Tag Archives: Beechwood Arts and Innovation

Roundup: Bolts, Ospreys

Uest

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Yesterday, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice addressed the easing of COVID restrictions in Connecticut. He said:

Both the CDC and state Department of Public Health have maintained their recommendation for masks inside the school building for both vaccinated and unvaccinated students and staff for the remainder of the current school year.  However, with our low community transmission rates in both the town and our schools, as well as an increasing number of vaccinated staff and students, masks will no longer be required for students when outdoors for both recess and PE.

The State Department of Education announced that there will be no remote learning requirement for the upcoming school year (2021-2022). The Westport Public Schools will not offe remote learning as a permanent instructional option for next school year, unless otherwise mandated by the CSDE. The remote learning option, like a number of other approaches and investments, has been critical to our remarkable success this year. Although students have experienced success in this pandemic year, if anything else, this year clearly proved that there is no replacement for in-person learning. We look forward to welcoming all students in-person for the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

As the end of year events begin to pick up, I ask that we all do our part to continue to thank our faculty, and all of our support staff across the system, for their extraordinary work this year. There was no playbook. We approached the year in 4-6 week increments. Yet as we look back, we carefully navigated a generational pandemic to serve our students and while earnestly attending to their social, emotional, and academic needs. A great deal will be written about this era. I, for one, will remember the people and the acts of kindness, commitment, and professionalism that carried us towards an increasingly brighter light at the end of this tunnel.

No more masks at recess!

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The town of Westport has leased 2 new Chevy Bolts for staff field work. They’ll be used for municipal inspections by the Public Works Engineering Division and the Assessor’s Office.

A cost benefit analysis has proven that these vehicles are both environmentally friendly, and cost effective.

The choice of Chevy Bolts was based on their overall low price, good reputation, and compact size. The cars also have a low maintenance cost and a longer expected service life than competitors. Both vehicles are at the standard option level.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe says, “We are very proud of Westport’s advancement in electric vehicle usage and municipal charging stations. Investments such as the Police Department’s purchase of a Model 3 Tesla are proving to be beneficial, and we expect the same for the municipal fleet. These Bolts help move Westport closer toward meeting sustainability goals.”

From left: Assessor Paul Friia, 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Dawn Henry of Sustainable Westport, Finance director Gary Conrad, Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich with the new Chevy Bolts.

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Several readers have not seen the Fresh Market ospreys for awhile. I asked “06880”‘s resident expert, Carolyn Doan, for an update She says:

“The osprey are incubating right now. so they are very difficult to see in a nest that is high up.

“Usually the female does most of the sitting while the male brings back food. He does take over for her from time to time to give her a much needed stretch or break. She is the one with a more speckled chest. His chest is more white (in case you wanted to try and discern between the two if you notice one in a tree).

“If not fishing, the one taking a break is usually in a nearby tree. In this case there is a big pine tree to the right of the Fresh Market nest. You can usually see one of the pair there. Or look across the street behind Dunkin Donuts. At the top of a bare tree behind the building you will see a large bird. (Usually the male. He loves this spot for some reason.”)

“The babies are due at the end of the month!”

A recent osprey photo. (Carolyn Doan)

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Surprise! Beechwood Arts — the innovative, immersive series — opens its grounds tomorrow (Sunday, May 23, 52 Weston Road), from noon to 5 p.m.

The copper beech and other trees and flowers are blooming. And, founders Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito say, they miss their Sunday afternoons with their friends.

“Stop in to say hello, have a lemonade, walk the grounds, bring your own picnic,” they say.

“The main house will not be open. But it’s likely you’ll hear Frederic practicing for his Classical Smackdown II (Thursday, May 27, 7 p.m.)

“Our 5-star rated carriage house and studio summer retreat will be open, so you can take a peek while you’re here.” Both will be listed for summer rent on AirBnB June 1.

The Beechwood grounds.

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Yesterday’s mention of the anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic prompted this email from alert — and history-minded — reader Matt Murray:

“My grandmother was a friend of the engine builder/designer Charlie Lawrence (2nd autograph from left in photo below).

The day before the flight, Mr. Lawrence asked my grandmother, ‘Do you want to see this fellow take off at 5 a.m. to fly solo across the Atlantic?’

“She replied, ‘Charlie, you’re drunk.’ She did not go. But because she was fluent in French, he asked her to write Lindergh’s letter of introduction for when he landed. As a thank you, she received this picture of Lindbergh and Lawrence and their signatures, taken just before he took off.”

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Yesterday’s “06880” also brought mention of Margot Liotta. The 2019 Staples High School graduate was one of 4 recipients of a Drew Friedman Community Arts Center Foundation scholarship.

Turns out she’s as artist in more ways than one.

In addition to the photograph that helped win her a grant, she’s a bass guitarist, singer and songwriter. She’s transferrin to Berklee College of Music — and has just released her first song, “Aries.”

Her boyfriend and former Staples classmate, Zach Rogers, produced it, and plays guitar. He’s transferring to Brown University.

Margot and Zach have played together for several years. They’ve done gigs at Wakeman Town Farm — and will play there again this summer.

A third ’19 grad, Kevin Ludy, did the artwork and promotion. He’s studying music management at Syracuse University.

Click here for various ways to hear (and purchase) “Aries.”

Margot Liotta and Zach Rogers, at Wakeman Town Farm. (Photo/Jarret Liotta)

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Today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo is yet another view of a Canada goose, and her goslings. They look so cute when they’re young.

(Photo/Tom Lowrie)

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And finally … on this day in 1762, Trevi Fountain was officially completed and inaugurated in Rome.

Beechwood Arts: A Decade Of Immersive Innovation

In their first 2 decades here, Frederic Chiu, Jeanine Esposito and their kids lived in a small Greens Farms house.

A decade ago, they searched for something a little bigger. One listing had nothing they were looking for. It was old (1806), had too much property (3 acres), and sat on a busy street (Weston Road).

But for some reason the couple — he’s a world-renowned pianist, she’s an equally talented artist — checked it out. When they saw the big music room, carriage house and beautiful, 400-year-old copper beech tree, both knew it was what they wanted.

There were four other bidders. In a letter to the owners, Frederic and Jeanine described their vision. It would be a place where artists and performers of all types could gather, connect, learn from and inspire each other.

They got the house. Then wondered, “What did we do?!”

Beechwood House, with its magnificent copper beech tree.

They scheduled their first event before they had furniture: a celebration of Latin America. Guests brought chairs.

As soon as the event began, there was an exciting chemistry. Most attendees were strangers, working in different art forms. But they felt united.

Beechwood Arts was born.

Friends said it wouldn’t work. There were too many other arts organizations, they warned. You can’t combine different arts. You’d need a big board of directors. And on and on.

Jeanine and Frederic did not listen to the skeptics. They heeded their own instincts. They had faith that their intimate space, its spirit of energy of openness, and their own belief in celebration and collaboration, would work.

It did.

This year, their project — now called Beechwood Arts & Innovation — turns 10. Their mix of generations, cultural backgrounds and themes has blossomed into a thriving, ever-evolving special salon.

Their day jobs keep them plenty busy (and, until COVID, on the road). But Beechwood is their special baby. As its parents, they look back proudly at a decade of arts experiences.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, at home. That’s where they host their eclectic Beechwood Immersive Arts salons.

The statistics are stunning. Frederic and Jeanine have produced 130 events: arts immersion salons, petit and open salons, livestreams, shows, creative conversations, inspiration retreats, community conversations and more.

Nearly 350 visual artists have shown over 1,400 pieces. Beechwood has hosted more than 180 performers, along with dozens of filmmakers, video artists and creative chefs.

Great food and good conversation — important elements of Beechwood salons.

Beechwood has featured works by international artists like Joshua Bell, and local students. Events have been held in the music room, dining room, and under that magnificent beech tree.

A piano performance is just part of one salon …

… and Joshua Bell in the same space.

Art was drawn during some events. Tiny portraits were hidden in the walls and grounds. Audience members have read out loud. Musical works were premiered. A “sonic sanctuary” allowed guests to create performances that mixed with nature. Chefs and filmmakers competed in smackdowns. Long before Zoom was a thing, Beechwood linked artists and musicians around the world, all creating simultaneously.

Sculpture — indoors and outside — is an important part of Beechwood salons.

The lack of a big board of directors — or many other trappings of a traditional arts organization — has allowed Beechwood to be both creative and flexible.

Immediately after the 2016 election, an event was aimed at healing divisions around the country. Less than a month after the COVID lockdown, Beechwood inaugurated weekly virtual programs. Then, a week after George Floyd’s death, a group of Black artists created an delivered an “Amplify Festival,” with original art and performances, and plenty of conversation.

Those conversations are a key to Beechwood’s success. Every event includes opportunities for strangers to mingle.

Attendees at Beechwood’s first “Ben Franklin Day” dinner. Hosts Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu are in the middle row, center and far right.

Frederic and Jeanine are not afraid to talk with other organizations. Though there is often tension in the arts world over perceived competition for audiences and dollars, many Beechwood events are done collaboratively. Partners have included the Westport Library, MoCA Westport, Westport Museum of History & Culture, Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County, Connecticut Alliance for Music, Festival Edelio, Maritime Gallery, MakerFaire and others.

Entering its second decade, Beechwood joins with other venues around the country for 3 compelling Thursday 7 p.m. Classical Smackdowns , with interactive voting– all courtesy of Frederic.

On April 27 it’s Debussy vs. Prokofiev. May 27 brings Bach vs. Glass. Mendelssohn vs. Chopin follow on June 24. All are virtual.

Beechwood also continues its Amplify Festival — “amplifying voices through the arts” — as a partnership with the Westport Library and TEAM Westport (May 8, 7 p.m., in person and livestream). It’s part of the WestportREADS program involving Layla Saad’s book “Me and White Supremacy,” and includes “Duets” by Mozart & Mumford, “Skin” body paint and spoken word, and more.

The Beechwood grounds.

On Sunday, August 1, Frederic and Jeanine plan to welcome artists, performers and guests to their beautiful Beechwood grounds. They’ll show off their frog pond, sculpture field, birds and bees garden, indoor spaces — and of course their beloved copper beech tree.

“Hidden Secrets of Beechwood Arts Immersion” is set for Sunday, October 17.

Both events are great ways to celebrate 10 years of arts in their home. It’s one they never intended to even look at — but now is is their, and the arts world’s, wonderfully innovative institution.

(Click here for the Beechwood Arts website.  Click here for more information on Beechwood’s Smackdown Series. Click here for tickets.)

 

 

COVID-19 Roundup: Family Fun; What If?; Podcast Answers; Beechwood Arts; Holiday Meals, And More

Marley Brown is a clever — and now homebound — Staples High School freshman.

Last week she challenged her family to a week of “theme nights.” Everyone had 30 minutes to create their own costume. Then they took a photo together, and ate dinner dressed up.

Themes included Disney, Marvel, Star Wars, Gala, Movies and Broadway. “Gala night” ended up with a dance party. On Sunday her brother, Pierce, picked the winner. (It was his 13th birthday.)

“It was a great idea to break up the monotony of our days, and give us a way to jump start our creativity each evening,” says her mom, Shandley McMurray.

What’s your family doing to break up routine? Email dwoog@optonline.net!

A typical night in the Brown house.


Years ago, Miggs Burroughs wrote a book. The What If? Book of Questions is a quick and simple read — but it’s hardly quick and simple. The thought-provoking, inspirational work gets you thinking in random, odd ways. You think about things you’ve thought of often, and things you never imagined would enter your brain. For example:

What if the most important moment in your life is this one? Can you handle the power it gives you to choose how you will spend the next one?

Westport knows Miggs as a brilliant graphic artist and photographer. He is the go-to guy for designing company and non-profit logos, t-shirts, even the town flag. He is very generous with his pro bono work.

Once again, Miggs’ generosity knows no bounds. Though What If? is still available on Amazon he’s now providing a free digital version. It’s “a way to offer a small distraction and meditation on our current situation.”

Click here to download, at no cost. Then, What If you have your own questions about the crisis? Just click “Comments” below!


Like many of us, Peter Saverine knows the importance of wearing a mask.

His day job is director of development at STAR Lighting the Way. But he may have a second career as a designer.

He created his own (very) inexpensive mask using a cheap coffee filter, 2 rubber bands and scotch tape. Then he let his imagination run wild.

The result is below. Enjoy — and to show off your own creations, email dwoog@optonline.net.


Staples High School 2004 graduate Brittney Levine hosts a podcast: “Be My Neighbor.”

Yesterday, her guest was Rebecca Boas — a neighbor, and a Staples 2005 grad.

What makes this particularly COVID Roundup-worthy is that Rebecca is now Dr. Boas. She’s an assistant professor of medicine at NYU.

These days, she’s very busy. But she took time out of her Sunday to answer all kinds of listeners’ questions about treatment, masks, etc., etc., etc. Click below for the fascinating segment.


Beechwood Arts’ next immersive, interactive event is this Wednesday, April 8 (6 to 7 p.m.). The theme is “Homebodies,” which should resonate with every Westporter. There’s live music, art and special guests. For more information — including how to log in — click the video below.


Still wondering where to order a Passover or Easter meal? Click on the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce’s 2 great lists of restaurants, grocery stores and markets that may offer them (scroll down on the home page). OneWestport is another site with similar information.

Statewide, CTBites has its own lists too (including a few caterers).

The crowd may be smaller this year. But the food can be as good as ever.


They should call it “Face the Nation Featuring Scott Gottlieb.” For the 2nd straight week — and 3rd time in 4 — the former FDA commissioner was on the CBS Sunday morning show.

Once again, he appeared live from his Westport home. Click below; jump to 5:58 to see our neighbor. (Hat tip: Dennis Jackson)


And finally, an opera singer serenaded residents of a retirement community in Santa Cruz, California. But he wasn’t the only one there who could sing!

 

COVID-19 Roundup: Great Landlords; CNN; Pet, Art, Food News; Devil’s Den Closed; More

Beth Schaefer leads off with some great news!

She owns Westport Yarns. Her shop is considered “non-essential” — though everyone could do with some soothing knitting these days — and she’s completely shut down. Not even curbside pickup.

Yesterday, her landlords — Edward and Joan Hyde — suspended her rent for April. They did the same for her shopping center neighbors Body Quest and Party Hardy.

If conditions don’t improve, the Hydes will consider doing the same for Beth in May.

“This could make all the difference whether I can survive or not,” Beth says gratefully. “It’s not a guarantee, but it puts me in a much better place.”

The Hydes are not Westport’s biggest or wealthiest landlords. Plenty of Westport commercial real estate is owned by large corporations.

But Edward and Joan Hyde made that first generous, community-minded gesture. Will others do the same, to help other businesses survive?

When they do, let me know. I’ll give them the shout-out they deserve.


First it was the New York Times. Then Fox News. Now CNN has reported on Westport’s state-leading 79 coronavirus cases.

The story mentions the now-infamous party that may have contributed to the spread of the disease. But it also includes cautionary quotes from Yale New Haven Health System’s chief quality officer Dr. Steven Choi — a Westport resident.

“There was no social irresponsibility with the party,” he says. “It could have been any party.”

The spread is now “past the point of contact tracing,” State Senator Will Haskell — a Staples High School graduate — adds. “The most productive thing people could do right now is not point fingers, but stay at home as much as possible.”

For the full story, click here.


Everyone loves healthcare professionals, and pets. But who can care for the latter, when the former is at work?

Town House for Dogs and Cats, that’s who. Owner Sandy Goldman offers free “daycare” for healthcare workers. Email sandylee@optonline.net, or call 203-227-3276.


In related pet news, Westport-based Connecticut Humane Society is hosting a Zoom webinar tomorrow (Thursday, March 26, 3 p.m.).

It’s a PetTalk (the animal version of a TedTalk) about busting pet boredom. Participants will learn how to keep pets’ minds and bodies active. Click here to sign up.

The Humane Society adds, “thankfully everyone here is doing fine. Most pets have been moved to foster homes. Our Fox Memorial Clinic in Newington is seeing veterinary emergencies by appointment.”


In addition to being a frequent “06880” commenter, Rich Stein runs a catering business. He writes now about the sudden, complete end of work for all caterers and private chefs. No more galas or gallery openings; no more private parties. Justlikethat, they’re gone. (As is business for the vendors — including local farmers and markets — they buy from.)

Rich says that he and other caterers — he mentions Dash of Salt, AMG Catering, Along Came Carol, along with his own What’s on the Menu Event Services — have posted very tasty menus on their websites and social media, for anyone who wants meals prepared and delivered (and frozen). They are always scrupulous about cleanliness and health.

Remember: Easter and Passover are coming. You may not have your traditional gathering — but you’ll still want to eat well.


Speaking of food, Brian Lewis is doing all he can to help his dedicated restaurant staff.

All takeout orders at OKO support a new meal train for the employees who are temporarily out of work. He’s providing full dinners for them and their families, twice a week.

“Every dollar from takeout orders that members of the community are so graciously placing supports this meal train,” Brian says. “Each dollar also helps me keep 9 people employed. and our doors open.”

Brian also plans to help feed first responders, and medical workers.

To help OKO help others, click here. For a list of all restaurants and markets offering curbside and takeout delivery, click here; then scroll down.


Speaking even more of food, Stew Leonard Jr. was on Fox News yesterday, talking about his family’s business.

Panic buying seems over, he says. They’ve adjusted to spikes, like selling 40,000 cans of tuna fish a week, up from the usual 10,000.

He also noted changes, like eliminating loose bagel bins and (aaargh!) all those free samples.

Oh, yeah: Stew’s is paying employees an extra $2 an hour now.

Click here for the full interview.

 


The Nature Conservancy has closed Devil’s Den. A “dramatic increase” in visitors — combined with their lack of social distancing, and “not heeding the town of Weston’s request to refrain from parking on roads which can block emergency access for our neighbors” — sparked the decision.


Bridgeport Rescue Mission offers food, shelter, clothing, addiction recovery services and education to a desperate population in Bridgeport — and does it 24/7/365, with no city, state or federal funding. A number of Westporters are deeply involved in the Mission’s work.

COVID-19 hits the low income, homeless and mentally ill populations hard. Meanwhile, both food donations and financial support is down. Packaged food or wellness kits with hand sanitizer, tissues, soap and cough drops can be dropped off at 1069 Connecticut Avenue, Bridgeport (Tuesdays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Click here to donate online, or mail to: BRM, PO Box 9057, Bridgeport, CT  06601.

 


Beechwood — Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito’s innovative, immersive arts salon series — offers intimate, personal encounters with music, paintings, sculpture, dance, the written word and more.

It’s the opposite of social distancing.

But you can’t keep Beechwood down.

From 6 to 7 p.m. every Wednesday in April, they’ll provide an hour of art, music, performances and special guests. And they’ll do it while connecting communities around the globe. Audiences don’t just tune in; they’ll interact too.

Each Wednesday has a theme. There are live performances, special guests, and excerpts from amazing performances over the past 9 years of salons.

Mark your calendars. Then click on facebook.com/beechwoodarts. For more infromation, click here.


And finally, a few wise words from Bill Withers:

Beechwood Arts Concert Streams Into Your Home

Today — 2 weeks before Christmas — is a busy day for many of us.

We’ve got holiday parties to go to, trees to buy and trim, football games to watch. There aren’t enough hours in the day.

But if you can manage to be free for just an hour — starting at 5 p.m. — you won’t regret it.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, in their Weston Road home.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, in their Weston Road home.

Beechwood Arts and Innovation — the unique immersive salons sponsored by Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito at their amazing Weston Road home — is staging another event.

But this time, on this cold day, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home.

You don’t even have to live around here to attend.

All you need is Facebook.

The idea is to replace the “me” in social media with “we,” Chiu explains. “We hope to bring people together to inspire a sense of unity on a global scale.”

Igor Pikayzen

Igor Pikayzen

Today’s salon is a virtual one. Held on Facebook Live, it’s a stream of an actual salon to be held at the couple’s home (called Beechwood). Igor Pikayzen — a 2005 Staples High School graduate, 2007 Westport Arts Horizon winner, and internationally known violinist, will perform.

Fairfield neighbor Orin Grossman will play favorites from the Gershwin songbook on piano, and Brahms’ “Hungarian Dances” with Chiu.

Greg Wall — Westport’s unique “jazz rabbi” — will show off his rarely seen classical side.

“The goal is to create unity around the world, through the universal language of music,” Chiu says. “Facebook Live is the perfect platform, because it’s interactive.

beechwood-arts-logo“People can join us on their phone, computer, tablet or smart TV. They can communicate with each other using Facebook comments — emojis are fine!”

Hundreds of intimate gatherings of friends and families have already been planned (thanks to Facebook, of course). But individuals can join too. Everyone’s invited.

Today’s Beechwood salon is music at its finest — and most accessible.

That football game can wait.

(Click here to join the Beechwood Arts Salon Facebook Live event, or search Facebook for “Beechwood Arts and Innovation.”)

Greg Wall, the "jazz rabbi," plays classical music today.

Greg Wall, the “jazz rabbi,” plays classical music today.