Remembering Marion Grebow

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.

Marion Grebow (center), flanked by Betty Lou Cummings and Dorothy Curran.

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.

The River of Names was hung in the lower level of the Westport Library.

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.

A few of the 1,162 River of Names tiles.

12 responses to “Remembering Marion Grebow

  1. Marion did a wonderful job with the River of Names. I always looked at it when I was at the library. It was a big disappointment that when they made plans for the library renewal that they did not have a place for it.

  2. Betty Lou Cummings

    Thank you so much Dan for this article about the artist Marion Grebow of our “River of Names”.I am saddened….she gave so much of her extraordinary talent. Dear Marion, you are loved and… how I wish the Mural was still up in its full beauty at our Library. Rest in Peace! Betty Lou Cummings

    • Betty, sorry for the loss of your friend. And I am sorry that Marion did not live to see The River of Names reinstalled during her lifetime. It was such a wonderful project on so many levels.

      At this point, does it seem that The River of Names will never be brought back anywhere in town?

  3. Gloria Goodenough

    What a shame that a special place was not planned for his great. Mural! Gloria Goodenough

    Sent from TechnoGram’s iPad


  4. Elisabeth Keane

    Is there a place in Town Hall for this marvelous River of Names?

  5. Cheryl Scott-Daniels

    Marion also created the beautiful ceramic entry foyer wall at Earthplace. It was a fundraiser for us there and is a beautiful remembrance of our natural environment.

  6. I always enjoyed seeing those tiles there. The Library should FIND A PLACE – a good place – for them. The Town Hall could also be a place with all those halls, but the Library would have more viewers.

  7. Hedi Lieberman

    An amazing piece of work by a talented artist and two talented women who made the River of Names happen.

  8. Cheryl McKenna Kritzer

    I miss seeing this mural and hope the library will realise the value of this to our town and find a place .

  9. David J. Loffredo

    Put it in that Westport Historical Society building they’re repurposed….

    Library history – discarded. Westport Historical Society history – discarded.

    What have we become?

    Can’t blame Trump for this one Westport.

  10. When the architects of the new library decided they had ANY plans that were worth discarding the tile wall, they become not just misfeasant, they became Goddamned traitors.

  11. James Sullivan

    What a shame this mural is no longer being displayed. I am planning to visit your beautiful community for some genealogical research, as some of my ancestors were among it’s earliest founders. How disappointing not to be able to view this! When you mentioned that it can be viewed in digital form, does that include the ability to browse it for details?.