Category Archives: Arts

Stacy Bass Shoots 365 Flowers

Years ago, alert “06880” reader/nature-and-lifestyle photographer Stacy Bass had an idea: For the next year, she’d take and share an image of whatever she happened to be doing at noon that day.

It was, she admits, “crazy and stupid.” The project lasted exactly 2 days.

Now, Stacy’s back. Her new idea is much more workable — and beautiful.

She was inspired by Kerry Long. Stacy’s friend and fellow photographer worked on her own 365-day project, shooting images of her young daughter Lucy. Kerry’s photos were “outstanding, stunning and wonderfully composed,” Stacy says.

Lucy Roth (Photo/Kerry Long)

Lucy Roth (Photo/Kerry Long)

Her own children — much older than Lucy — “would not be nearly as cooperative,” Stacy notes. Nor are portraits her specialty.

Stacy wondered what subject matter would keep her interested and motivated every single day, for a year.

Suddenly she knew.

Flowers.

Though she photographs flowers regularly,  as part of garden shoots for magazines and private clients — check out her great Gardens at First Light book — Stacy knew she’d have to stay focused (ho ho) for a long time to find, take and share an image each day.

Stacy Bass. (Photo/Julie Bidwell for Wall Street Journal)

Stacy Bass. (Photo/Julie Bidwell for Wall Street Journal)

But she wanted to try.

Vacationing on Nantucket with her family last summer, she began.

Stacy Bass's 1st flower.

Stacy Bass’s 1st flower.

Nantucket bloomed with flowers of all kinds. When Stacy returned to Westport, she found many more.

The daily challenge proved invigorating. The positive reactions her photos drew on social media kept her going. Friends and strangers thanked her for providing a daily dose of “beauty and positivity.” (Hydrangeas are the crowd favorites.)

Some days were easier than others. About 2 months in, Stacy hit a figurative wall. She wondered if anyone would notice if she stopped.

But the feeling passed. Now that she’s finished, Stacy is proud of her consistency. She’s also thrilled to have tangible proof of 365 flowers, with a beginning, middle and end.

(Photo/Stacy Bass)

(Photo/Stacy Bass)

She’s not quite sure what to do with all those images, though. Fans have inquired about buying a print of their favorite “day,” or of a special date as a birthday or anniversary gift.

Perhaps figuring out how to do that is Stacy’s next project.

(For more information on Stacy’s flower photos, email swbass@optonline.net.)

A collage of Stacy Bass' flower photos.

A collage of Stacy Bass’ flower photos…

...and a collage of all 365 images.

…and a collage of all 365 images.

Westport Arts Center Offers A Bully Pulpit

Whether you’ve got a school-age kid or not, these days it’s tough to avoid hearing about bullying. Its causes, its effects, how to change it (or whether we’re overreacting) — bullying everywhere, from our schools and the media to the presidential campaign.

Soon, even the Westport Arts Center will tackle the topic.

WAC - More than WordsAn exhibition called “MORE Than Words” opens September 9. Utilizing artists, speakers, panels and films, it examines bullying within a broad cultural context. The exhibit focuses on courage, resilience and empowerment in the face of bullying, and considers how imbalances of social, physical and political power can marginalize others.

The WAC show includes artistic expressions of gender, racial, religious, geopolitical and age inequality, and includes cyber-bullying. The goal is to inspire dialogue and change.

Recognizing that the best responses to bullying are community-wide, the WAC has enlisted the help of important local organizations. They include the Westport Country Playhouse, Westport Library, SKATE/K2BK, Neighborhood Studios of Bridgeport, Anti-Defamation League and Norwalk’s LGBT Triangle Community Center.

Also involved: Athlete Ally and the National Charity League.

WAC exhibition - Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer’s piece in the “MORE Than Words” exhibition.

The exhibit was conceived by board member — and father of 2 young girls — Derek Goodman.

“We’ve all dealt with bullies,” he says. “At the same time, a number of well-known, influential artists have used their work to address it. We hope we’ve put together a platform to open dialogue, so that people in Westport feel comfortable discussing it.”

As the WAC partners with a variety of local organizations, he says, the town has an opportunity to take a leadership role in the battle against bullying.

“We’re not the experts,” he notes of the Westport Arts Center. “But we’re honored to put together a show for experts to help lead the conversation.”

(An opening reception is set for September 9, from 6-8 p.m. The exhibit runs through October 29. For more information on “MORE Than Words,” click here.)

Longshore Lighthouse: The Back Story

For decades, no one thought about the Longshore lighthouse.

Yesterday, I published a photo of it as part of “06880’s” Friday Flashback series.

I had no idea that Westporters Dick Stein and Tracy Hinson had just offered an oil painting of that same scene to the town, as a gift.

Dick told official curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz that he found the painting behind an upstairs desk at last year’s Red Barn tag sale. Owner Tommy Nistico asked Dick if he knew where the lighthouse had been located. Dick remembered it instantly from  his youth.

The painting — by artist Harriet Horowitz, who moved from Westport in 1972 — was dusty and dirty. But Dick bought it, hoping it would one day hang in the Parks and Recreation Department office — at Longshore.

He had it cleaned and lightly repaired. Now he’s given it to the town.

Longshore lighthouse painting by Harriet Horowitz

That’s a great story. But there’s one more part.

According to alert “06880” reader Peter Barlow — who sent the lighthouse photo along for the “Friday Flashback” — in the late 1960s a popular Parks and Recreation Commission official ordered the demolition of the lighthouse.

Years later, he admitted it had been a mistake.

The commission member’s name?

Lou Nistico — father uncle of Red Barn owner Tom Nistico, who sold the lighthouse painting to Dick Stein.

Farmers’ Photos Fan Favorites

Two of our town’s most creative institutions — the Westport Farmers’ Market and Westport Arts Center — have teamed up to showcase the creativity of one of our town’s most important assets: our kids.

The Young Shoots Digital Photography Competition highlights images taken all summer long at the Farmers’ Market.

The remarkable shots — from every angle imaginable — pulse with life. Fruits, vegetables, flowers, people — they’re all there, showing off the vitality of the Thursday market in colorful, imaginative ways.

If you like what you see (and you will) you can vote for your favorite. There are 3 age groups: 8-11, 12-14, 15-18. But hurry: voting closes at midnight tomorrow, Tuesday, August 24.

Winners will have their work shown in a gallery-like setting at Sugar & Olives (a favorite Farmers’ Market vendor), and will receive a membership to the Arts Center. Really though, virtually every image is a winner.

Click here for the photos, and to vote. Warning: Don’t do it on an empty stomach.

One of the many entries in the Westport Farmers' Market photo contest.

One of the many entries in the Westport Farmers’ Market photo contest.

Library Geeks Get Ready To Party

As a noted family and portrait photographer, Pam Einarsen knew that a key to great shots is asking subjects to bring objects they like.

So when the Westport Library asked the longtime resident to photograph its “What do you geek?” project, she figured folks would bring their favorite things: dogs, games, sports equipment.

Pam had no idea of the incredible range of things Westporters love.

We “geek” human biology, burgundy, Harry Potter, Greek Islands, Toquet Hall, astronomy, break dancing, coffee, archery, knitting, astronomy, the Green Bay Packers, folk music, dragons, baking, and sleeping.

And that’s only the relatively normal stuff.

Geek - sleeping

Pam’s long project is over. And now — 500+ photos later — the library is ready to celebrate.

On Tuesday, August 30 (5-6:30 p.m.), there’s a free, public “Geek Party.” Everyone who posed for Pam — and everyone who has seen her photos, or wants to — is invited to the Great Hall.

In addition to the geek photos, the event includes improv artists, interactive games and puzzles, and refreshments.

The geek project — designed to highlight the breadth of our community, and showcase the library’s many services — was an eye-opener for Pam too.

Her subjects ranged from babies to 90-somethings, and included every ethnicity. Pam was impressed with their diversity of interests — and their smiles as they posed with their favorite objects.

This word cloud shows some of the many different things that Westporters geek. The size of the word indicates its relative popularity.

This word cloud shows some of the many different things that Westporters geek. The size of the word indicates its relative popularity.

The Wakeman Town Farm folks brought a chicken. Someone from Earthplace came with an owl. A girl arrived with a beautiful chameleon.

“People looked so happy and proud,” Pam reports. “They were surrounded with things that were meaningful — not just their ‘work.'”

New York Times crossword puzzle editor, for example, did not geek word games. His passion is ping pong.

Some youngsters geeked dinosaurs — no surprise. But so did a 70-year-old man.

Geek - dinosaurs

Some of the portraits were poignant. A woman in her 80s brought teddy bears — including one her husband gave her more than 40 years ago.

Geek - teddy bears

Some were funny. Library communications director Marcia Logan geeks her dog — and her dog geeks tennis balls.

Geek - tennis balls

Pam enjoyed serving as project photographer. She was also the informal host. As subjects waiting for their shots, Pam noticed something interesting.

“Kids and people who could have been their grandparents started talking,” she says. “They showed each other what they’d brought, and shared stories. The interaction was fabulous.”

Westporters geek a lot of things. On August 30, we can all geek the same thing together: a party.

Library geek photo

(For more information on the August 30 geek party, click here.)


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Isadora Duncan Lives — In Westport

Rodin called Isadora Duncan “the greatest woman who ever lived.”

The mother of modern dance died in 1927. (She was just 50. Her flowing silk scarf became entangled around the open-spoked wheels and axle of an automobile in Nice, France, breaking her neck.)

Now, 89 years later, Duncan — or at least her spirit — is alive and well in Westport.

Isadora Duncan

Isadora Duncan

On Sunday, September 11, the Isadora Duncan International Institute launches its 40th season with a dance performance and garden champagne reception at the early-20th century, very Duncanesque former Schlaet estate on Bluewater Hill.

The event benefits the Institute and Jeanne Bresciani, a world-renowned dancer and longtime Duncan Institute director.

And that’s where the Westport-Isadora Duncan connection becomes even tighter.

Back in the day, Duncan’s dancing delighted millions. But she also taught children. She adopted 6, who became known as “the Isadorables.” They performed in Europe and the US.

Three went on to teach as well, passing along Duncan’s beautiful, timeless technique. It has become the inspiration for creative dance education for children, and of dance therapies worldwide.

Vicky Sloat with 2 young dancers.

Vicky Sloat with 2 young dancers.

One of those Isadorables was Maria Theresa Duncan. She mentored Bresciani — who went on to teach Vicky Sloat.

Sloat has paid it forward, teaching children and teenagers in Westport for 12 years.

And — drum roll, please — she and her husband now own the Schlaet property.

The event thus comes full circle — an artistic, dancing circle. It bridges Isadora Duncan with a disciple of sorts, decades later — for a cause that will keep Duncan’s memory and work alive, for many decades to come.

(Tickets for the September 11 event are available here. For more information, click here.)


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Life On The Roseville Road Curve

The Roseville Road home is just about perfect. Built in 1923 on 2 acres of grass and woods, it’s handsome, welcoming and filled with love.

It’s where Linda Gramatky Smith grew up, and her father, Hardie Gramatky — painter/author/illustrator of “Little Toot” fame — worked. It’s where she and her husband Ken still live today.

Linda and Ken Smith's lovely Roseville Road home.

Linda and Ken Smith’s lovely Roseville Road home.

But no place is perfect.

Linda and Ken’s house sits on the dangerous curve, not far from the McDonald’s intersection at the Post Road. Time after time — often in snow, or at night — drivers end up on the front lawn. In the woods. Or through their stone wall.

Hardie Gramatky moved his family there in 1947. From then through his death in 1979, with unfortunate regularity, they heard the loud bang of a crash.

Homer Mills Sr. — a local mason — told Hardie that the stone wall was “my annuity.” Twice a year, he rebuilt it.

The stone wall after a recent accident. Drivers hit it when they fail to negotiate the southbound (toward McDonald's) curve.

The stone wall after a recent accident. Drivers hit it when they fail to negotiate the southbound (toward McDonald’s) curve.

The night Hardie collapsed — he’d just been honored by the American Watercolor Society — the wall was hit again. “This has not bee an good day,” the artist said. He died 2 days later.

In 1982, Linda moved with her mother to New Jersey. She and Ken bought the house, and for the next 11 years they rented it out. They were gone, but the accidents continued.

In 1994 — a year after the couple moved back here, and into their home — a 17-year-old speeder from Weston slammed into the post. His air bag saved his life. Linda and Ken got one for their own car.

A humorous plaque on the side of Linda and Ken Smith's house.

A humorous plaque on the side of Linda and Ken Smith’s house.

When Joe Arcudi — Linda’s 1960 Staples High School classmate — ran for 1st selectman, he promised to do something about the dangerous curve. (He recalled driving fast on the same “Rollercoaster Road” as a rite of passage in his own youth.)

After Arcudi was elected, he and Police Chief William Chiarenzelli met with Linda and Ken. They discussed a stop sign on nearby Colony Road, and a speed bump (there had been one a while earlier on Roseville near Whitney Street, but it was removed after a driver took it too fast and hit his head on his roof).

Ultimately, they settled on a couple of very large yellow signs with big arrows. Those have been a “significant help” in decreasing the number of accidents, Linda says.

But they have not stopped entirely. On Memorial Day morning in 2013, Linda drove out of her garage and felt a bump. It was a large rock.

Looking around, she spotted a car upside down near the woods. Fortunately, no one was still inside.

A Memorial Day accident 3 years ago put this car into the Smiths' woods.

A Memorial Day accident 3 years ago put this car into the Smiths’ woods.

A 23-year-old from Fairfield had flipped his car the night before, taking out a tree and pushing a rock toward the garage. He’d walked to McDonald’s, where a friend picked him up.

“His insurance company was great,” Linda says.

A couple of Sundays ago, at 12:15 a.m., Linda, Ken and their 9-year-old grandson heard a screech, then a crash.

This time, it was a 20-year-old Westporter. He was charged with traveling too fast, failure to stay in the proper lane, and operating a motor vehicle under suspension and without insurance.

The aftermath of the most recent crash.

The aftermath of the most recent crash.

“It’s no longer every 6 months. But it’s still very scary,” Linda says. “People travel too fast. We constantly worry that someone may die.”

“This house has been part of Linda’s family for almost 70 years,” Ken says. “This comes with the territory.”

He has a ritual. When a guest leaves, he walks onto Roseville Road. When the coast is clear, he gives the driver a wave.

That’s not Ken’s idea. For decades, Hardie Gramatky did the same thing.


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Lisa Addario’s “Amateur Night”

Lynsey Addario gets plenty of shout-outs on “06880.”

But the Pulitzer Prize and MacArthur grant-winning New York Times photographer is not the only talented member of the 4-female-sibling family.*

Lisa — a 1986 Staples High School graduate — has just written and directed “Amateur Night” (with her husband, Joe Syracuse).

Based on their early experiences in Hollywood, the film stars Jason Biggs, Janet Montgomery and Ashley Tisdale. It’s also the feature debut for Eddie Murphy’s daughter, Bria Murphy.

“Amateur Night” opens today (Friday, August 5) in New York and Los Angeles. It’s then in select cities — and video on demand — beginning August 12.

Here’s the trailer. Warning: It’s rated R!

*And of course we love their parents, Philip and Camille.


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Where Tess’ Love Begins

How do you define forever?

That’s a question Suzanne Tanner faces every day.

Tess Tanner (Photo/Suzanne Tanner)

Tess Tanner (Photo/Suzanne Tanner)

She’s the mother of Tess Tanner, a 12-year-old Coleytown Middle School musician, actor, environmentalist and fun-loving girl who died 5 summers ago in a motor vehicle accident, while attending summer camp in Maine.

For Suzanne, “forever” means never letting go of her daughter’s poetry, passions and determination to make a difference.

It also means honoring Tess with a musical theater production that Suzanne herself has written.

“Where the Love Begins” is a musical memoir — “a mother’s love story,” she says — titled after Tess’ 1st poem, written when she was 5.

Suzanne performs a world premiere reading of the musical on Wednesday, August 17 — the 5th anniversary of her daughter’s death — at Saugatuck Congregational Church (7:30 p.m.).

The free event includes a special dance tribute by Staples High School junior Katherine Flug.

where the love beginsThere’s special poignancy to the show. Many of Tess’ classmates leave soon, entering college and pursuing passions of their own.

Suzanne — an award-winning musician while at Harvard — calls her multimedia composition “a musical monument” for her daughter, and “a thank-you gift to the universe for the profound privilege of parenthood.”

The show has received Broadway interest. It will workshop next year, fulfilling Suzanne’s mission to immortalize her daughter’s essence, and continue Tess’ emphasis on family, friendship and faith in forever love.

(For more information, click here or email PoeTessProductions@gmail.com)

Holy Staples Players! Kevin Conroy Is Batman!

In April, “06880” profiled Kevin Conroy.

For over 20 years, the 1973 Staples High School graduate has lent his “deeply charming, yet virile voice” to 9 Batman TV series, 12 animated movies and 7 video games. No other actor has played Batman for so long, or been as closely identified with him.

Today, the New York Times finally took notice.

Kevin Conroy (Photo/Ben Esner for NY Times)

Kevin Conroy (Photo/Ben Esner for NY Times)

The Arts section features a full-length story on Conroy — who, it should be noted, is hardly a 1-trick Batman. The Juilliard alum also toured nationally with “Deathtrap,” appeared on the soap opera “Another World,” played Laertes in the New York Shakespeare Festival, acted on Broadway, and was a regular on “Ohara” and “Tour of Duty.”

But it’s as Batman he’s best known, and that’s the Times hook. Jeff Muskus writes:

He has logged the most screen time of anyone in the comic-book vigilante’s 77-year history — without ever showing his face onscreen for the role. Still, his voice, deep and resonant, has defined the character for fans who grew up with his shows, and again for those devouring his three Arkham video games.

“It’s so much fun as an actor to sink your teeth into,” Mr. Conroy, 60, said over lunch in New York’s theater district. “Calling it animation doesn’t do it justice. It’s more like mythology.”

The story notes that “school plays” — aka Staples Players — provided Conroy with a home, away from his dysfunctional family (he lived some of the time with friends).

Muskus concludes:

Unlike Batman, Mr. Conroy has managed to resolve much of his childhood trauma. First, he sought a modicum of financial stability….He saved during his stage and Los Angeles days, flipping houses on both coasts, and supported and made peace with his parents in their final years. “I was able to speak for my father at his funeral and sing for my mother at hers,” he said.

Mr. Conroy said he’s grateful for his long-running second act. “I’ve been really fortunate to have gotten Batman, because he’s a character that’s just evolved,” he said. “It’s just been a character where you can ride that wave for 24 years. Keeping him alive, keeping him from getting just dark and boring and broody, is the challenge.”

Click here to read the full New York Times story. Click here for the Times’ selection of Conroy’s standout Batman performances.

(Hat tip: James A. Torrey)


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