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Category Archives: Downtown
Cultural institutions are reopening around Connecticut. However, the Westport Museum for History and Culture will remain closed.
Executive director Ramin Ganeshram says it’s not because they want to. Instead, she wrote in an email to members, “we have to.”
One reason: the “antique building with small rooms and an aged HVAC system” lacks the air filtration or cross-ventilation needed to host more than 1 or 2 visitor at a time.
In addition, a “major structural failure in the center of the building that was left unaddressed for many years and exacerbated by aspects of the way the building was used” will take “a lot of time and a lot of financial resources to ultimately fix.”
However, Ganeshram said, the COVID closure has allowed staff to “fix both the structural failure and work to save collections and archives that had not been properly assessed, catalogued or preserved for many decades.”
MoCA Westport is reopening. The big day is Wednesday (July 8).
In anticipation, they’ve released a short film showcasing the current exhibition: “Helmut Lang: 41.1595° N, 73.3882° W.”
The video from Douglas Tirola and 4th Row Films offers a first-person experience of walking through the exhibition, and provides background on Lang’s inspiration for the works. Click below to see.
Last night was gorgeous. The temperature was just right. It was Friday — the start of the weekend.
It was the perfect night for a picnic, meeting friends, or sunset watching at Compo Beach. It hardly mattered that there are no grills or picnic tables, and the concession stand is closed.
Nearly everyone heeded the social distancing signs. Many wore masks. And nearly everyone seemed grateful to be outdoors, with other people, again.
The Main Street planters are all in place. The Westport Downtown Merchants Association project was created to provide more room for shoppers.
This was the scene yesterday morning. Come on down — there’s plenty of space!
Speaking of flowers: This week’s Westport Garden Club #Friday Flowers decorations are at Nevada Hitchcock Park *the corner of Cross Highway and Weston Road).
Two great factoids: The park honors Hitchcock, a founding member of the club. And the flowers — from the gardens of Andi Turner, Janice Yost and Topsy Siderowf — are pollinators. This is National Pollinator Week.
Meanwhile, the Pop’TArt gallery downtown had a low-key opening last night for its new “Scheherezade: The Shapes of Stories” sculpture exhibition. It will be up for the next month.
It’s outdoors — to the delight of at least one young, budding art lover.
When COVID forced shutdowns and program closures, STAR went to work.
For the past 68 years, the organization has provided services and support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families.
During the pandemic. STAR’s 45-minute Zoom classes kept clients and their loved ones connected and involved.
Westport participants have included Yvonne O’Kane, who taught cupcake decorating; artist Miggs Burroughs, State Senator Will Haskell, and Wakeman Town Farm. There’s been live music too, along with virtual dance parties.
Kudos to STAR, for this innovative, important programming — and to all who help make it work. Click here for more information.
And finally … Happy jUNe Day!
Growing up, Rob Trauber spent only a couple of years in Westport.
But the town made enough of an impression on him that — more than 40 years later — he decided to open a new store here.
That’s significant. Trauber is not some fledgling shopkeeper. He’s the CEO of Johnny Was.
This Friday (July 3), the 56th store in the women’s California-inspired, women’s clothing and accessories chain debuts at 81 Main Street. It’s the first Johnny Was in Connecticut.
And Trauber’s 1970s youth has a lot to do with this location.
The former Kings Highway Elementary School student has fond memories of the riding his bike around town, and taking the minnybus to Longshore and Compo. He bought candy at Carmine’s smoke shop. He remembers those Jimmy Carter-era days as if they were yesterday.
Sure, Trauber’s family moved from Westport long ago. But he has retained his ties. Eight years ago, he built a house on Sturges. His brother-in-law lives here now, as does one of his best friends.
Johnny Was’ collections — one-of-a-kind kimonos, swimwear, denim jackets, pants, blouses and pajamas, along with jewelry, shoes and handbags — are in upscale places like Southampton, Boca Raton and Carmel.
Trauber has wanted to open in Westport. Yet until recently, he says, “rents were out of whack compared to volumes.”
Then a great space opened up, just past Lululemon. “It’s the right street, and the right area of the street,” he says.
Trauber lives now in San Marino. “It’s the closest thing in Los Angeles to Westport,” he says. “The people remind me of Westport.” There are even “East Coast trees,” like 100-foot oaks.
Though the retail world has shifted dramatically in recent years, Trauber — who worked for J. Crew when the Westport location was one of its top 5 in the nation — believes firmly in downtown.
“The irrelevant retailers are gone,” he says. “There’s a place for aspirational, luxury brands that have the feel of boutiques. Customers love to touch and feel things, try them on.”
His neighbors — like one of Anthropologie’s biggest stores, and Serena & Lily — are the types of places Johnny Was enjoys being near.
On his most recent trip “home,” Trauber drove by his old home near Cranbury Road. He put his daughters on a bench overlooking the pond he often skated on. Everything felt right.
His California executives are not traveling now, due to COVID-19. So the Manhattan-based team (and Trauber’s brother-in-law) will represent him at the July 3 opening.
He’ll miss seeing the bright murals, tile floor, reclaimed wood tables and bronze hardware. But he promises to be here soon.
Until then, he’s doing one special thing for Westport.
When he rode his bike into town for candy, Trauber sometimes did not have enough money. Carmine let him buy it “on account,” or gave it to him free.
To pay homage, for a limited time Johnny Was will provide free vintage candy to customers.
The Westport location has not even opened. But already we’re way cooler than Southampton, Boca Raton and Carmel.
BONUS FACTOID: The name of the chain comes from an old Bob Marley song, “Johnny Was a Good Man.”
Many sports camps are closed this summer. So are science camps, space camps — most camps, period.
But the Westport Library’s new Camp Explore is open. And open to all children, everywhere.
It’s a weekly, virtual (and free) program. Kids can experience it any time. They can watch it alone, or share with friends. There’s something for everyone.
The program kicks off on July 9 with Jennie Lynn Finch. The softball pitcher led the US to a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics, and a silver 4 years later.
Also in July, deep sea explorer Dr. Robert Ballard returns to the library. The discoverer of wrecks like Titanic and the Bismarck, he’ll show campers what life is like on his ship the Nautilus.
Shark lovers will enjoy Emmy-winning writer and cinematographer Kevin Bachar. He spent 10 years as a National Geographic producer, and wrote specials for “Shark Week.”
Kids will also appreciate Emily Calandrelli. The MIT engineer-turned-TV host was a featured correspondent on “Bill Nye Saves the World,” host of “Xploration Outer Space,” and wrote the children’s book series “Ada Lace Adventures.”
New York Knicks star Charles Smith will share his story, from his career as an athlete to his accomplishments as a corporate executive.
Camp Explore also features Jerry Craft, author of the novel “New Kid” and comic strip “Mama’s Boyz.”
The program ends with R.L. Stine. The “Goosebumps” author will do a (virtual) reading around a campfire.
The Library will provide a “Keep Exploring Kit” to accompany each presentation, with suggested books to read, films to view, and fun activities. Separate kits are geared for children entering grades 4-5, and 6-8.
Click here for more details, and registration information.
Everyone’s talking about the skills young people need to navigate today’s world. We’re all concerned about civic virtues. Of course, everyone wants to develop creative thinkers.
Westport Continuing Education is sponsoring an online course — “The Art of Innovation: Cultivating Qualities for the Emerging Future” — for students entering grade 10 through college.
Set for July 13 to 17 (10 a.m. to noon), it will focus on skills like critical thinking, collaboration and global perspectives.
Click here to register. For more information, including scholarships, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 203-341-1209.
There may not be fireworks. But Pauli’s Deli will celebrate July 4.
The Norwalk-based bagels-and-breakfast place replaces Bagel Maven that day.
Last night, Chris Fanning snapped a shot of the preparations:
One more reopening sign: MoCA Westport has announced a concert with the renowned American String Quartet.
It’s July 31. And it’s a real one. Not virtual, Zoom, Facebook Live or anywhere else in cyberspace.
The performance is outdoors at the museum, with groups spread 6 feet apart and masked. Concert-goers should bring their own chairs and snacks, though drinks and food are available for purchase before the concert.
MoCA Westport concert series curator (and Staples High School graduate) Alexander Platt will provide commentary. He knows the American String Quartet through his work over the last 18 years in Woodstock.
“Back then they were the gold standard in American string quartets — and they still are now,” Platt says.
“I can’t wait to hear their beautiful music again — now, more than ever. Their program — sublime Mozart, bracing Shostakovich and appropriately, Dvorak’s ‘American’ string quartet — will be the perfect musical tonic, after all we’ve been through.”
Click here for tickets, or call 203-222-7070. The maximum number of tickets will be limited by state guidelines.
Two organizations at opposite ends of the age spectrum — Toquet Hall and the Westport Senior Center — are partnering to present a free livestream concert tomorrow (Friday, June 26, 12 p.m.).
It features the funk band Mojo, with noted local musicians Drew Angus, Eric Lindahl and Spencer Inch. Click here to watch via Zoom (and note the password: 3qgZ4L).
The new planters on Main Street are drawing plenty of attention.
But there are colorful flowers beyond Elm Street. For example, Rye Ridge Deli is doing all it can to make the outdoor experience special too.
And finally … as Westport, Connecticut prepares for jUNe Day this weekend (virtually, of course), let’s celebrate Westport, Ireland with Stuart Moyles.
PS: When the Levitt Pavilion opens next summer, we really need this lad as a headliner!
A remarkable new era begins Friday.
That’s when the Remarkable Theater opens its summer drive-in series, at the Imperial Avenue parking lot. (The same site as the Westport Farmers’ Market.)
It’s a win-win. The theater offers employment to people with disabilities, while providing safe, socially distant entertainment for the town.
Two classic films are on tap this weekend: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” on Friday; “Caddyshack” Saturday.
Opening night is a fundraiser for the Westport Woman’s Club — the Imperial parking lot’s next door neighbor. With no Yankee Doodle Fair this year due to COVID-19, this is a great way to support their food closet.
Tickets for Friday’s fundraiser are $100 per car. Other shows are $50 per car.
Tickets go on sale at 3 p.m. today. Click here to reserve a spot.
Follow the Remarkable Theater on Facebook and Instagram to see upcoming shows, or to make suggestions for movies you want to see next.
(The screenings are made possible with the financial support of the Connecticut Department of Developmental Disabilities and the ARTHA Foundation, and help from the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce and Westport Library.)
If you haven’t been to Main Street in a while — since, say, yesterday — you’ll find quite a transformation.
To enhance social distancing, parking has been eliminated through August on the one-way stretch between Pop’TArt Gallery and Vineyard Vines.
And to enhance its beauty, the Westport Downtown Merchants Association (and 8 volunteers) planted 36 planters in those former parking spots.
There’s more room to walk around. It looks a lot better when you do. And the DMA is coordinating volunteers to make sure the new additions (and the other plantings on poles) will be watered all summer.
PS: There is plenty of parking available. And now it’s all unrestricted. No time limits — no worries!
COVID or not, summer is here! A pop-up concert popped up tonight at the plaza outside Pop’TArt gallery, on the corner of Post Road and Main Street.
Three groups played fun music. People stopped, and tapped their feet. Kids sat on the railing, and clapped.
It was just like old times.
There’s no time like now to shop downtown.
And — starting Wednesday, June 17 — there’s no time limit either.
The Westport Downtown Merchants Association and town officials have agreed to lift time restrictions on all legal, public parking spaces, through August 21. The goal is to encourage shopping, dining and browsing.
Specifically, curbside on Main Street (from Elm Street to Avery Place), and the Parker Harding, Baldwin, Sigrid Schultz, Bay Street, Taylor Place, Jesup Green, Jesup Road and upper library lots will have no time limits. In other words: no tickets!
Beginning June 22nd, there will be no curbside parking on Main Street from the Post Road to Elm Street. That’s to allow shoppers more room, and enable social spaciousness.
While you’re there, enjoy beautiful new street planters too.
Irma Schachter — a longtime Westport resident, and a 1945 graduate of the Northfield School for Girls (now Northfield Mt. Hermon) — was honored recently with the school’s Lamplighter Award. The highest honor given by the Alumni Association, it is awarded for service to the school far beyond the call of day.
This month is Irma’s 75th reunion year for NMH. She has held numerous volunteer roles, including reunion chair, class agent and gift chair (her current role, since 2000).
In 2005, for her 60th reunion, Irma achieved 100% participation from the class for their reunion gift. No class has since matched that.
After graduating from Connecticut College for Women, and graduate courses in management training at Harvard Radcliffe, she worked for department stores like G. Fox, Bloomingdale’s and Lord & Taylor.
“I love Northfield,” the proud Lamplighter says.
And finally … at the end of another long week …
Forty Westporters gathered last night on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. Hours earlier, George Floyd had been buried.
They lit candles, then stood in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the length of time the Minneapolis man had been held on the ground, with a knee on his neck.
Organizer Dina Upton said:
As George’s breath left his body, I believe his breath swelled up in me and all of us and in people all over the world. We come together to recognize the laying to rest of George Floyd, but we cannot rest.
We must do something to help one another no matter how big or how small. Drive someone to vote, take them grocery shopping, anything that can make a difference in your life or the life of someone else.
Rest in Peace George.