More than a century after the first painters moved here, Westport remains an artists’ community.
Famous Artists’ School is long gone. But we have a thriving Arts Center, a rapidly growing Artists Collective, and the spectacular Westport Public Art Collection.
Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito sponsor frequent Beechwood Arts Salons. Galleries dot the Post Road and Riverside Avenue. We have a townwide arts curator!
Many Westporters work in related fields. They’re artists’ agents, attorneys and PR professionals.
And don’t forget James Chantler Brown. He co-founded Art of Everyone.
If you’ve ever attended a corporate team-building event, the Lollapalooza music festival or NBC’s “The Voice” press junket, you may have seen Brown’s project in action. You may even have participated yourself.
If you haven’t, here’s what you’ve missed.
Art of Everyone is an audience participation experience. You don’t have to be Picasso. In fact, your most recent creation might date back to 3rd grade art class.
Art of Everyone is actually Art “for” Everyone.
You just pick up a paint stick. You face a large canvas. Then you follow the lead of an “artist conductor.”
He or she stands behind the canvas. Using a laser pointer (and strong communication skills), the conductor shows where to paint. You follow the lead. Suddenly — and with great fun — you, your co-workers, friends or perfect strangers have created a work of art.
Art of Everyone is customizable. It scales from small, intimate private gatherings to large meetings, with multiple canvases. “Artist conductors” specialize in various forms of art, including portrait, abstract, landscape and still life.
It’s fun. It’s entertaining. And it’s all thanks to Brad Noble, the mastermind behind the ideas of guiding with a laser over the shoulder, and the technique of pushing paint through the canvas from one side to the other. He and Brown combined the ideas, and created laser guided painting.
Brown’s been a Westporter since 2005. The Portland, Maine native’s mother was an artist. At 13 he was captivated by magic. He taught himself himself tricks. He became a comic magician, eventually headlining comedy clubs, lecturing at industry events and visiting 38 countries as a cruise ship attraction.
He consulted for “Arrested Development,” and for Steve Martin’s The Great Flydini.
Brown applied his talents to live events. He also developed multi-million dollar advertising platforms for AOL, Huffington Post, YouTube, Google, Universal Studios and Paramount Pictures.
His wife works for NBC. When she was transferred from Los Angeles to New York, the family — which by then included 2 girls — looked all over the tri-state region. They settled on Westport, in large part for the schools.
Brown never regretted the choice. “It’s amazing. We love it,” he says of the town. “It’s great for families. I love being on the water. I like the seasons.”
One daughter is now a tennis player at Union College. The other is a junior at Staples High.
Along the way, he and branding colleague Shawn Olsen batted around a couple of ideas for a business. One was teaching people how to draw by using a laser pointed over their shoulder. The other involved artists standing behind a canvas, and bleeding their paintings through from behind.
Eventually they combined the two concepts into what became Art of Everyone. They formed an LLC, and marketed it to event planners. In 2017 it took off.
Inexperienced artists have discovered Art of Everyone’s magic at conventions, the World Business Forum at Lincoln Center, private parties — any place a client wants to give attendees, customers or friends a unique experience. (For “The Voice,” judges judged their own portraits.)
“Some people are hesitant,” Brown notes. “But most of them like to try. And when they step back from the canvas, they love seeing what they’ve created. They also say it’s an escape from whatever else is going on around them. It’s almost therapeutic.”
Think back to that 3rd grade art project. It was fun, right?
“Every child is an artist,” Brown says. “We help grown-ups remain artists.”
(Hat tip: Dwain Schenck)