Category Archives: Arts

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 24 Art Gallery

Happy Labor Day weekend!

That’s the theme of a few of this week’s art gallery submissions. As we enjoy this end-of-a-strange-summer holiday, we also celebrate the wonders of Westport.

As always, all submissions are welcome — in any medium. The only rule: It should be inspired by, relevant to, or somehow, in some way, connected to our current world. Student art of all ages is especially welcome.

Coronavirus, social justice, politics, or just the beauty around us — have at it! Email dwoog@optonline.net, to share your work with the world.

“Current Issues.” Photographer Rowene Weems — who took this shot at Assumption Cemetery on Kings Highway North — says, “Initially I was fascinated by the broken edges of the tree (there are so many these days. Lightning? Wind? Crazy!). Then, by the flag in the tree. Was the flag there first or after? Then I began to see it all more symbolically. There’s a lot going on in our world right now that feels pretty shattering.”

“Compo Cove During COVID” (Roseann Spengler)

“Happy Labor Day Weekend!” (Amy Schneider)

“A Natural Horse” (Karen Weingarten)

“Cottage in the Woods” (Lawrence Weisman)

“Burying Hill” (Lisa Seidenberg)

Dracula Highlights Library’s StoryFest

From F. Scott Fitzgerald and J.D. Salinger to John Hersey and Peter De Vries, then on to A.E. Hotchner and Jane Green, Westport has long been a writer’s town.

Back in the day, a special Rabbit Hill festival celebrated the works of local children’s author Robert Lawson.

In 2018, the Westport Library introduced a new community-wide literary event. Dedicated to every genre imaginable, it celebrated the written word, in all its forms.

Because of COVID, StoryFest 2020 will be virtual. From Sepetember 15-29, more than a dozen live and pre-recorded events will feature top authors and creators in fiction, comics and young adult literature.

Highlights include:

  • A live opening: “Stoker on Stoker,” featuring Dacre Stoker — best-selling author and great-grandson of Dracula’s own Bram Stoker (Tuesday, September 15, 7 p.m.), followed by “Beyond Stoker: Contemporary Visions of Vampires in Fiction” (8:30 p.m.).

  • Bestselling thriller writes Wendy Walker and L.C. Shaw share their latest books, “Don’t Look For Me” and “The Silent Conspiracy” (Wednesday, September 16, 7 p.m.).
  • A panel with speculative fiction writers Charlie Jane Anders, Sarah Galley, Stephen Graham Jones, Tochi Onyebuchi and Paul Tremblay, diving into “The World in the Mirror: How Genre Imagines the Present” (Wednesday, September 23, 7 p.m.).
  • Josh Malerman explores the terrifying world of “Bird Box” and its recent sequel “Malorie” (Thursday, September 24, 8 p.m.).

Also scheduled:

  • “Displays of Affection: How Love Stories Reflect the World” (Thursday, September 17, 7 p.m.).
  • “What the Dark Teaches Us” (Friday, September 18, 7 p.m.).
  • “How the Story Tells Itself: The Unexpected Narrative” (Monday, September 21, 7 p.m.)
  • “In Our Next Issue: Comics and the New Worlds in Their Pages” (Monday, September 21, 8:30 p.m.).
  • “Then and Now: How History Shapes Stories for the Present” (Tuesday, September 22, 7 p.m.).
  • “Final Cuts: New Tales of Hollywood Horror and Other Spectacles” (Thursday, September 24, 7 p.m.)
  • “Valuing the Spectrum of Identities in YA” (Tuesday, September 29)
  • “Finding Bravery Through Books (Tuesday, September 29, 4 p.m.).

All events are free. Click here for full details; click on an individual session to register. An email link will be sent 48 hours before the event.

Roundup: School Calendar And Kudos, Fitness, Fishing, More


The start of school may look unfamiliar — including the calendar.

But when you look at the Westport School Student Art calendar, you’ll realize that some things never change. Fortunately.

Despite disruption, the Westport Public Art Collections has produced its 2020-21 calendar. As always, it features great K-12 student art

Calendars can be purchased online (click here) and at ASF Sports & Outdoors (1560 Post Road East).

As always, proceeds support the care and maintenance of the fabulous Westport Public Art Collections. Works hang in all public buildings and are placed in outdoor parks. The most recent addition: the “Rock, Paper, Scissors” sculpture donated by Staples graduates Ann Sheffer and Bill Scheffler, to be installed soon near the Westport Library.

The cover of the 2020-21 Westport Public Schools calendar was drawn by Sophia Sheng, Coleytown Elementary School 5th grader.


Speaker of back-to-school: Staples High School teachers Deirdre Flores and Sarah Stanley spotted this sign on Pumpkin Hill Road.

As they stopped to take a picture, the homeowner cheered them — and thanked them from her porch. It made their day — and made them proud of what they do, and where they do it.


Missing your fitness? Wondering how you’ll survive whatever’s ahead when the weather turns cooler? Thought about taking a fitness class, but uncertain about how they work?

Head downtown on Saturday, September 12.

The Westport Downtown Merchants Association sponsors its first Health and Fitness Expo. JoyRide, RowHouse, Pure Barre and Athleta will all stage live classes outdoors, on Main Street. All will include levels of fitness and ability. All will of course follow COVID-19 requirements.

Vendors will also present health and fitness concepts. Church Lane merchants may join in too.

For more information — including how your business can participate — email events1@westportdma.com.


As summer ends, a shout-out to Alec Udell. Son of Staples grad Jeff Udell, he was visiting his grandmother Judy and went fishing at Compo, on the jetty by the cannons.

Using very light tackle, he caught this 30-inch striped bass. After a photo op, Alec released it safely back into the water.


And finally … today in 1888, George Eastman patented the first roll-film camera, and registered the name “Kodak.”

Roundup: COVID Testing, College Help, Gatsby in Connecticut, More


A reader writes:

“I just got myself and my kids tested at St Vincent’s Medical Center drive-thru at 47 Long Lots Road.

“I called 860-972-8100 this morning, got an appointment (no symptoms, no suspected contact, just routine — I wanted a baseline before school starts).

“We drove straight over (they are open 8 a.m. to noon). There was no line, no cost, just a gentle nose swab. They said results would be available in 3-5 days. We got ours in 1 day!

“Boom! Easy! In my opinion, we should/could all be doing this before school starts.”


Since 1952, STAR Lighting the Way has helped people of all ages impacted by intellectual and developmental disabilities live full, independent  lives.

They’re now launching a broader multi-lingual program for children experiencing, or at risk of, developmental delays. It expands services from birth through age 5, with additional options for children up to 8.

It includes direct coaching intervention by licensed occupational, physical, speech and behavioral therapists, and special education teachers; developmental evaluations and consultations; transition to school support; group activities (birth to age 5) like feeding, movement, play and music groups, plus additional services (6 to 8) including behavioral supports, assistive technology, translation and family supports.

For more information, email Barbara Fitzpatrick (starrubino@starct.org), or call 203-855-0634.


There’s a new college counseling service in town. And the counselors are not even out of college.

Nishika Navrange and Genevieve Demenico are 2019 Staples High School graduates. Both are products of the entire Westport school system. They were presidents of Staples’ Science Olympiad team and members of numerous honor societies. They attend NYU and Georgetown Universities (right now, online). So they know high school — and college.

Through Zoom and outdoor, socially distanced meetings, they offer essay help (“it’s a narrow way of writing, and we help keep the student’s personal voice,” they say), Common App advice, and counsel on where to apply.

Because they know students at “nearly every popular school,” Neshika and Genevieve can connect high schoolers with current collegians, for a personal connection and even (when they resume) a college tour.

For more information, email ctcollegeconsultants@gmail.com.

Genevieve Demenico and Nishika Navrange.


“Gatsby in Connecticut” — the video by Robert Steven Williams chronicling F. Scott Fitzgerald’s time in Westport, and its impact on his classic novel (with Sam Waterston as the writer, and voiceover by Keir Dullea) — is now available to rent, download or buy.

It’s available on Amazon Instant, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, Fandango Now, Vimeo, Microsoft Xbox and YouTube, and via most cable providers. Click here for the trailer.

And click here to read an insightful review from The New Yorker. (Hat tip: Fred Cantor)


And finally … what was the most popular song of 1920, the year F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived in Westport (as noted above)? It was “Swanee” by Al Jolson — shown here in what to our eyes, 100 years later, is jarringly inappropriate blackface.

Westport School Of Music: A New Tune On Newtown Turnpike

In 1938, Marguerite Maxwell opened the Westport School of Music on Hillspoint Road. With 2 teachers and 40 students, it was a cultural and educational addition to what was already a burgeoning artists’ community.

In 1946, Maxwell purchased property on Woods Grove Road. The school moved there, with 9 faculty and over 100 students. Her rapport with children, organizational skills and administrative ability all helped drive the WSM’s growth.

Concert pianist Richard Gregor joined the faculty as artist-teacher in 1958. He created the first Scholarship Fund Benefit Concert 2 years later. Since then, more than 500 students have been granted over $140, 000 in aid.

Gregor took over as director following Maxwell’s death in 1972. As a teacher, administrator and performer, he too left his mark on the school.

The next director — Martha Hisey — ​used funds raised from Newman’s Own Foundation, Near And Far Aid Organization, The Fairfield County Foundation, and generous parents and donors to begin the WSM MusicWorks! music therapy program for students with special needs. She also developed chamber music series.

Sarah Miller became the 4th director in 2017. She continues the WSM tradition of excellence, while incorporating new initiatives like community partnerships and collaborations.

They include student performances for residents in long-term care faiclities, a partnership with Norwalk Housing Authority to bring 4th and 5th graders to a chorus/movement program, a Celtic music workshop for string players, and a chorus pilot project with the Senior Center.

Now the Westport School of Music is making another major change.

The Woods Grove property that for 74 years has been the school’s home has been showing its age. Repair and maintenance needs have increased.

The Westport School of Music on Woods Grove Road.

Last fall, Miller visited MoCA Westport to see if their exhibit space would work for yearly recitals and biannual student chamber concerts.

Executive director Ruth Mannes gave her a tour of MoCA’s new 19 Newtown Turnpike space. The 2nd floor was not in use.

Voila! That floor will soon be the new home of Westport School of Music. Like MoCA, they are a tenant of what was once Martha Stewart’s TV studio; the 2 organizations are not merging.

But the synergy of two cultural organizations in close physical proximity — with common goals of building new audiences, exploring collaborative projects and strengthening community ties — is exciting.

WSM students, faculty and families can be engaged with MoCA exhibits and programs. Similarly, the museum’s artists, students and visitors can be engaged with the music school’s offerings.

Westport School of Music takes over the 2nd floor at 19 Newtown Turnpike.

WSM begins its 83rd school year September 21. Since mid-March, instruction has been online.

Miller praises her staff’s ability to pivot quickly and professionally. Parents have praised their continued focus on a strong technical foundation, self-discipline and creativity. Virtual end-of-year recitals were well received too.

The 2020-21 school year opens with 3 weeks of online lessons. If it’s safe to do so, in-person instruction begins the week of October 12.

Piano, violin, viola, cello, string and electric bass, and acoustic guitar will be offered in the new location. Woodwind and voice instruction will be online, in step with the latest research on aerosol spread of COVID-19.

Virtual instruction on all instruments is an option for any student whose parents are not comfortable with in-person learning.

From the woods of Woods Grove, to the woods of Newtown Turnpike, this marks an exciting new adventure for the Westport School of Music. For information on programs and offerings, click here.

MoCA Offers Pod Learning Program For Kids

Distance and hybrid learning is a challenge for everyone.

MoCA Westport wants to help.

A new “Pod Learning Program” provides supplemental educational support to Westport students, as they navigate distance and hybrid learning.

The program offers support to students ages 6-11 in math and literacy, along with a robust art curriculum.

MoCA says, “In this challenging time, our program will ensure that foundational concepts introduced in elementary school classrooms will be reviewed, students’ homework will be completed, 1-on-1 tutoring sessions will be readily available, and art education will be woven throughout.

“As an active contemporary art museum, students will also have the opportunity to directly explore and engage with MoCA Westport’s exhibitions. The arts-focused portion of the curriculum will go beyond arts and crafts to include in-depth projects consistent with current exhibition themes.”

MoCA’s outdoor space will allow students to play outside and social safely. Modern indoor spaces will be used too.

Students will be grouped in consistent “pods,” with others from their school and grade. Parents are encouraged to form a pod from their school, and register as a group of 6 students.

Morning and afternoon sessions are available, with 1-way transportation provided. Students attending in the morning will receive transportation to their school post-session; afternoon students will receive transportation from their school to MoCA Westport.

Youngsters enjoying a MoCA arts program last February.

The program’s core curriculum teachers are accredited and established
teachers with experience in traditional classroom settings. Arts education
teachers are established instructors with a depth and range of projects that “create dialogue, build creativity, and foster a deeper understanding and appreciation for the arts.”

All health and safety measures will be explicitly followed including physical
distancing and wearing face masks indoors at all times.

For details on MoCA Westport’s Pod Learning Program, click here, email anne@mocawestport.org, or call 203-222-7070. Scholarship opportunities are available; email ruth@mocawestport.org.

Roundup: Goodwill, Chadwick Boseman, Native Plant Sale, More


Like most state senators running for re-election, Will Haskell has a corps of helpful volunteers.

They knock on doors. They make calls.

On Friday though, they turned from campaigning to community service.

Over 40 people — of all ages — headed to Westport’s Goodwill. The organization often gets more book donations than they can use. Haskell’s crew plowed through 16 bins, finding over 8,000 appropriate for elementary school children in Bridgeport.

I’ll resist the urge to make a pun like “Good, Will!” (Hat tip: Jeff Wieser)

Sorting through books at Goodwill.


The death of Chadwick Boseman on Friday at age 43 saddened his many fans. It also brought renewed attention to his starring role as Thurgood Marshall — America’s first Black Supreme Court justice.

The 2017 movie “Marshall” was written by Westporter Michael Koskoff — a noted civil rights attorney — and his son Jacob, a Staples High School graduate who is now a screenwriter.

The film takes place in 1941, when a young Marshall defended a black chauffeur against his wealthy socialite employer in a sexual assault and attempted murder trial. Marshall was partnered with Sam Friedman, a young Jewish lawyer in Bridgeport who had never tried a case. Click here for the amazing back story. (Hat tip: Mary Gai)

Chadwick Boseman at the premiere of “Marshall” with Mike Koskoff’s wife Roz and grandson Eli. (Photo courtesy of Darcy Hicks)


Aspetuck Land Trust is staying true to its roots. The non-profit announces its first-ever fall native plant sale. All are grown at Planter’s Choice in Newtown.

The goal is to encourage biodiversity, as all offerings — from perennials to trees — attract pollinators and wildlife.

All come with plans, kits and instructions for all locations, levels of sun and soil conditions. Four landscape partners are also available to help (click here for details).

They can be picked up at Earthplace, or delivered to your home. 50% of each purchase is tax-deductible.

Online orders are open while supplies last, or until September 17. The spring sale sold out quickly. Click here for all offerings.


Westport artist Michael Chait offers an outdoor exhibit today, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the courtyard outside 11 Riverside Avenue.

He’ll show his “fun and kooky experimental videos” on vintage television sets. He pays homage to television’s beginning, and explores where it may be going.

He calls it “Video Paradisio,” and it plays on a continuous 10-minute loop. The public is invited.


And finally … it’s Sunday morning!

 

 

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 23 Gallery

As August ends, our art gallery continues as strongly as ever.

As always, all submissions are welcome — in any medium. The only rule: It should be inspired by, relevant to, or somehow, in some way, connected to our current world.

Coronavirus, social justice, politics — have at it! Email dwoog@optonline.net, to share your work with the world.

“In the Deep End” (Amy Schneider)

“Burying Hill to Frost Point” (Werner Liepolt)

“Take a ‘Musical Moment'” (Lawrence Gordon)

“The Great Escape” (Ellin Spadone)

“Small Twigs Against a Blue-Colored Sky” (Larry Untermeyer)

“See No Evil. Hear No Evil. Hundreds of People at Compo Beach Not Masked.” (Ann Chernow)

“Come Outside” (Jo Ann Davidson)

“Ennui” (Marybeth Woods)

“All Twisted Up” (Karen Weingarten)

“Another Brick in the Wall” (Tracy Benton)

The Rachel Rose Of Texas

Earlier this summer, Savvy + Grace sponsored a great afternoon of sidewalk music.

Some of the entertainers were current Westporters. Getting to the Main Street gifts-and-more shop was easy.

Rachel Rose’s route to the Main Street gig was a bit more circuitous.

The Long Lots Elementary, Bedford Middle and Staples High School (Class of 2014) grad was fortunate that her grandmother, Sylvia Wachtel, lived in Westport too. A huge Turner Classic Movies fan, Sylvia shared her love of jazz films — and the music of Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Etta James — with Rachel.

Rachel’s parents were also music fans. They played Bryan Adams and John Mayer CDs in the car. Her dad liked the Dead, Steve Miller and Dave Matthews.

Rachel Rose

After graduation, Rachel — who sang with Staples’ Orphenians, and took private lessons with Cynthia Gibb — headed to the University of Texas. She calls Austin “the live music capital of the world,” and figured it was the perfect place to get a general degree (she majored in psychology) while also performing.

She joined an elite UT vocal group, Ensemble 109, and formed a band. Austin’s 6th Street bar-and-music scene was indeed hopping. She played everywhere, met plenty of people, and got an A&R job with a music streamer.

Rachel calls her musical style “Jewish soul., contemporary soul and R&B.” She identified with Amy Winehouse, whose “Back to Black” album was particularly influential.

Jazz remained important to Rachel. New York had a more robust jazz and sould scene than Austin, Rachel says, so in 2018 she reluctantly left Austin, and relocated to Brooklyn.

As soon as she arrived she began writing songs. “It was a leap of faith,” she says. “I tried to find my image, my music.”

What emerged was “a melding of Austin and Brooklyn.” This past February she quit her job with a music distribution company, and concentrated full time on her career.

She finished writing songs for her EP this spring. In mid-August she released her first single, “You.” It’s available on every major platform.

The second single followed. The full EP is available September 7.

Her Savvy + Grace gig represented a great “homecoming” for Rachel Rose. There could not have been a more appropriate venue, for this savvy, graceful — and quite talented — rising star.

(Click here for Rachel Rose’s website.) 

Roundup: School Concerns, Supper & Soul, Parks & Rec & WTF Programs, More


As the reopening of school nears, stress levels are high. And they’re not just confined to adults.

Positive Directions — Westport’s not-for-profit center for counseling and mental health issues — offers tips for supporting a child with concerns about going back to school. Click here to read.


The Dead are coming to Westport.

Well, at least Terrapin: A Grateful Dead Experience, is. They draw raves, with their state-of-the-art equipment and true Garcia/Weir channeling.

They’re the next band for “Support & Soul,” the Westport- Weston Chamber of Concert/Westport Library drive-in collaboration.

Previous Supper & Soul shows — with Mystic Bowie, the Tom Petty Project and Mullett — have sold out.

Tickets are $100 per car (5 people max). The go on sale this Friday (August 28, 10 a.m.; click here). The Chamber urges concert-goers to support local restaurants, by ordering takeout for the show.


Registration began this morning for Westport’s Parks & Recreation fall programs. They include tennis clinics, Sports Squirts, IST Baseball and virtual at-home programs. Among the new programs: Skyhawks Hoopster Tots, Overtime Athletics Big Swing Whiffleball and High Fives Running Club.

Click here to see all programs, and to register.

Registration for Wakeman Town Farm’s fall programs will also be done through the Parks & Recreation department; just click here. Offerings include the Mommy (and Daddy) + Me “Little Farmers,” new Music Together classes, and programs for teens. All are safe, socially distanced and outdoors .

Questions about any program, or how to register online? Email recreation@westportct.gov, or call 203-341-5152.

 


An alert reader writes:

“In June of 2018, my wife was checking some flowers in our garden. She heard some rustling behind a large bush, and out popped a white deer.

“This prompted a bit of research. Only 1% of deer in the Northeast are white. In various cultures the white deer has some positive mythological significance. It can be viewed as a message from another world or the hereafter. This was startling to us, but in a good way.

“Two weeks before our first sighting, our family had put to rest a loved one just up the hill in the Christ & Holy Trinity Cemetery. So who knows?

“We continue to see the deer (there may now be 2) sporadically. Neighbors say  she (or they) are often sighted throughout Old Hill.”


Musicians everywhere have missed connecting with live audiences.

But when members of the Jazz at Lincoln Center concerts and touring team attended the American String Quartet concert at MoCA Westport last month, they saw the potential in the museum’s outdoor stage, vast grounds, and the way  attendees maintained social distancing

So MoCA proudly announces a new concert event. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Spotlight features the Alexa Tarantino Quartet on Friday, September 4 (7 p.m, MoCA Westport, 19 Newtown Turnpike).  

Tarantino is an award-winning, vibrant young jazz saxophonist, woodwind doubler and composer. Jazz Times’ Critics Poll named her a Top 5 Alto Saxophonist of 2019.

Concertgoers bring their own lawn chairs and food. There are food and drink trunks on the grounds, too. Click here for tickets, or call 203-222-7070.

Alex Tarantino


Saugatuck Rowing Club past commodore Carol Randel and her team — the Randelles — are leading a fundraiser to help people fighting cancer gain access to healthy food.

The “Row for Recovery” event addresses an unseen problem. Area residents must often decide between food and medical treatment. The pandemic has made the situation more dire.

Row for Recovery — set for Saturday, September 12 at the Rowing Club on Riverside Avenue — will help Norwalk Hospital’s Whittingham Cancer Center provide prepaid grocery store cards to people needing good nutrition during cancer treatment. $100 feeds a family of 4 for a month.

Click here to register, and for a course map.

Carol Randel


Amy Berkin writes: “I was downtown for a meeting, and wanted to enjoy a cup of coffee on a bench by the river. Look at this! It’s awful that people are not throwing away trash, and no garbage cans are out. Very sad for the town, and the wildlife in the river.

(Photo/Amy Berkin)

And finally … today is National Dog Day! Arf!