Tag Archives: 19 Newtown Turnpike

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.

Westport Arts Center Disappears

When the Westport Arts Center moves to 19 Newtown Turnpike, they’ll leave more than their longtime Riverside Avenue home behind.

There’s no need to ship the large, recognizable logo  over to Martha Stewart’s former TV studio (which is actually a few feet over the border, in Norwalk).

They’re changing their name too. From now on, it’s MoCA Westport.

You won’t find an explanation anywhere in the press release, sent yesterday afternoon a few minutes before 5 (and headlined, somewhat awkwardly “Westport Arts Center Re-names as MoCA Westport”).

In fact, the new name is mentioned only obliquely — in the 7th paragraph, under “About the Organization.” It says:

“MoCA Westport, previously known as the Westport Arts Center  is a destination dedicated to using the Arts to enrich our community. We thoughtfully design and curate experiences of all types, from Visual Arts to Classical Music, including performances, juried exhibitions, lectures, excursions and other educational opportunities.”

But, I’m told, the acronym stands for Museum of Contemporary Art.

The organization was formed in 1969 — exactly 50 years ago — as the Westport-Weston Arts Council. The name was changed to the Westport Arts Center in 1986. It was housed in a variety of locations, including the then-closed Greens Farms Elementary School, before moving to Riverside Avenue in 2002.

Westport Arts Center, 51 Riverside Avenue.

Working artists still remember that Greens Farms space fondly — especially their individual studios. Together, painters, sculptors and others formed a true artists’ community.

In recent years, the Westport Arts Center has focused increasingly on non-local artists. Exhibits, shows and talks feature a number of artists and photographers with no connection to the town.

Art — and organizations — always evolve. The WAC’s — er, MoCA’s — new space in Westport — er, Norwalk — will have 2 state-of-the-art galleries, a members’ lounge, gift shop, cafe, and “an indoor/outdoor set of studios for an expanded immersive curriculum.”

19 Newtown Turnpike, before renovation. (Photo/Johnny Fogg)

It will all be on display September 19 to 22, during a grand opening weekend.

MoCA has big goals. They’re launching a new education experience, “re-inventing” the Heida Hermanns International Music Competition, planning “exciting opportunities for emerging artists of all ages,” and curating a permanent collection featuring the works of Westport’s “best visual artists.”

So long, Westport Arts Center. 

Hello, MoCA. Whatever that means. 

It’s Official! Westport Arts Center Moves To Newtown Turnpike.

In December, “06880” reported that the Westport Arts Center was planning a move from its Riverside Avenue home. They’ve been in the long, narrow 3,600-square foot space since 2002.

They were eyeing Martha Stewart’s former TV studio. The address is 19 Newtown Turnpike, Westport. But the 3-story building is actually located a few feet over the border, in Norwalk.

Today, the WAC confirmed those plans. The first phase of their relocation and expansion will open this fall.

They’ll take nearly 10,000 square feet of 19 Newtown Turnpike, nearly tripling their current space.

The former Martha Stewart TV studio on Newtown Turnpike.

The opening coincides with the Arts Center’s 50th anniversary. It was formed in 1969 as the Westport-Weston Arts Council. The organization was renamed Westport Arts Center in 1986. It was housed in a variety of locations, including the then-closed Greens Farms Elementary School.

In a press release, the  WAC says they’ll be “marrying our rich heritage with an exciting new chapter as a leading contemporary arts destination.”

The Newtown Avenue 1926 stone building, attached warehouse and free-standing cottages offer the potential of 33,000 square feet for museum exhibitions, state-of-the-art classrooms, concerts and events, and offices.

The 6-acre property includes an outdoor garden space and parking for 110 vehicles.

WAC executive director Amanda Innes says:


This important expansion of the Arts Center allows us to greatly broaden the scope of our programming and exhibitions. We will be able to showcase large-scale, innovative art pieces and installations both in the gallery and on the exterior grounds. Our first exhibition in the new space will be something never before seen in Connecticut. We look forward to unveiling details of the exciting exhibition and expansion at our 50th Anniversary gala on May 18th.

The interior remodel and renovation of 19 Newtown Turnpike is led by Howard Lathrop of Sellars Lathrop Architects. He has served as designer and project architect on major museums around the world.