“Our ‘Black Lives Matter’ sign was stolen from our front yard. We paid for it; it was up for weeks, and we live on a side street.
“I am stunned, having grown up in this town. We disagreed, we debated, but we didn’t do warfare with political signs.
“The sign was on our property. How is this not an invasion of my property? How is it not the bullying or pummeling in the name of what you don’t like or believe?
“Black lives matter. They still matter, even when you steal signs.”
Speaking of political signs: An Old Hill resident offers this warning to a possible thief:
The Artists Collective of Westport sponsors an outdoor trunk show of “affordable art” this Saturday (October 17, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Westport Playhouse parking lot).
Artists will display their works from in and around their cars. All COVID restrictions will be followed. But, the Collective says, “we can’t mask our excitement!”
Lindsey Blaivas spotted this house on Long Lots Road. “Instead of hauling away this magnificent tree that fell during one of our many storms, they landscaped around it,” she writes.
“It is a piece of art — and a tribute to the magical gifts that nature sometimes leaves us.”
Like many venues, Longshore has been hit hard by the coronavirus.
Yesterday, however, Bruce McFadden spotted a ceremony taking place. It was not big — and there seemed to be plenty of space between guests and tables. Still, it was a nice reminder of a bit of normalcy.
And finally … on Columbus Day, let’s honor the people who knew this land long before the Europeans “discovered” it. Songwriter/saxophonist Jim Pepper adapted “Witchi Tai To” from an ancient chant he learned from his Native American grandfather. It is still the only song in the history of Billboard’s pop chart to feature a Native American chant.
Former CNN anchor Dave Briggs interviews his former colleague — current anchor of CNN’s “New Day” — Alisyn Camerota on Instagram Live today (Saturday, October 3) at 5 p.m. The pair of Westporters will talk about their town, and the world. Just search on Instagram for @WestportMagazine.
The “Playhouse at the Drive-In” event just got more remarkable.
As noted yesterday, the Westport Country Playhouse celebrates its 90th season on Saturday, October 17 (5 p.m.) with a a benefit event and screening at the Remarkable Theater drive-in (the Imperial Avenue parking lot).
Yesterday, The Artists Collective of Westport got approval from the Playhouse to hold their Affordable Art Trunk Show that afternoon, at 3.
Over 25 artists will be masked, in (socially distanced) cars — and as much “affordable art” as they can display on easels and tables.
The volume and flow of pedestrian traffic looking at the art will be carefully monitored by Collective volunteers.
The Playhouse and Artists Collective enjoy a great partnership, including meeting and exhibition at the WCP’s Sheffer Barn.
This Monday (October 5, 8:30 a.m.), the Coalition for Westport sponsors a Zoom talk on “subtle racism in Westport.” TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey is the guest.
To register, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lindsey Baldwin is a Staples High School senior. She’s an EMT. And she just received kudos from State Senator Will Haskell, for another type of community service.
Last year Lindsey set up donation bins at various pharmacies and dental practices. She collected 2,000 toothbrushes, toothpaste tubes and floss cartridges. She also created a fundraiser on Facebook, and collected $1,430.
In February, Lindsey traveled to Honduras with CapeCARES. The on-profit sends volunteers to remote areas. They provide free medical and dental care.
She brought those 2,000 dental products with her. Many villagers had never had access to toothbrushes. It was an important moment for them — and for Lindsey, who returned to Westport grateful for all she has, and the opportunity to serve.
Everyone talks about those topics. Soon, a pop-up exhibition will bring those controversial topics downtown Westport — and everyone’s screen, anywhere in the world.
The show — called “2020: People Politics Planet” — opens at 23 Jesup Road (next to Green & Tonic) this Saturday (October 3). It will be available online too, at www.2020pppwestport.com.
Local artists Amy Kaplan, Darcy Hicks and Janine Brown organized the exhibit, which includes artists from all over southern Connecticut. They wanted a forum for artists to be heard on themes like climate change, political division, racial oppression and COVID-19 — and a place where others could contribute to the conversation.
2020 Collage #3 (Kerry Long): photography, film scans.
“Throughout history, artists have helped society to make sense of the world,” the organizers say.
“Artwork creates opportunities for communities to engage in safe dialogue. Some of us need the escape of beauty, and others need to feel the power of bold expression.
“This exhibit is a response to the need for humanity and closeness during a time of isolation and uncertainty when it has become clear to many of us how connected we really are. We turn to the arts to help us make sense of all that we are witnessing and experiencing, to teach us things we do not know, and cannot put into words easily.”
“As we confront the realities of the world we have created, now is the time to engage in productive conversations that create understanding among each other. Sometimes art can be a starting point for difficult conversations, and it is the hope of the organizers that this exhibit will show viewers something that is thought provoking or recognizable, even though we may have different experiences.”
“Listen BLM” (kHyal): assemblage with 100% recycled and upcycled objects,
The Drew Friedman Community Arts Center and Artists Collective of Westport sponsor the exhibit. The Westport Library is involved too, planning additional programming to continue the conversation.
Over 140 works were submitted; 35. Another 32 are on the website. Artists include:
The gallery will be open Thursdays (2 to p.m.), and Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (12 to 6 p.m.) through November 30. Masks are required, and capacity will be limited.
To continue the conversation: Comment on Instagram (@2020PPPwestport). Or create your own art, and tag it: #2020PPPwesetport.
“America is Full of Plastic” (Louise Cadoux): Mixed media sculpture.
Last week, Peter Gambaccini saw that TCM was running the director’s cut of “Woodstock.”
Peter was there in the Catskills hills, 51 years ago this month. Now in his early 70s, he was not ready to sit through all those hours of music and more (particularly not Ten Years After).
But he tried to time it so that he’d tune in to see some of the Westporters he knew were there (though he never saw them “live”).
In a segment showing people sliding through the mud after a torrential rain, he suddenly spotted Bill Davidson. He was a Staples High School hockey star, and drummer with local bands.
In the movie, Bill had a line about what a “mess” the hillside was. Peter had not seen him in the movie before, so he guesses that was part of the expanded version.
Then — after a brief bit of other business — Pete Krieg and Peter Cannon came into view. Cannon flashed the peace sign at the camera.
They were so close in the footage to Davidson, Gambaccini assumed they’d all gone to Woodstock together.
In a Facebook discussion about another musical topic on Facebook, Gambaccini asked Krieg about the weekend. He said:
“I’ve gotten close to Bill in the past 10 years, since he’s the head bartender at Aspetuck Club. It was just last year (50 years later) that we realized we were 20 yards/60 seconds apart on that road, at that moment, at Woodstock.”
During her 12 years in the Westport schools, Taft has been a leader in the development and implementation of the elementary school science curriculum. She has also played an instrumental role in leading the District’s adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards.
In other education news, 2 Westport teachers — Staples High School’s Suzanne Kammerman and Courtney Ruggiero of Bedford Middle School — were featured on a Channel 8 story about teaching 9/11 to today’s students. Click here to see.
The Artists Collective of Westport is helping another arts group: the Remarkable Theater.
They’re collaborating on Thursday’s drive-in movie. “Best in Show” — a biting satire about dog shows — will be shown September 17 at 8 p.m. at the Imperial Avenue parking lot. The gate opens at 7.
Westport’s Suzuki Music School is beefing up its presence. New Visiting Artist courses have been added, with Grammy Award-winning instructors like percussionist Joe McCarthy, and subjects including the history of jazz, movie soundtrack composition amd contemporary fiddling.
Suzuki is also streaming more free public events, with jazz pianist Sumi Tonooka and cellist Matt Haimovitz and more. The popular children’s Pillow Concert series continues online, and the Connecticut Guitar Festival returns for a 4th year (virtually this time).
Suzuki’s season kicks off this Sunday (September 20) with a master class by Grammy-winning violinist Augustin Hadelich. Click here for tickets to that class; click here for an overview of events.
And finally … since we’re honoring Woodstock (above), here’s a “trip” down memory lane. In deference to Peter Gambaccini, it’s not Ten Years After. It’s Bert Sommer. He was accompanied at Woodstock by local resident Ira Stone. If you’ve never heard of them — or at least didn’t know they were at Woodstock — well, they never made it off the film’s cutting room floor. NOTE: The Woodstock recording is poor. I’ve also included a studio version (I’m not sure if it includes Ira).
Owner Pete Aitkin wants to add some new “flashback” items to the Black Duck menu.
And he needs “06880” readers’ help.
“Many readers have fond memories of the Big Top,” he says, referencing the beloved, mouth-watering burgers-and-more joint on the Post Road and Roseville Road that is now (aaaargh) McDonald’s. “Some even worked there.”
Pete wonders: What kind of ribs did they serve? Baby backs? Beef? He thinks they were pork spare ribs. Any info on sauce or seasoning would be great too.
Email email@example.com, or call 203-227-7978.
Yesterday marked the start of another school. It’s different than any that came before. But — as students, staff and parents saw yesterday at Coleytown Elementary School — some things never change:
The Artists Collective of Westport knows about shows. So they’re proud to collaborate with the Remarkable Theater on a showing of “Best in Show.”
The drive-in movie — a biting satire about dog shows — will be shown Thursday, September 17 at 8 p.m. at the Imperial Avenue parking lot. The gate opens at 7.
The Westport Downtown Merchants Association’s 2nd “Art About Town” project includes works from Artists Collective of Westport members. They’re exhibited in the windows and on the walls of many downtown retails — for viewing and purchase.
Art About Town runs in conjunction with the WDMA’s “Art+ Downtown Thursday Nights.” Galleries stay open from 5 to 8 p.m. So do many of the stores showcasing the “About Town” art.
Bonus feature: Many of the artists are there with their work on Thursdays, chatting with customers. Tomorrow they’ll be at Amy Simon, Pop’TArt, Sorelle, Artistex, Catherine H, Don Memo, Fred Sip & Shop, Franny’s Farmacy, Nic & Zoe, Savannah Bee, Savvy + Grace and West, on Post Road East, Main Street and Church Lane.
In addition Manna Toast offers 1/2 off on bottles of wine (5 to 7 p.m.), and Rye Ridge Deli will stay open till 8. Masks and social distancing are mandatory for Art About Town!
Upcoming Senior Center events:
Bingo: Thursday, August 20 (1:15 to 2 p.m.). Virtual Bingo — with prizes! — is offered the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of each month. If you don’t have internet, you can call in from home. If you can’t print cards, the Senior Center will help. Pre-registration is required (203-341-5099). There’s also an $8 lunch for Westport residents — delivered (with 4 Bingo cards) to your home.
Pet Chat: Friday, August 21 (10:30 to 11:30 a.m.). Share pet stories; hear guest speakers. Click here for Zoom ID; password is 4C1Q0H.
Summer Concert Series: Friday, August 28, 1:30 to 2:15 p.m.: Pianist Irwin Lebish discusses and plays selections from “The Great American Songbook.” Click here for the Zoom link. Friday, September 4, 1:30 to 2 p.m.: Violinist and Westport native Healther “L’il Mama” Hardy — daughter of Friends board member Judy Hardy — entertains on Facebook Live and Zoom (click here for that link).
Fall Prevention program: (Tuesday, September 1, 10 to 11 a.m.). Carli Lee Spinola — injury prevention coordinator at Norwalk Hospital — teaches how to prevent slips and falls. Click here for the Zoom link.
Labor Day Drive-Thru BBQ and Online Concert: Seniors and guests can order a BBQ lunch to go; pickup is at the Senior Center on Friday, September 4, 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Socially distance in the parking lot, and enjoy the meal! $8; ordering deadline is September 1. Call 203-341-5099.
Questions? Call 203-341-5099, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Young Shoots” — the Westport Farmers’ Market’s deliciously named youth photo contest — has extended its deadline.
Youngsters ages 8 to 18 have until August 24 to submit photos. This year, because of COVID, they must be taken at home. The goal is to show images of the produce, flowers and prepared foods they and their families buy — and how it looks in their kitchens and dining rooms.
First place winners in each category receive $100; runners-up get $50. All photos will be on display at Sugar & Olives in Norwalk.
Last Friday, Ariana Napier delivered 424 pounds of food to Bridgeport Rescue Mission. This brings her Westport’s total donations to 1,819 pounds of food and personal care items donated. In other words: Donors are just 181 pounds away from reaching 1 ton!
BRM continues to provide twice as many meals and three times as many grocery bags as before the pandemic. The most needed items include:
Canned beans (all types)
Canned meats (beef stew, chili, etc.)
Peanut butter and jelly (plastic)
Snacks (granola bars, power bars, etc.)
Donations can be dropped off at bins in Ariana’s driveway (14 Jennings Court, off Bayberry Lane near Long Lots).
Rebecca Mace reports that the Panera Bread location on Post Road East near the Southport line — shut for several weeks — is once again open.
Yesterday she spotted baked goods on the shelves, someone going in, and a guy eating a salad next to the window.
The Panera Bread near the Southport line.
1968 Staples High School graduate Paul Backalenick has just published his second book. He says, “A good mystery can be a good distraction in these trying times.”
Carrie’s Secret takes place in a psychiatric hospital in the 1980s, as a suburban couple struggles to understand and help their threatened daughter.
The Kindle version of Carrie’s Secrets is just $2.99 on Amazon — and it’s free for Kindle Unlimited member. The paperback is $13.99. Click here for more on Paul Backalenick.
And finally … last night’s Remarkable Theater movie was “The Sting.” In 1973, the film — starring Westport’s own Paul Newman — gave new life to Scott Joplin’s rags.
Every week, the Artists Collective of Westport members meet by Zoom. They talk about their challenges as artists, and share idea about current projects.
The latest group show came out of a recent meeting. Called “24/7 @ 47 Main” — and described as a “pandemic-friendly” exhibition — it’s a 10-minute video featuring 81 works from artists all over Connecticut.
It runs continuously on a large screen in the window of 47 Main Street (opposite the former Banana Republic).
Not comfortable venturing out quite yet (or just lazy)? Check out 2 options online.
One (below) is the show on the Artists Collective’s YouTube channel:
The other is a website. It’s got every exhibition image — plus details on each piece. There’s information too on how to contact an artist, for purchases. Click here to see.
So even though the physical “show” is in Westport, it’s accessible to anyone, anywhere in the world.
That’s fitting. Those weekly Zoom meetings have included Artists’ Collective member Helen Klisser During. She’s a Westporter — but right now she’s back in her native New Zealand.
She joins right in. No one cares that it’s the next day there already.
Amy Kaplan’s “Screened” is one of 81 works in the current show.
Early in the coronavirus crisis, a cement wall on South Compo Road was painted with an encouraging message.
On Memorial Day it became an American flag.
Now, several panels on either side of the once-boring wall have been turned into colorful, creative murals.
And the artists are all kids.
The youngsters — ages 8 to 17 — had been avid participants in Homes with Hope’s After-School Arts Program (ASAP). Thanks to funding from the Drew Friedman Community Art Center — and the volunteer work of Artists Collective of Westport members — participants had worked on multiple projects, including 2 murals to liven their meeting space.
But when COVID-19 struck in March, that program — and everything else — shut down. With summer near, and restrictions loosening a bit, ASAP director Lynn Abramson contacted noted artist and Drew Friedman trustee Miggs Burroughs about the possibility of creating a community mural somewhere outdoors.
Betsy and Hal Kravitz happily offered their long wall at the corner of Hidden Hill as a canvas.
Supplies on South Compo.
In these turbulent times, the young artists decided they wanted their mural to be filled with inspiring messages and images.
Miggs and fellow trustee Nick Visconti embodied their “stronger together” message by matching the ASAP students with Westport artist Elizabeth DeVoll. She helped them achieve their visions.
They recruited Connie Manna, another Collective member, to help execute the designs.
Work began Monday. The young artists spent several hours a day — fueled by goodies from Joey’s By the Shore, around the corner. (It helps that Betsy is the owner.)
No starving artists!
The mural is done. The message is clear. In the words of one of the panels: “We Got This.”
Among the many features of the transformed Westport Library, there was this: continuing exhibitions of local artists, in the Sheffer Gallery and other prominent spots.
The library is closed. But thanks to exhibits director Carole Erger-Fass, artist/ designer/jack-of-all-trades Miggs Burroughs, and modern technology, they’re getting even more exposure now than they would have had hanging on the walls.
“Artists in Residences” is the library’s cleverly named, wonderfully executed project. Miggs and Carole conducted 30-minute Zoom visits with Artists Collective of Westport members.
Part interview, part studio tour and part demonstrations of their techniques, each episode is as different as the artists themselves.
So far, 6 of these rare, intimate looks at artists in their “native habitats” have been completed. They feature Nina Bentley, Susan Fehlinger, Emily Laux, Joan Miller, Nancy Moore and MaryEllen Hendricks.
Click below for Nina’s; click here for all, via the YouTube channel.
Staples High School’s Class of 2020 will make history in at least 2 ways.
They’re the first to have senior year disrupted by a coronavirus pandemic. And they’re the first to have free lawn signs distributed to every graduate.
Signs are being picked up this week by all 437 seniors. You may already have seen some around town.
Plans are underway for many more activities for this year’s hard-luck, but resilient and wonderful, class. Hindsight is always “20/20” — but with a bit of foresight, this year’s Class of graduation will be both memorable and great.
Speaking of Staples: The “Seussical” show did not go on this spring. But another great one is on tap — er, on radio — this Thursday.
At 6 p.m. (May 14), Players director David Roth’s Theatre 3 class will broadcast their annual radio play. It’s “Alice in Wonderland.” And if it’s anything like past productions, it will earn a first-place national Drury High School Radio Award. (Staples has won every year since their inception in 2011.)
Entire families will enjoy this production. It uses the same 1952 script that was broadcast nationally, coinciding with Walt Disney’s release of his animated feature. And it features several stars from last fall’s “Mamma Mia!” mainstage.
The class has rehearsed 3 times a week since the school shut down. On Thursday you can hear them live: 90.3 FM, or streamed here.
Speaking of education: Westport Continuing Education has launched Online Learning classes and workshops for adults, teens and kids. Virtual “after school” programs include sports, babysitting, arts, film, horticulture, theater and more. Those for adults include business, cooking, gardening and personal finance. Click here for details.
They were all there at last night’s “Rise Up New York!” telethon: Tina Fey. Andrew Cuomo. Barbara Streisand. Ben Platt. Bette Midler. Jennifer Lopez. Bill de Blasio. Chris Rock. Danny Meyer. Eli Manning. Idina Menzel. Jake
Gyllenhaal. Jimmy Fallon. Lin-Manuel Miranda. Robert De Niro. Salt-N-Pepa. Spike Lee. Julianne Moore. Trevor Noah. Bon Jovi. Billy Joel. Mariah Carey. Sting.
Momofuku’s David Chang said, “It’s impossible to overstate the importance of New York’s restaurant industry. It’s also impossible to overstate the crisis it’s currently facing.”
And then — first, among a number of dining spots — Westport’s popular deli appeared on screens, all around the nation. Chip Stephens captured the moment on camera:
Over the last few years, the Westport Arts Center lost its focus on supporting and promoting local artists.
Last year — with a name change to MoCA Westport (it stands for Museum of Contemporary Art), and a move from Riverside Avenue to the former Martha Stewart TV studio on Newtown Turnpike — the organization seemed to become even less connected to Westport.
MoCA, at 19 Newtown Turnpike.
The Artists’ Collective of Westport — developed as part of the WAC, by prominent artists like Miggs Burroughs and Nina Bentley — became the pre-eminent group in town. MoCA’s outreach to local educators and civic groups ground to a halt.
Recently, the handsome gallery space on the Norwalk border — and the educational, music and other programs MoCA sponsored — risked losing its Westport identity altogether.
All that may now change. Westport artists, educators and organizations will hear soon from Ruth Mannes.
Ruth Mannes (Photo/Kerry Long)
She’s MoCA’s new executive director. And one of her first priorities is outreach to the town where the Westport Arts Center began, 50 years ago.
Mannes took over Monday from Amanda Innes. She brings a 20-year career in publishing (including executive managing editor of HarperCollins) and 12 years of involvement with Westport schools (townwide PTA executive board, fundraising for Staples Players), along with a passion for art (ARTnews named her one of the top 30 young contemporary collectors in the country.)
She and her husband began collecting in their West Village apartment, before their children were born. They met artists, gallery owners and dealers. “Art made our lives,” Mannes says.
They knew Derek Goodman through the art world. Soon after moving to Westport, Mannes saw him selling lemonade with his kids. They were neighbors.
Now Goodman has helped bring Mannes to MoCA. The board understood the need for greater engagement with Westporters.
Ruth Mannes, by the MoCA gift shop.
“We’re bringing excellent shows. We have wonderful music programs.” Mannes says.
“We can be a beacon of art and film. But we really need to connect with Westport: the library, PTAs, Westport Public Art Collections — everyone. We want their thoughts on dynamic programming.
“Our art should be accessible. Westport is a community with really curious people. If we bring in great shows, they’ll be engaged.”
As a first step, she’ll reach out to teachers, senior citizens, organizations — and artists. She’ll also look at changes in areas like admission structure and member benefits.
She’s spent this week getting up to speed on all things MoCA: shows, concerts, even a children’s art class that runs during the current school vacation.
She knows that when WAC/MoCA moved from near downtown to the midst of a residential neighborhood, it risked a loss of visibility.
But Mannes points to Beacon, New York as an example. An old train building was converted into a center for minimalist art. It now attracts art lovers from far away. “People sit, have coffee, see art and educational programs,” she says. “Community thrives there.”
Can that happen at out-of-the-way Newtown Turnpike?
“The other day, 3 French people knocked on our door,” Mannes says. “They were in Westport for a business meeting, but wanted to see what we have. They were disappointed we were closed between shows.” (A Helmut Lang exhibition opens March 15.)
Getting ready to hang the Helmut Lang show.
“We have benches outside. We’ll make our cafe area more attractive. If this place is dynamic, people will come. We don’t want it to be an ivory tower.”
Mannes says that MoCA’s educational programs are ready to “explode.” She’s eager to bring back adult programming that was dropped or weeded out.
Mannes says the board — including Westporters like Tom Hofstetter and Michael Kalman — is committed to addressing the alienation that some local artists, and other Westporters, have felt.
“It’s a fresh start,” she says.
(MoCA’s annual gala has a new date: April 25. For details, click here. For more information about MoCA, including exhibitions, programs and other events, click here.)
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