Tag Archives: Beechwood Arts

Beechwood Amplifies Arts, Social Issues

Beechwood Arts is one of Westport’s most important — and cutting-edge — cultural institutions. Through salons and workshops, in collaboration with artists, musicians, performers, filmmakers and many others, Frederic Chiu and his wife Jeanine Esposito inspire, illuminate and provoke a wide array of audiences, in often unexpected ways.

One of Frederic and Jeanine’s guiding principles is that art is an intimate part of the broader world. Beechwood always makes those  connections clear — but never more so than today. Frederic and Jeanine say:

An important part of Beechwood’s mission over the last 10 years has been to build a collaborative community of artists, performers and audiences across the divisions of age, gender, race, cultural backgrounds and lifestyles.

Jeanine Esposito and Frederic Chiu, at their Beechwood Arts home.

We have been honored to welcome a diverse community across all of our events, including a large number of black artists, performers and audience members. We’ve been heartbroken and horrified by the many violent instances of black lives being extinguished and the evidence of enduring, systemic racism in our communities and our country. We stand in support of identifying and eliminating systemic racism and replacing it with respect and equal opportunity.

In these past tragic weeks, we have reached out to the members of our Beechwood community that are directly affected by these issues to discuss, collaborate and develop together a way for Beechwood to use our resources and our mission to best support them.

The answer that emerged is AMPLIFY. The goal of AMPLIFY is to use Beechwood’s resources to support black artists and the black community by giving them control of the narrative and amplifying their voice, while standing with them in support and solidarity.

For the next 2 weeks, we have invited black members of our creative community to participate with other artists they invite to collaboratively create visual art and to perform (and stream) from our Music Room or under the Copper Beech to share their voice in whatever way they choose through the lens of the arts. Juneteenth falls in the middle of this period. We will have a special performance that evening, from 7 to 9 p.m. (see below).

All activities will run for 2 weeks (June 14-28), on either side of Juneteenth (June 19), the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.’

In addition, Beechwood purchased 40 plain black lawn signs to post along the road on our property. We’ve invited black artists from our community to pick up a sign, create an artwork on one side, then pass it along to a supportive fellow artist of their choice to paint the other side and drop it off at Beechwood. As the plain black signs are replaced with finished artwork, a river of amplified artistic voices will emerge.

Beechwood Arts’ signs, before artists’ creations.

Although Beechwood on Weston Road is not yet reopened to the public, we have invited black performing artists from our community to record and stream performances of music, theater, spoken word, live art, etc. from Beechwood’s Music Room or under the embrace of the Copper Beech.

Performers will stream from Beechwood’s Facebook Live platform, and receive donations to support them and their work, and share with other supportive organizations as they choose. The schedule will be revealed as performers sign up.

For example, there is a special, poignant and powerful performance by Tiffany Renee Jackson’s “From The Hood To The Ivy League (and Back)” about her extraordinary journey as a black woman, on June 19 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Dr. Tiffany Renee Jackson

Dr. Jackson sings and performs the story of her life journey – from growing up in a tough New Haven neighborhoods, to the development of her singing gift in the black church, to walking to lessons at Yale, to becoming an international opera star (she has sung several times at Beechwood!), to teaching at private schools including Greens Farms Academy, to finally returning to New Haven to teach and lift up young black voices.

Once all the art is in and performances have begun, we will work with the artists to forge partnerships with other venues and organizations. The goal is to expand ways to show the art and use the performances to have dialogue and conversations that bring awareness, understanding and support of Black Lives Matter issues. Please email contact@beechwoodarts.org with any suggestions, or if your organization wants to be involved.

We’d also like to share some history about the copper beech tree on Beechwood Arts’ property. Estimated at close to 400 years old, it has been witness to the history of black lives in America since the beginning of slavery.

Beechwood’s main house was built in 1806 — possibly earlier. Inside is a door that, when opened, appears to be a shallow closet, but whose side wall is a narrow entrance to a 4-room underground basement. It is believed to have played a role in the Underground Railroad.

It is reported that President Lincoln saw that tree when visiting Morris Ketchum, who owned Beechwood when it was part of the Hockanum estate.

Beechwood House, with its magnificent copper beech tree.

We did not know this history when we purchased Beechwood and set our mission to share the arts with the surrounding community by building a collaborative community of artists, performers and audiences, or when we included collaboration and community conversation in our mission to explore meaningful, and sometimes difficult and complex, themes through the arts.

But we believe that a space retains the energy of its history to influence its future!

(For more information on AMPLIFY, click here.)

Beechwood Arts Celebrates Mentors

In 2014, recenet Staples High School graduate Noah Johnson bonded quickly with Carnegie Mellon University roommate Scott Krulcik, a brilliant tech engineer.

After college, Noah was hired by Accenture. Scott worked for Google. Both were in New York City, and remained close.

Scott Krulcik

Last December Scott died of a rare, previously undiagnosed congenital heart condition. His service was filled with stories of how he had helped, encouraged and mentored many people to do more than they thought they could.

He had mentored those younger — and older — than himself. Most were on completely different life paths. He accomplished much in his short 22 years — for himself, and so many others.

Scott’s life and death gave Noah’s parents — Frederic Chiu and Jeanine Esposito — an idea. They want to encourage people to become mentors.

Frederic and Jeanine have the perfect platform to make their plan a reality. They’re the founders and hosts of Beechwood. The series — named for their their 1806 renovated farmhouse on Weston Road — brings artists, musicians and other creative types together in unique and compelling ways.

Karl Schulz

“Beechwood Arts Celebrates Mentorship” is set for this Sunday (May 5, 3 to 6 p.m.). The salon features a special pairing: noted jazz and gospel composer/ pianist/singer/ teacher/choir director Chris  Coogan, and 14-year-old jazz pianist prodigy Karl Schulz.

Scott’s mother, father and sister are coming from upstate New York and California, to join Frederic, Jeanine and scores of others at the event.

The Beechwood Arts theme for this season is “Journeys.” It will be explored — via music, visual art, sculpture, performance, film and culinary arts — in all its forms, real and metaphorical. Click here for more information, and tickets.

Going forward, Frederic and Jeanine will provide seats to all events for 1 mentor, and 1 mentee. Email contact@beechwoodarts.org for nominations.

In honor of the mentorship celebration, Frederic and Jeanine offer these thoughts — from Scott — on what all humans should strive for, to help others:

  • Share your knowledge to help others achieve their dreams.
  • Encourage them that they can do it.
  • Celebrate them and have joy for their accomplishments.
  • Make time. Help others, in spite of your busy schedule.
  • Make things — and share what you make.
  • Give out smiles generously. You can always make more!
  • Say thank you, for all things big and small.
  • Value and honor friends and family. Show up.
  • Be accepting. Be generous. Be humble.
  • Accept the challenge — and do your best.

Beechwood House — with its magnificent copper beech tree — is the site of fascinating salons.