When Alexandra Korry died at her Westport home last September of ovarian cancer, the New York Times honored her life with a long obituary.
The 61-year-old was “a trailblazing Wall Street lawyer whose potent legal and moral rebuke as head of a civil rights panel helped spur the abolition of solitary confinement for juvenile inmates in New York City.”
She was one of the first women elected partner in Sullivan & Cromwell’s mergers and acquisitions department — and one of the first women editors at the Harvard Crimson.
Korry spent nearly a decade as head of the New York State Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights.
The great-granddaughter of former New York governor Nathan Miller, and a descendant of Ben Franklin, she worked for consumer advocate Ralph Nader and Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
But the Times never mentioned one of her greatest accomplishments: chair of the Harlem Educational Activities Fund. The non-profit serves 300 people a year, changing lives from middle school through college and beyond, with academic enrichment, social and cultural exposure, and individual attention.
Korry was a constant presence there, even teaching classes.
That commitment sparked another project: the Norwalk Art Space. She envisioned it before her diagnosis, and shepherded it along while sick.
Alexandra Korry died before the space opened, in June. But her vision and guidance can be seen and felt throughout the magical space, a converted church on West Avenue, just off I-95 exit 15.
Korry found the property — near the old Loehmann’s plaza — and realized it was perfect for an art gallery, studios and classrooms. Three museums — Stepping Stones, the Center for Contemporary Printmaking and Lockwood-Mathews Mansion — are nearby. All embrace their new neighbor.
Working with Westport architect Rick Hoag, she planned several complementary uses for the Norwalk Art Space.
The upstairs includes an airy gallery, where local artists exhibit for free. In exchange, they teach art to children — for free. Upcoming classes include acrylic painting, mixed media and collage, drawing and sculpture.
A dynamic café — run by Bill Taibe of The Whelk, Kawa Ni and Don Memo fame — looks out over the gallery.
Downstairs are 4 studios — free to artists — along with well-appointed classrooms, and a student lounge.
A sculpture garden helps link the Norwalk Art Space to the neighborhood, and nearby museums.
“Alexandra was all about closing gaps,” says her husband, Robin Panovka. Since her death, he’s taken up her torch.
“She kept hearing women artists, and people of color, complain about how hard it is to get into galleries.” Now, a great gallery welcomes them.
And, in the spirit of giving back, student artists — who otherwise would not have a chance to develop their talents — are being mentored by 4 resident artists, in their 20s. They, in turn, will be mentored by 5 older “fellows” in the Art Space.
And, Panovka says, even more established artists are mentoring the fellows.
Alexandra Korry died before the Norwalk Art Space was completed.
She never saw the first show, or knew that her classrooms were full this summer.
But her husband smiles as he describes the enthusiasm the community has shown, since the doors opened in June.
The spirit of the Norwalk Art Space — Korry’s spirit — is very much alive.
(To learn more about the Norwalk Art Space, click here.)