Westport Arts Center Disappears

When the Westport Arts Center moves to 19 Newtown Turnpike, they’ll leave more than their longtime Riverside Avenue home behind.

There’s no need to ship the large, recognizable logo  over to Martha Stewart’s former TV studio (which is actually a few feet over the border, in Norwalk).

They’re changing their name too. From now on, it’s MoCA Westport.

You won’t find an explanation anywhere in the press release, sent yesterday afternoon a few minutes before 5 (and headlined, somewhat awkwardly “Westport Arts Center Re-names as MoCA Westport”).

In fact, the new name is mentioned only obliquely — in the 7th paragraph, under “About the Organization.” It says:

“MoCA Westport, previously known as the Westport Arts Center  is a destination dedicated to using the Arts to enrich our community. We thoughtfully design and curate experiences of all types, from Visual Arts to Classical Music, including performances, juried exhibitions, lectures, excursions and other educational opportunities.”

But, I’m told, the acronym stands for Museum of Contemporary Art.

The organization was formed in 1969 — exactly 50 years ago — as the Westport-Weston Arts Council. The name was changed to the Westport Arts Center in 1986. It was housed in a variety of locations, including the then-closed Greens Farms Elementary School, before moving to Riverside Avenue in 2002.

Westport Arts Center, 51 Riverside Avenue.

Working artists still remember that Greens Farms space fondly — especially their individual studios. Together, painters, sculptors and others formed a true artists’ community.

In recent years, the Westport Arts Center has focused increasingly on non-local artists. Exhibits, shows and talks feature a number of artists and photographers with no connection to the town.

Art — and organizations — always evolve. The WAC’s — er, MoCA’s — new space in Westport — er, Norwalk — will have 2 state-of-the-art galleries, a members’ lounge, gift shop, cafe, and “an indoor/outdoor set of studios for an expanded immersive curriculum.”

19 Newtown Turnpike, before renovation. (Photo/Johnny Fogg)

It will all be on display September 19 to 22, during a grand opening weekend.

MoCA has big goals. They’re launching a new education experience, “re-inventing” the Heida Hermanns International Music Competition, planning “exciting opportunities for emerging artists of all ages,” and curating a permanent collection featuring the works of Westport’s “best visual artists.”

So long, Westport Arts Center. 

Hello, MoCA. Whatever that means. 

18 responses to “Westport Arts Center Disappears

  1. We have Westport’s post office, and now the art center! What will be next?

    • Westport Auctions from the old Saugatuck Post Office on Riverside Ave is now in the old David’s Bridal/Mandee store next to the Westport Post Office Annex on Westport Ave US RT 1.

  2. It sounds like a coffee….

    >

  3. Eric William Buchroeder SHS ‘70

    Please permit me to explain: In the spirit of the new library (intellectual development personal fulfillment digital tile artifact bait/switch center) they are installing a coffee shop and another innovative concept: a vending machine containing laxatives, anti nausea remedies and my personal favorite – nose/ear hair trimmers – for those who either forgot or didn’t want the hassle of carrying their medicine cabinet with them. The nome de Guerrero of MoCA Westport was chosen to convey the presence of the upscale and trendy coffee shop which has already asked police officers to leave. The choice of location was reflective of the Westport “best practice” of taking highly valued resources accessible to all and relocating them as far away from downtown as possible while still remaining outside of the Norwalk/Westport border which The Squad has denounced as racist. A further plus is the elimination of water fountains in the MoCA coffee shop. The toilets have ample supplies of water to satisfy the needs of the thirsty.

  4. Adrian J Little

    and this added to the conversation exactly how…?

  5. Celeste Champagne

    I actually responded to the eMail received yesterday announcing the new “MoCA” change from WAC asking what it stood for. No response yet.

  6. I like the building a lot but the logo is lame, whatever it means.

  7. Michael Calise

    What is old is new again. More than a half century ago Margaret “Maggie” Rudkin started Pepperidge Farms (the bakery) on the Fairfield side of the Westport/Fairfield line. Subsequently Pepperidge Farms applied to the Westport P&Z for permission to build a bakery on the Westport Side of the Norwalk/Westport line, They were turned down. As a result they built the bakery at the same location on the Norwalk side of the line. Pepperidge Farms became very successful and expanded and employed many Westporter’s over the years.
    The lost tax revenue and the Norwalk location at the Westport line was the talk of the town for many years!

  8. With the long history- as explained on the WAC website I do not know why a rebranding was necessary. I’m all for innovation but this is an odd choice especially since there is no “story” on their website. If you are rebranding you really need to get that story out there. Westport Arts Center is so descriptive of its mission- MOCA not so much. I am confused why they would try to reinvent themselves especially when they are moving into the woods.

  9. Sharon Paulsen

    Hmmm, not loving the logo. Uninspiring.

    And why change the name anyway?

    Oh, b/c it’s not IN Westport anymore.

    Seems like a bad move. Oh well.

  10. Cornelia Fortier

    Museum of Contemporary Art? Is this what they hope to be now?

  11. I wish MoCA all the best. We’ll get used to the name soon enough.

  12. Tom Feeley Sr

    TAPS

  13. I agree with you, Prill.

  14. Mary Cookman Schmerker

    This comment could be made on almost any 06880 post but I will make it here. Dan is not only a talented writer and a good editor he is also a journalist who impartially reports the facts without attempting to sway the reader. I truly appreciate his remarkable talent and ability. I also always appreciate Michael Calise’s comments. He knows the town history. I also remember Maggie Rudkin and the Pepperidge Farm controversy.

  15. Dick Lowenstein

    Our version of Mass MoCA?

    https://massmoca.org/

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