“Main Street To Madison Avenue” Opens Tomorrow On Riverside

When the Westport Arts Center announced its next exhibition — “Main Street to Madison Avenue,” honoring Westporters’ involvement in advertising and art over the last 70 years — folks flocked to offer items.

Children, grandchildren and surviving spouses scoured studios, attics and basements to find sketches, paintings and storyboards. WAC officials had expected some interesting submissions. But they were stunned at how much had lain around, unnoticed and untouched for years.

One of the people was Miggs Burroughs. A noted artist and photographer himself, he hauled in his father’s portfolio. In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, Bernie Burroughs was one of those Westporters whose drawings helped influence consumer habits around the country — and eventually the world.

Miggs had not looked at some of his father’s work for decades. The Arts Center staff was fascinated by it.

After a couple of hours, Miggs casually mentioned Bernie’s van Heusen ad campaign — which Andy Warhol later appropriated.

That fit in perfectly with the “Main Street to Madison Avenue theme.” In addition to paying homage to Westporters, the show examines nationally known artists who were influenced by the iconic design and aesthetic of that era.

And when Warhol used Bernie Burroughs’ work, his model was Ronald Reagan.

“That’s the whole point of this show: making those connections,” WAC executive director Amanda Innes says.

“Van Heusen 356,” by Andy Warhol — based on work by Bernie Burroughs.

Miggs had another surprise for the WAC curators. He said that as a child, he’d go to the Westport station with his dad. When the train pulled in, Bernie would hand his portfolio to the conductor — along with some cash.

The conductor delivered it to Bernie’s New York ad agency. That was common practice, Miggs said.

“Conductor,” by Bernie Burroughs, is part of the Westport Arts Center show.

“That’s a great story about trust,” Innes says.

“But it also shows the anonymity of these artists. They created the work, but they didn’t sign them. They weren’t invited to ad meetings. They didn’t even own the art — the agencies did.”

Part of the reason for this show, she says, is to “honor the men who created so much of this iconic imaging and branding.” (And yes, everyone in this show — like nearly all of Madison Avenue then — is male.)

The Arts Center show opens tomorrow (Friday, April 21, reception from 6 to 8 p.m.). On display is original art and advertisements from illustrators like Bernie Burroughs, Al Parker and Bernie Fuchs. Hung alongside are works by artists like Andy Warhol, Walter Robinson and Richard Prince, who appropriated so much of that material.

Westport artist Bernie Fuchs painted this for Pepsi. He also created art for Coke. Both are displayed in the WAC show.

Innes has had a great time — and an excellent education — mounting the exhibit. For example, hearing it was in the works, Harold Levine headed over. He spent 2 hours regaling Innes about his career.

He had a lot to talk about. In addition to co-founding (with Chet Huntley) a legendary ad agency, he knew Warhol when the struggling young artist asked him for work.

Sadly, Levine will not be there tomorrow. He died in February, at 95.

But that gives you an idea of the kind of show it will be.

Part of Jonathan Horowitz’s “Coke/Pepsi,” on display at the Westport Arts Center. He draws upon the work of Andy Warhol — who in turn appropriated advertisements drawn by Westport artists.

Simultaneously, the WAC will showcase 30 works by high school students. The show is juried by treasured Westport artists Ann Chernow and Leonard Everett Fisher.

Tomorrow evening, a Westport student will receive the Tracy Sugarman Award — named for another of our most famous artists.

That award — and the entire show — is a great way to tie our artistic/advertising past in with our consumer culture present. It’s also a chance to highlight the next generation of local artists.

Some day, some may gain fame for their paintings. Some may toil anonymously, but have their works seen by millions.

And — like the professionals featured in the new Westport Arts Center show — some may do both.

(During tomorrow’s opening reception for “Main Street to Madison Avenue,” the video room will run a loop of advertisements — including some from Harold Levine’s agency. The show runs through June 22.)

12 responses to ““Main Street To Madison Avenue” Opens Tomorrow On Riverside

  1. Terry Brannigan

    Is the opening reception open to the public? Does it require a ticket?

  2. Bernie Burroughs lived across the street from us when we moved to Wakeman Place in 1974. He and his wife Esta had the greatest house, filled with artsy things, old signs hung in the back of the house and just the coolest place you could imagine. It became a benchmark for a young couple moving to Westport on how to decorate ones place. Bernie and Esta were such great neighbors to us.He was such a great guy and invited me over so many times to his studio where he also did a lot of touch up work for photographers. He was a great painter and so much of his work hung in their home. After Bernie past and some years later as Esta was cleaning out the house a bit, she gave us a beautiful ( I think etching) that Bernie did of Albert Einstein that hangs in our home as well as some of those great signs that were hanging on the house.
    One year a friend of mine from Buffalo who was an art teacher came to visit and asked me if I knew Bernie Fuchs. I had never heard of him but I said I would ask Bernie. He arranged a visit for us to go to Bernie Fuchs’ studio in Westport and what a joyful experience that was. I became a great fan of Bernie Fuchs’s work and now own a beautiful signed print of his that he did at Pebble Beach Golf Course. His soft almost impressionistic style of painting is truly classic.
    Look forward to this exhibit and thank you MIggs for all you do to make these things happen in this fine town.

  3. Hope I get a chance to see this! Proud to be one of 3 daughters of a commercial artist!

  4. Arline Gertzoff

    Talking of conductors and trust my late father would put me on the train inSaugatuck between the ages of 5-8 with a little brown case.Always sat in same seat and the conductor would usher me off at 125 th Street when he saw my grandfather with his Homburg hat 🎩.Never failed.Then my grandparents moved to CompoNorth and I could walk and later drive to the house.I missed the smiling conductor

  5. Caryl Beatus


  6. Joelle Malec

    My Father, Joe Harris was a Weston/Westport Ad Man first at Dancer Fitzgerald, then later at J Walter Thompson. He was also a Cartoonist and the creator of the Trix Rabbit and Underdog, among others. My Dad and Mom moved us to Weston in 1962 so we could be close to the artist community that was so vibrant in Westport. My Dad loved Kleins, The Remarkable Bookshop and Max’s. He passed away a few weeks ago, but I am glad to say that my Westport home is filled with cartoons he drew for my children for many birthdays also watercolors, pastels and pencil drawings that he drew for me of Westport scenes. Somewhere in my attic is a huge leather portfolio filled with cartoons that he drew for my mother to celebrate every important occasion between them…I think of these as his version of love letters to our family. I’m looking forward to seeing the show at WAC!!!

  7. How can I send you a picture ? I need your email address

    Sent from my iPhone


  8. Hi Dan – My father-in-law, Jack Tolzien, was a commercial artist who created many iconic ad campaigns including Tony the Tiger and Chuck Wagon dog food. Jack is now 96 and living in a retirement community here in Danville, CA. Will there be a Main Street to Madison Avenue brochure that I could share with him? Thanks, David

    Sent from my iPad