New Playhouse Gallery Honors Westport Arts Heritage

Ann Sheffer is among Westport’s most avid arts advocates. Her support of all mediums — visual, performing, classical, new — is abiding and true.

So it’s very fitting that Ann’s latest project involves both an art gallery and the Westport Country Playhouse.

Actually, it’s a gallery at the Playhouse.

Thisi Saturday (November 24, 5 to 8 p.m.), the barn next to the theater welcomes “Amazing Grace.” Noted Westport painter/illustrator Ann Chernow and famed graphic artist Miggs Burroughs offer dozens of mixed media images, photos and oils of real and invented people, from life’s shadows.

Ann Chernow and Miggs Burroughs

It’s the gallery’s inaugural exhibit.

It opens in what is already called the Sheffer Studio Space. The name honors Ann and her family.

As a child, Sheffer’s grandparents and parents took her to the Playhouse. She still recalls sitting in those red seats, for Friday afternoon children’s shows..

At 15, she became an usher. She continued serving the Playhouse long after graduating from Staples High School in 1966. Today, she’s an honorary trustee.

Sheffer has known and admired the 2 artists featured in this first show for decades.

Chernok’s work has been exhibited all over the world. Her Playhouse art focuses on actress portraits from American film noir of the 1930s and ’40s. Of course, many film stars also appeared on the Playhouse stage.

Burroughs — who graduated from Staples a year before Sheffer — has designed Time magazine covers, a United States stamp, Westport’s flag, and hundreds of logos for commercial and  non-profit clients. His lenticular photos line the Main Street and railroad station tunnels. His Playhouse exhibit includes 24 male criminals.

A sample of Ann Chernow’s work (left), and one by Miggs Burroughs (right).

Westport has long been known as an arts community. Next Saturday, we celebrate that heritage — in all its forms.

(The Gallery at the Westport Country Playhouse is a partnership between Friends of the Westport Public Art Collection and the Artists Collective of Westport. Saturday’s opening features music by Warren Bloom, drinks and light bites and more. The exhibit runs through December 22.)

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Old Mill boat (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Kids Dodge Cops

Over 100 Staples High School students spent 3 hours last night dodging the police.

It was hard to tell who had more fun: the kids or the cops.

This group of dodgeball players was going for the win — and the Best Costume award. (Photo/Lily Williams)

The event was the annual “Dodge a Cop” dodgeball tournament. Organized by Staples’ Teen Awareness Group and the Westport Youth Commission, in collaboration with Westport’s Police Department — and held in the dodgeball-friendly fieldhouse — it raises scholarship funds for Chris Lemone’s children. The founder of TAG died 3 years ago, age 49.

Police chief Foti Koskinas (2nd from right) joined in the fun. (Photo/Lily Williams)

Twenty-four teams competed. Each included at least one police officer. Staples staff and community members served as referees.

Staples’ popular resource officer Ed Wooldridge (far left) also joined a team. (Photo/Lily Williams)

Despite an evening of hurling balls at each other, no arrests were reported.

Lefty Pendarakis (center) gathers his team (including a police officer, right) for pre-game strategy. (Photo/Lily Williams)

Hey, girls play dodgeball too! (Photo/Lily Williams)

It wasn’t easy dodging these cops. But it sure was fun. (Photo/Westport Police Department)

Remembering Brian Gordon

Brian Gordon — a beloved 1987 graduate of Staples High School, and since 2017 the 2nd selectman of Weston — died Sunday morning. His family was at his side.

After moving to Westport in 1983, Brian starred on the Staples basketball team. He was co-captain his senior year — while also serving as president of his senior class.

Brian majored in political science at the University of Pennsylvania. Once again, he was elected class president.

Brian Gordon

After graduating in 1991, Brian returned to his home town of Cincinnati to work in brand management at Procter & Gamble.

In 1994 he caught the entrepreneurial bug. Brian left the corporate world to co-found Beyond the Wall. The new media company provided access to hard-to-reach teen and college markets through iconic advertising, in the form of posters.

In 1999, BTW was acquired by Youthstream Media Networks.

The next year, Brian joined Markitecture as a partner. He worked with a variety of clients, developing and launching new products.

In 2005, Brian and 1986 Staples grad Patrick Moore started Soundview Research, a marketing consulting firm. Brian launched several new ventures including eBeanstalk, an e-commerce site providing developmental and learning toys.

Most recently, Brian helped launch EZ Massager, the next generation in topical pain relief.

In 2016, Brian was asked to run for 2nd selectman in Weston. A Democrat, he convinced Republican voters that he offered non-partisan, common sense solutions to town challenges. Brian firmly believed he could bring all constituents together for a common goal.

He was also active in Weston as a coach of his daughters’ basketball and soccer teams.

Last year in Weston, Brian Gordon (center), posed with his Penn classmate (and former Tennessee congressman) Harold Ford Jr. (right) and Brian’s former Staples High School basketball teammate Dave Sweedler.

Brian is survived by his wife Kristy, daughters Molly and Drew, sister Elizabeth of Rye, New York, and parents Ronald and Claire of Westport.

A memorial service for Brian will be held tomorrow (Wednesday, November 21, 12 noon) at Temple Israel in Westport.

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Ignoring a “No Parking” sign on Saugatuck Shores (Photo/Lou Mall)

Need A Ride To The Community Thanksgiving Feast?

Turkeys and trimmings? Decorations? Volunteers?

Check. Check. Check.

Everything is set for this Thursday’s Community Thanksgiving Feast (Christ & Holy  Trinity Church, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.).

But organizers want to make sure no one misses out. So they’re reminding anyone who would like to attend, but needs a ride: Please call!

The number is 203-227-1261. That’s Saugatuck Congregational Church — where the feast was held for many years. They’re happy to help match those needing rides with folks offering them.

You can call until noon Wednesday. Volunteers are standing by!

After Coleytown: School District Considers 9 Plans For Next Year

When mold closed Coleytown Middle School in September, school administrators, teachers, staff, students and parents scrambled to adjust.

Sixth and seventh graders moved to Bedford Middle School. Eighth graders headed to Staples. That temporary measure will last through the current school year.

Now — with the fate of CMS still undetermined — educators and townspeople must plan for the next school year.

Yesterday at Town Hall, superintendent of schools Colleen Palmer presented 9 options to the newly formed Community Advisory Group. Comprised of teachers, administrators, PTA members and others, they have a December 10 deadline to present a 2019-20 plan to the Board of Education.

The options — which may be amended as work continues — include:

  1. Keeping 6th grades at elementary schools; all 7th and 8th graders would remain at Bedford. Stepping Stones Preschool would move from Coleytown Elementary to a rented facility; Long Lots kindergartners would attend CES in that space.
  2. As above, but Long Lots 6th graders would attend Coleytown El in the current Stepping Stones place.
  3. Stepping Stones would move to a rented facility. Long Lots 6th graders would attend CES; Saugatuck and Kings Highway 6th graders would go to Bedford Middle School (which would include portable classrooms); Greens Farms 6th graders would remain in that school, and CMS 7th and 8th graders would remain at BMS.
  4. All 6-8th graders would attend Bedford on a staggered schedule. For example: grade 6, 7 a.m. to 1:45 p.m.; grades 7-8, 9:15 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  5. Maintain the current plan: All 6th and 7th graders at BMS; CMS 8th graders at Staples.
  6. All students in grades 6-8 attend Bedford on the same school schedule.
  7. All students in grades 6-8 attend Bedford, with double sessions. For example: Session I, 7 a.m. to noon; Session II, 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  8. Housing one of the following at a different, rented location: Early learning center (Stepping Stones Preschool and all kindergarten classrooms districtwide); 6th grade; 8th grade; all of Coleytown Middle School.
  9. Utilize 1 of the 5 elementary schools to house CMS. Those elementary school students would be redistricted to the other 4 elementary schools.

The Community Advisory Group’s next meeting is tomorrow (Tuesday, November 20, 7:30 p.m., Bedford Middle School).

Tailor Meets Taylor

Ryan Meserole owns a great business on Railroad Place.

Suited.co — recently rebranded as Quentin Row — is a men’s custom clothing shop. Directly opposite the train station, Ryan makes commuters (and many other folks) look and feel great.

A couple of miles away, Michael Connors has a thriving business too. Taylor Place — named for its location, between the library and Tiffany — is a consignment boutique, with an ever-changing treasure trove of intriguing items.

We often think of Saugatuck and downtown merchants as competitors. But Ryan and Michael forged a connection that’s a model for small local merchants, wherever they are in town.

Not long ago, Ryan wandered into Michael’s shop. He wanted some vintage pieces for his window display.

Michael already knew of Ryan from “06880.” The consignment owner asked the custom suit guy a few questions about marketing. Ryan helped re-build Michael’s website, and gave advice on how to leverage social media.

Michael — who has a wonderfully artistic eye — helped Ryan redecorate his storefront. He gave Ryan some sharp-looking furniture.

There’s now green ivy on the bricks, a new sign and alluring windows. Soon, Ryan will add a barber, stylists and shoeshine in the back, ramping up the men’s style vibe.

Quentin Row is going all out to be a great neighbor. Starting this Saturday, Ryan is opening up some of his newly renovated space as a holiday pop-up. For example, Lynn Reale of Gypsy Bleu Jewels will showcase her line of men’s beaded bracelets.

Artisans, craftsmen and other cool people interested in exhibiting at Quentin Row should email Ryan@suited.co.

Quentin Row also offers a Black Friday special (November 23 to 26): Buy one, get 50% off the second.

Michael and Ryan share a passion for Westport’s small businesses. Wherever they’re located in town, the 2 owners don’t want them to leave.

“The Chamber of Commerce helps where it can,” Ryan notes. “But 1-on-1 connections like this — sharing talents, helping each other — can really help revitalize Main Street, the rest of downtown, and Saugatuck.”

A vintage piece from Taylor Place, now on display at Quentin Row.

The idea is spreading. Ryan says that other stores on the block — like The Flat next door — are also freshening up their looks.

“If you don’t evolve, you die,” he notes. “We have to make sure that people enjoy shopping local.”

“No one wants to see a store like ours, or Michael’s — or Savvy + Grace, The Brownstone or Indulge by Mersene — go out. We all need to work together. And we’re having a great time doing it.”

The holiday season is here. Our local merchants work hard to draw shoppers in.

Now, they’re working together — to sew together our town.

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Compo Beach boardwalk, without the crowds (Photo/Katherine Bruan)

They Are The Champions!

It’s very tough to win a high school state championship.

It’s even tougher to repeat.

But the Staples field hockey team did just that this afternoon. Coach Ian Tapsall’s girls decisively shut out Cheshire 2-0, to capture their 2nd consecutive class “L” (largest schools) crown. It’s the 3rd in the program’s history, following a co-championship in 2016.

State champs — again! The Staples High School field hockey team.

A couple of hours later, coach Barry Beattie’s girls soccer team fell 1-0 to Ridgefield, in the title match. It was the 2nd straight year that the 2 FCIAC schools met in the “LL” (largest schools) final — and the 2nd straight win for the Tigers.

Congratulations to both teams, for great runs.

And, of course, kudos to coach Laddie Lawrence’s boys cross country squad. Earlier this year they captured the “LL” title — their 3rd in a row. In 2015 and ’16, they were also state open champions.