Marion Grebow — the artist whose ceramic “River of Names” mural delighted Westport Library visitors for 2 decades — died on Thursday. She was 66 years old.
The “River of Names” was a special fundraising project. Co-chairs Betty Lou Cummings and Dorothy Curran invited Grebow — a Stamford native who worked in sculpture, drawing, calligraphy, porcelain and, ultimately, ceramic tiles, and who was related to the Nevas family, longtime Westport philanthropists — to propose a design.
Her plan grew to include 1,162 bas-relief tiles, tracing 350 years of town history. Residents present and past, non-profit organizations and local businesses contributed funds. Grebow then crafted individual tiles for each.
Some portrayed events like the founding of Westport and onion farming; others showed scenes like National Hall and Compo Beach, or noted the dates and names of families living in town.
Grebow envisioned the mural as a true “river” — not just of history, but as a metaphor. “If one stood at the far end of the mural and looked back across the surface pattern of the tiles, the dancing light looked like moonlight on flowing water,” Curran says.
After the River of Names was hung in the library’s lower level, Curran published a book about the mural. It included information about each tile, and serves as an additional resource for Grebow’s remarkable work.
When the library undertook its transformation project, no room could be found for the mural. It is now in storage, and lives on in digital form.
Grebow also produced works for New York’s 92nd Street Y and Temple Emanu-El, the Connecticut Audubon Society in Fairfield, and many others.
She is survived by her husband Gustav Olsen, and their sons Sam and Harald.
A graveside memorial service will be held tomorrow (Sunday, February 23, 11;30 a.m., Umpawaug Cemetery, 149 Umpawaug Road, Redding). A memorial service follows at her West Redding studio.