Westport Public Art Collection: Now Just A Click Away

By the fall of 1932, 25% of Connecticut’s workforce was unemployed.

As Governor Wilbur Cross accompanied presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt to a campaign address in Bridgeport, both men knew that jobs creation was a key means to provide economic relief and hope.

Many New Deal projects — including the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration — depended on state and local government cooperation.

Between 1934 and 1937, 1st Selectman King W. Mansfield and the Westport Art Committee secured funding for 16 artists to produce works for 8 public buildings here.

“Westport Organized 1835-1935),” Howard Heath (1879-1969), oil on masonite, hangs at Town Hall.Created in 1936 — one year after Westport’s centennial — the mural is a decorative map showing the principal roads, brooks and historical points of interest circa 1835. The artist’s inscription reads, “Dedicated to the sturdy traders, farmers and builders who settled and developed the Town of Westport. May the pioneer spirit of courage, independence and resourcefulness be ever alive and vigorous.”

Westport’s WPA collections form a historically significant portion of the Westport Public Art Collections. But with schools and town buildings closed due to COVID-19, the great WestPAC works are also unavailable.

No problem! WestPAC is bringing the public art collections to the community virtually — and to art lovers everywhere, far beyond 06880.

Two new exhibits were just launched. The first highlights the WPA works. (Click here to view.)

“Battle of Compo Hill,” Eugene Hannan (1875-1945), plaster bas-relief, on view at Saugatuck Elementary School. The sculptor was commissioned to produce 2 low-relief panels to commemorate the patriots who stood against the British invasion of April 25-28, 1777, for what was then Staples High School on Riverside Avenue. This scene depicts Brigadier General Benedict Arnold as he leads the patriots to intercept the British at the foot of Compo Hill.

The pop art collection is also now online. (Click here to view.)

Not a lot of good things have come out of the pandemic. The chance to view the astonishing Westport Public Art Collections — perhaps unparalleled by any suburban town anywhere — from the comfort of your self-isolating home is one of them.

For more information on WestPAC — and to search the entire collection — click here.

“Eskimo Children at Play,” Colcord Heurlin (1895-1986), oil on masonite, on view at Saugatuck Elementary School. Throughout the early 20th century, technological advancements in transportation and communication brought the world closer together. Here, the artist brings the ways of life of children in Alaska to Westport.

6 responses to “Westport Public Art Collection: Now Just A Click Away

  1. Debbie Wilson Hoult

    Thank you from the UK! Fantastic.

  2. Anne Boberski

    Every generation forms a relationship with these works. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Dan:

    Apropos your 06880 blog post today regarding the WPA murals . . .

    This WPA-era mural by James Daugherty was mounted on the wall of the board room of the Edward T. Bedford YMCA building in downtown Westport.

    The allegorical theme is inscribed with the words: “We will strive increasingly to quicken the public sense of civic duty. We will transmit this town greater, better & more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”

    Inspiring words from a Westport / Weston artist.

    With the adaptive re-use of the former Bedford Building, I do not know if this art remains in the re-purposed building or has been preserved in another l0cation.

    Dick Foot

    • Kathie Bennewitz

      That Daugherty is hanging at the YMCA in a Libby exhibit dedicated to the Bedford family And original building.

  4. Roseann Spengler

    Wow…This was wonderful, Dan. What a treat! Thank you.

  5. Kathie Bennewitz

    Thank you Dan! We have an amazing committee and this wpa online exhibit was done by one of our newest members- Ann Boberski- and is a great way to link the efforts of our legendary volunteers like Eve Potts and Mollie Donovan among many others- to today! Ive Covaci who is heading up our educational initiatives had been a huge impact player with this online exhibits too, and wrote t POP!

    A big thanks to them and to you Dan for such a great blog post!

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