Westport Arts: Adding Diversity, Color

Westport’s arts scene has a long, vibrant history.

Okay, to be honest: It’s a long, vibrant, white history.

The men and women who — from the early 1900s on — made our town a magnet for illustrators, painters, sculptors and others were (like the rest of the town) largely Caucasian.

But our town’s heritage includes important contributions from (and exploitation of) people of color. The arts today must reflect more than one perspective.

The Westport Arts Advisory Committee is addressing those issues in two big ways.

In the alley between Main Street and Bedford Square are floodgates no longer in use. David Waldman — the developer of the mixed-use center between Main Street and Church Lane — asked the WAAC how the gates could look more attractive.

The arts organization commissioned 5 artists to turn them into a history of our town: Westporters Eric Chiang, Jana Irejo and Rebecca Ross, Norwalk’s Hernan Garcia and Iyaba Mandingo of Bridgeport.

At 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 16, the WAAC will unveil their 5 paintings at the Main Street entrance to the Bedford Square courtyard. The works include early life among Native Americans, and Black life and culture here.

A “concept slide” of what the floodgate art might look like. These are not the finished pieces.

In addition, the WAAC — working with the Westport Public Art Collections — has acquired several pieces by artists of color.

Among them: art by Charles Joyner.

A professor at North Carolina State University College of Art and Design, and a noted collagist whose colorful, culturally symbolic work incorporates themes from his extensive travels to Ghana, he’s no stranger to Westport.

In 1964 he came to Westport through an American Friends Service program that brought 35 Southern students to the North to promote integration. Joyner lived with the Ader family.

After graduating from Staples High School he headed to Iowa State University on a football scholarship, transferred to North Carolina A&T, then earned a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

Joyner’s, and other newly acquired art, will be part of the WPAC’s first-ever public showing of dozens of works at MoCA Westport. The event opens January 28, and runs through March 13.

Charles Joyner’s mixed media work “Village @ Ntoso” has been acquired by the Westport Public Art Collections.

3 responses to “Westport Arts: Adding Diversity, Color

  1. Hi, Dan and all readers: one place we can quickly be better anti-racist advocates is to stop using the term Caucasian. It comes from the Caucasus mountains, which are in Azerbaijan and Armenia, and was coined as a racial category in the 1800s, when Johann Blumenbach pronounced his human skull from that region to be “the most beautiful” in his collection and thereby belonging to the “white” (aka European) race. There is no scientific or genetic basis to the category, and using it upholds the myth that separate races exist, which they do not. White-European would be a more accurate term for those of us who have less melanin in our skin because our ancestors settled in Europe, where there was less sunlight and therefore a greater need for the skin to absorb vitamin D.

  2. patricia driscoll

    Beautiful work, Charles!

  3. Love this! What a great addition to our uniquely wonderful downtown!

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