For a town that celebrates arts in every way, our Town Hall has been a bit art-free.
For the past few weeks, Sue O’Hara’s English 3A students have worked on a multi-disciplinary project. All year long, the Staples High School juniors studied the intersection of literature, art and life. Now they’ve put their knowledge, insights and research skills to the test.
They scoured the town’s vast art database for intriguing paintings, drawings and photographs. They plucked their favorite pieces from wherever they were — storage, private offices, whatever — and installed them in Town Hall corridors.
But that’s not all. They dug deep, to learn about each artist and piece of art. They delved into history, culture and social development. They figured out which works would be appropriate where. And they designed multimedia effects — narrations, poems, songs, sound effects — to go along with each, via QR codes.
For example, the Town School Offices on the 3rd floor are now graced by 2 Stevan Dohanos Saturday Evening Post covers — both drawn in Westport, one of the 1946 Staples High School band — as well as a number of photos showing children playing.
Around the corner on the 3rd floor, outside the town’s Finance Department, the art is different. “Westport is about politics, culture and money,” say students in the group overseeing this section — and the art there shows it.
Of course, Town Hall was not totally artless before yesterday. Several large murals already hung above the auditorium, and outside the first selectman’s office and Westport Community Theater.
O’Hara’s students researched each mural, and wrote in depth about what those murals mean to Westport.
Thanks to the Stapleites, Town Hall looks a lot jazzier today than it did before.
And that’s fitting. The nerve center of town — housing not only our chief politicians and educators but also planning directors, engineers, election clerks and the tree warden, among others — was not always municipal offices.
For decades it was Bedford Elementary — a school.
[UPDATE: As Thomas Greene notes in the “Comments” below, he was the boy mowing the lawn in the Stevan Dohanos illustration. All the boys used as models were 6th graders at Bedford Elementary School. So that piece of art now hangs in the building where it began.]