Drew Friedman’s Gift Keeps On Giving. So Does WestPAC.

Despite its name, the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center is not a place.

It’s an organization, named for a bequest by the longtime restaurant owner (Onion Alley, Cobb’s Mill Inn, Stonehenge Inn) and downtown landlord (much of Main Street).

His first wife, Bobbie, was an accomplished artist who died in 2011. Drew was a great supporter of her work, and her many local artist friends.

After his death in 2016, his estate funded the Community Arts Center. Administered by Drew’s business partner Nick Visconti, it supports non-profit art programs, with a special emphasis on youth.

One of its centerpieces is a scholarship program. For the 3rd year in a row, Friedman’s endowment has provided college grants — totaling $25,000 — to 4 Westport students.

The committee has chosen well. Here are samples of the works of the 4 awardees.

Thanks to Drew Friedman, the Westport school system — and our entire arts-loving town — the creative future is in great hands.

Alexandra Lam graduates next month from Staples High School. She will study at the School for Visual Arts in New York.

Staples graduate Whitney O’Reardon is a rising senior at Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

Staples High School 2019 graduate Margot Liotta will study at Berklee College in Boston.

Staples graduate Sam Mann is a rising senior at Southern Connecticut State University.

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Meanwhile, in other art news, the Board of Selectmen voted this week to accept 30 works of art sought by Westport’s Public Art Collections.

This is the first time the Westport Arts Advisory Committee — which oversees WestPAC — has purchased items for the collection.

Until now, donations have enabled more than 1,500 artworks to hang in public buildings. Schools, Town Hall, the Senior Center, Parks & Rec office — everywhere in Westport, you see public art.

Now, the WAAC is proactively contemporizing and updating the collection. Most of the 30 works accepted by the selectmen this week were donations. They include the mixed media collage “Village @ Ntonso” by 1965 Staples High School graduate and retired North Carolina State University professor of design Charles Joyner.

“Village @ Ntonso” (Charles Joyner 2020, mixed media)

However, 4 were purchased, thanks to Friends of WestPAC. Two are by Westport photographer Jerri Graham; one is by Stamford painter Christa Forrest, the other by nationally renowned photographer Adger Cowans of Bridgeport.

“Sisters” (Jerri Graham, 2020) , Taken at the George Floyd memorial protest on Westport’s  Jesup Green,

The goal of the purchasing program is for “residents, students, and school and town staff to be able to see themselves reflected in – and inspired by – a more diverse range of original works of art,” says town arts curator Kathie Bennewitz.

“We hope too that these works will help foster community dialogues.” 

To learn more about how to donate art, or make tax-deductible contributions to WestPAC, click here.

“Three Shadows – The Bronx” (Adger Cowans 1968, 1977 silver gelatin print)

4 responses to “Drew Friedman’s Gift Keeps On Giving. So Does WestPAC.

  1. Thanks for the shout out to the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center Foundation. I’d like to add gratitude from STAR, Inc., Lighting the Way for generous support from the foundation that provides art classes for local adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With the foundation’s help, STAR has created a series of courses that engages Westport area artists as teachers and uses local Westport venues as hosts. We are appreciative of the inclusive aspect of the grant that brings artistic opportunities to people of all abilities. Thank you!

  2. Its so wonderful for WestPAC to share this column with the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center Foundation, as they also support WestPAC’s new “Learning Galleries” across the schools and town for classroom use and community discussion of reframed perspectives and interpretation.

    I am also excited to share that earlier this week the BOE also accepted 27 works for art for Collection!!! They include works by Ann Chernow, Naiad and Walter Einsel, Hardie Gramatky, Leonard Fisher, Victor Vasarely, Isabel Bishop, Vincent Baldasanno, Christo, and more.

    By clicking the link in the column to donate directly to Friends of WestPAC you too can help us broaden and expand the diversity of the collection and to frame and display these amazing new artworks for residents and students of our town to enjoy!

    Thanks Dan!

  3. Nancy Diamond

    Thanks Dan! WestPAC is a Westport town treasure. Adding contemporary works will further and maintain WestPAC’s reputation among residents and other municipalities as the top-notch collection it is. Thanks to our donors and Friends of WestPAC for making these additions possible.

    Nancy Diamond
    Chair, Westport Arts Advisory Committee

  4. Nancy Diamond

    Thanks Dan! WestPAC is a Westport town treasure. Adding contemporary works will further and maintain WestPAC’s reputation among residents and other municipalities as the top-notch collection it is. Thanks to our donors and Friends of WestPAC for making these additions possible.

    Nancy Diamond
    Chair, Westport Arts Advisory Committee

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