traced yours truly. In the shot above, he's adding a soccer ball to the wall.

Jahmane — the Westport Artists Collective member who painted the Minute Man at the east end of the wall — traced yours truly. In the shot above, he’s adding a soccer ball to the wall. (Photo/Helen Klisser During)

Alex Andra lives around the corner, on Main Street. She broke up the parade of people, by drawing a cat.

Alex Andra lives around the corner, on Main Street. She broke up the parade of people, drawing this creature.

Duvian Montoya honored the Saugatuck rowers with this painting. (Photo/Helen Klisser During)

Duvian Montoya honored the Saugatuck rowers with this painting. (Photo/Helen Klisser During)

Meanwhile, work continued on Bedford Square during the

Meanwhile, work continued on Bedford Square during the “Westport Paints the Town” event. Construction is expected to take 2 years.

Yankee Doodle Comes To Town

For 108 years, June in Westport has meant 2 things:

  • The end of school
  • The Yankee Doodle Fair.

For longer than any man or woman here has been alive, the Westport Woman’s Club event has signaled the start of summer. It’s also the long-lived civic organization’s main fundraiser, helping them help dozens of local charities and provide important scholarships to Staples grads.

I’m sure that back in the pre-internet, pre-TV, pre-radio (!) day, there were lots of old-fashioned, carnival-style fairs. I remember them at Compo Beach, the empty lot where Barnes & Noble now sits, and (of course) Festival Italiano.

The Yankee Doodle Fair is the only one still alive. Generations of Westporters have fond memories of it.

Some have more tangible images.

Ann Sheffer - Yankee Doodle FairIn 1952, 4-year-old Ann Sheffer attended the Fair. She keeps a photo of herself on a carousel (left) — and gets a kick out of watching 21st-century 4-year-0lds ride them.

When Ann was growing up, many Woman’s Club members were either artists themselves, or married to artists. Affordable portrait drawing was a big Yankee Doodle Fair attraction.

Howard Munce — who at nearly 100 years old is still 8 years younger than the Fair — drew portraits at the Fair. So did Miggs’ Burroughs father, Bernie.

But Bernie didn’t draw his son. The charcoal portrait below was done around 1956 by Westporter Tom Lovell. He later became a famed book cover artist and painter of Western art, whose works sold for up to $400,000.

This portrait of Miggs probably cost $1. But he still has it.

Miggs Burroughs by Tom Lovett

Years after sitting (while watching all his friends going on rides), Miggs went on to curate the Woman’s Club Art Show Fundraiser last month. It featured local artists — and honored Ann Sheffer’s aunt, Susan Malloy. Interesting how the Yankee Doodle Fair connects them all.

Linda Gramatky Smith remembers the Yankee Doodle Fair too. Every year, her parents — Hardie (“Little Toot” author/illustrator) Gramatky and Dorothea Cooke — took turns in the portrait booth.

Her father’s diary from June 28, 1956 notes he went to the Fair that day with famed artists Ward Brackett, Dolli Tingle, Herb Olsen, Donald Purdy, Arpi Ermoyan and Johnny Gannam.

But they were not just drawing caricatures. In 1953, Hardie Gramatky matted a watercolor as a gift to the Fair. Just one more Westporter helping the Westport Woman’s Club make money.

This year’s edition opens tomorrow. There’ll be many chances for today’s kids to make their own memories for years to come.

A caricature by T.C. Ford

A T. C. Ford caricature

Besides the traditional rides and games, new this year are a “Children’s Garden” area, a photo opp board, a “Fountain of Wishes,” face painting (fun or fierce), sand art, and (Saturday and Sunday only), caricaturist T.C. Ford (with his sidekick, all-natural henna artist Brigid Fleming).

The timing is perfect. School is out. Summer is about to begin. After 108 years, things still haven’t changed.

The Yankee Doodle Fair runs Thursday and Friday (June 18 and 19, 6-10 p.m.), Saturday (June 20, 1-10 p.m.) and Sunday (June 21, 1-5 p.m.) at the Westport Woman’s Club, 44 Imperial Avenue. Admission is free! Click here for more information.