Tag Archives: Charles Joyner

Roundup: Sales Tax, Harvest Fest, Muhammad Ali …

Connecticut’s 22nd “Sales Tax-Free Week” is underway.

Most clothing and footwear items under $100 are available without the 6.35% sale and use tax.

It’s timed for back-to-school shopping. Exceptions including specialty items like athletic uniforms, gloves, specialty shoes, ice skates, wet suits and jewelry.


Tickets went on sale this morning for Wakeman Town Farm’s 10th annual Harvest Fest. The “fun-raiser” is set for Saturday, September 10 (6 to 10 p.m.).

The always-sold out outdoor affair includes seasonal fare and drink, contributed by local farmers and rock star chefs

This year’s event is cocktail-party style, with tents and multiple food stations (no sit-down dinner) so guests can mix and mingle. When the stations close, there’s Champagne, dessert and a live auction — followed by dancing to a live band. 

The online auction opens September 6. Click here for more information, and details.

Scenes from a previous Wakeman Town Farm Harvest Fest.


The Westport Library has added 5 new works to its collection. All are hung inside — and all are the works of 3 artists, all with Westport connections.

They include a piece donated by 1966 Staples High School graduate and internationally known artist Charles Joyner; an iconic image of Muhammad Ali donated by photographer Richard Frank, and 3 collages by Fred Otnes.

Joyner came to Westport in 1964 from North Carolina. He was 16 years old, part of the American Friends Service Committee’s “Southern Negro Student Program” which placed Southern Black students with Northern host families.

Joyner graduated from Staples High School in 1966. He’s spent the past 50-plus years as an artist, printmaker, photographer and college professor. His work has been shown across the US and Africa. This past spring his exhibit — “Charles Joyner: Stepping Out on Faith” was featured in the Library’s Sheffer Gallery.

“Stepping Out on Faith” (Charles Joyner)

Frank has lived in Westport for more than 30 years with his wife Leona, a painter and art teacher. In addition to many notable works, he documented the Library’s Transformation Project, completed in 2019. His 1969 Ali image is one of his most famous.

“Muhammad Ali, Jake’s Diner, Athens, Ohio” (Richard Frank)

Otnes moved to Westport in 1953. He quickly became part of the town’s community of illustrators, working and living here until his death in 2015 at age 89.

The 2 paintings by Fred Otnes and the Joyner piece all hang in the Library’s mezzanine. The Otnes illustration is in a conference room, while the Ali image is located prominently in the 1st-floor stairwell.

For more on the Library’s art, click here.


Save the dates:

The Westport Downtown Association’s 3rd annual Fitness & Health event returns on Saturday, September 18, on Main Street and nearby.

Fleet Freet, TAP Strength, Club Sweat, Pure Barre, Row House, The Dance Collective, Pause + Purpose, First Step and Kaia Yoga Center have already signed on. More details will be announced soon.

Also back: the 4th annual Westoberfest (Saturday, October 15, Elm Street). It’s a day of Oktoberfest-style entertainment. Local and regional craft breweries offer seasonal and classic pours, plus live music, plenty of food, market vendors and family-friendly activities. Click here for more information, and tickets.


Violins and golf don’t often go together.

But Suzuki Music School plans a fundraiser for September 16 — at the Yale golf course.

The non-profit serves many area youngsters, including those through the KEYS of Bridgeport program. They receive free music instruction and performance opportunities.

The event — one of the last chances to play golf at Yale, before a 2-year renovation — includes cart, food and beverages, prizes and live music.
Entry is $350 for a single player, $1200 for a foursome. For more information, click here.


Today’s very cool “Westport … Naturally” photo comes from Lucy Zeko. She took it this weekend, at Burying Hill Beach.

(Photo/Lucy Zeko)


And finally … Malvina Reynolds was born on this day, in 1900. You may not know the singer/songwriter/political activist’s name — but you probably know her music. She died in 1973.

Charles Joyner’s Journey: North Carolina, Africa And Westport

Growing up in Smithfield, North Carolina in the 1950s and early ’60s, Charles Joyner was embraced by his community. There were strong role models up and down the street. Everyone looked out for each other. And if he misbehaved somewhere, his parents knew before he got home.

But the small agricultural town was segregated. Charles had to walk past a white school to get to his Black one. So in 1964, when an assistant principal announced that the American Friends Service Committee was accepting applications for its Southern Negro Student Program, he was excited.

The program brought African American students north. They lived with host families, and attended desegregated schools.

Charles Joyner

Charles’ mother worked in the Burlington factory. She was unsure. His father, who had been blind since 14, helped Charles convince her. Feeling pressure to succeed — not just for himself, but his entire community — in 1964 he headed to Westport.

The Ader family — Saul, his wife Leda, and their children Peter and Wendy — opened their home to Charles. There were culture shocks (“that first Sunday with bagels and lox was something!” he laughs). But the Aders’ extended family and friends — and soon the broader Staples High school community — welcomed the newcomer from North Carolina.

It helped that Charles was a very good football player. But his friends came from many groups. Lou Nistico and his family — owners of the popular Arrow restaurant in Saugatuck — were among his strongest supporters.

Joyner’s experience was not like some others in the SNSP program. It was not easy to adjust to new schools. Northern communities were not always welcoming. He considers himself fortunate to have landed in Westport. He has nothing but fond memories of his 2 years here.

He had always loved art. But, he says, he was “busy being a jock.” He did not take advantage of Staples’ excellent art courses.

A recent work by Charles joyner.

He did, however, take a mechanical drawing course at Staples, with the legendary Werner Friess. A meticulous man, he fined students if their T-squares fell on the floor. He influenced Joyner greatly.

So did a friend of the Aders, an architect with an office in Greenwich Village. Joyner spent entire days with him.

Joyner also remembers his summer job with nursery owner and landscaper Evan Harding. Though the work was mostly outdoors, one day he asked Joyner to create a set of drawings for him.

After graduation, Joyner headed to Iowa State University to play football.

The experience was not good — for him, or the few other Black athletes there. But he got a good foundation in landscape architecture. After transferring to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University, Joyner pivoted a bit to his longtime passion, art.

The tradition was easy. The “structure” of mechanical drawing and architecture became part of Joyner’s style. He earned a degree in art and design from A&T, then earned an MFA at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. He added printmaking and photography to his skills.

His work won awards in national exhibitions, and is exhibited around the US and in Africa. He was awarded 2 grants for public arts projects.

“Village @ Ntonso” (Charles Joyner)

Joyner is a noted teacher of art and design too. He became department chair — and assistant dean — at North Carolina State University’s noted College of Design.

He had long wanted to go to Africa. A 1994 trip to establish a study abroad program (“at NC State the white kids went to Europe; the Black kids did not go anywhere,” he says) was the first of over 2 dozen visits.


Joyner helped create a robust program, extending from Accra, Ghana into small villages in nearly every region, encompassing sculpture, weaving, pottery and batik.

But Joyner never forgot his Westport roots. Two years ago, he was honored to be interviewed for the Westport Library’s Artist in Residence archives series.

And when the Westport Permanent Art Collections asked to buy one of his works, Joyner donated it instead.

Next week, he returns to Westport. A new exhibit — “Charles Joyner: Stepping Out on Faith” — opens at the Westport Library on Thursday, March 10.

That night (6:30 p.m. reception; 7 p.m. event, in-person and Zoom), he joins Emmy and Peabody-winning filmmaker, playwright and professor Trey Ellis — a Westport resident — for a panel discussion.

“As a storyteller myself, I’m proud to be right here to help ignite the conversation around the impact that the Southern Negro Student Program had on racial identity social justice and education — and the hard work we still have to do,” Ellis says.

They’ll be joined by Bonnyeclaire Smith Stewart. A former SNSP student herself at Norwalk High, she is the founder and executive director of 4 Million Voices. The nonprofit researches and publishes accounts of the lives of African Americans. She is developing a documentary film about Black students who came north to finish high school.

Smith Stewart and Joyner have been friends for over 50 years. He looks forward to seeing her here — along with many other Westport friends, old and new.

(No pre-registration is needed for Trefz Forum event. Click here for the Zoom link, to watch at home.) 

“The Westport Idea” Emerges At MoCA

Two of Westport’s powerhouse arts institutions — MoCA and the Westport Public Art Collections — join forces soon.

“The Westport Idea” debuts at MoCA January 28. The exhibit features selections from WestPAC’s 2,000-work collection. Most are housed in public schools and town buildings.

They’re amazing treasures. But even before COVID, because of their locations they were not easily accessible to the public.

The exhibit includes several 2021 acquisitions by artists of color and under-represented groups. Examples include “Village @ Ntonso,” filled with colors and patterns from African symbols, architectures and textiles, by internationally known (and Staples High School graduate) Charles Joyner; “Three Shadows” by photographer Adger Cowans of Harlem’s’ Kamoinge Workshop, and “Don’t Judge Me” by Stamford artist Christa Forrest.

“Village @ Ntonso” (Charles Joyner)

The Westport Public Art Collections’ origins date back to 1910. But it became more fully evolved in 1965, thanks to the vision of artist and educator Burt Chernow. His “idea” was to collect original fine art, for students to experience daily.

Simultaneously with “The Westport Idea,” MoCA will showcase the works of students from around the region, in its annual high school exhibition. This year’s title is “Identity.”

It features over 100 works based on the memories, experiences, relationships and values that create one’s sense of self. High school students were invited to submit drawings, paintings, digital and graphic images, photos, sculptures and videos.

“Facing Myself” (Tessa Moore, Staples High School senior)

Many familiar names will be highlighted in the main “Westport Idea” show. Among the artists included in the exhibit: Lynsey Addario, Ann Chernow, Charles Daugherty, James H. Daugherty, Lisa Daugherty, Stevan Dohanos, Walter Einsel, Leonard Everett Fisher, Jerri Graham, Hardie Gramatky, Robert Indiana, Estelle Margolis, Henri Matisse, Norma Minkowitz, Enid Munroe, Baroness Hilla von Rebay, Robert Rauschenberg and Larry Silver.

“Six Dancers, Children at Yangzhou School for the Deaf and Blind” (Larry Silver)

The opening reception is January 28 (6 to 8 p.m.). The exhibit runs through March 12. Admission is free, thanks to an anonymous gift.

Supporting programming for “The Westport Idea” includes a talk by co-curator Kathleen Motes Bennewitz (February 3); an in-depth discussion on Tom Wesselmann (February 17), an ekphrastic writing workshop with Westport poet laureate Diane Lowman (February 24)m, and a WestPAC teaching gallery talk (March 3).

All programs run from 6 to 7 p.m. Click here to register.

“Portrait of Joseph Mortimer Lichtenauer” (James Henry Daugherty)

Westport Arts: Adding Diversity, Color

Westport’s arts scene has a long, vibrant history.

Okay, to be honest: It’s a long, vibrant, white history.

The men and women who — from the early 1900s on — made our town a magnet for illustrators, painters, sculptors and others were (like the rest of the town) largely Caucasian.

But our town’s heritage includes important contributions from (and exploitation of) people of color. The arts today must reflect more than one perspective.

The Westport Arts Advisory Committee is addressing those issues in two big ways.

In the alley between Main Street and Bedford Square are floodgates no longer in use. David Waldman — the developer of the mixed-use center between Main Street and Church Lane — asked the WAAC how the gates could look more attractive.

The arts organization commissioned 5 artists to turn them into a history of our town: Westporters Eric Chiang, Jana Irejo and Rebecca Ross, Norwalk’s Hernan Garcia and Iyaba Mandingo of Bridgeport.

At 1 p.m. on Saturday, October 16, the WAAC will unveil their 5 paintings at the Main Street entrance to the Bedford Square courtyard. The works include early life among Native Americans, and Black life and culture here.

A “concept slide” of what the floodgate art might look like. These are not the finished pieces.

In addition, the WAAC — working with the Westport Public Art Collections — has acquired several pieces by artists of color.

Among them: art by Charles Joyner.

A professor at North Carolina State University College of Art and Design, and a noted collagist whose colorful, culturally symbolic work incorporates themes from his extensive travels to Ghana, he’s no stranger to Westport.

In 1964 he came to Westport through an American Friends Service program that brought 35 Southern students to the North to promote integration. Joyner lived with the Ader family.

After graduating from Staples High School he headed to Iowa State University on a football scholarship, transferred to North Carolina A&T, then earned a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

Joyner’s, and other newly acquired art, will be part of the WPAC’s first-ever public showing of dozens of works at MoCA Westport. The event opens January 28, and runs through March 13.

Charles Joyner’s mixed media work “Village @ Ntoso” has been acquired by the Westport Public Art Collections.

Artists In Residences: Step Into My Studio …

Any ol’ place can have an artist in residence.

Leave it to the Westport Library to have “Artists in Residences.”

That’s the clever name for an equally clever project. COVID-19 has closed the library’s 3 rotating galleries — popular spaces that were booked nearly 2 years ahead.

So exhibit curator Carole Erger-Fass and artist/library supporter/creative guru Miggs Burroughs — whose “Artist to Artist” discussion series was also shelved — devised a new way to connect artists and art-loving patrons.

The Zoom series provides peeks into otherwise-hidden spaces: artists’ studios.

The first episode was with Nancy Moore. Her “Unconventional Women” exhibit was scheduled to be installed the day the library shut down in March.

Instead, Nancy invited a crew into her airy workplace. She shared her works in progress, showed off the tools of her trade and discussed the inspiration for her vibrantly patterned paintings that no one could now enjoy in person.

The series blossomed into a living document of the state of the arts — and artists — in Westport. Twenty-four episodes have already been recorded. More are in the works.

They feature sculptors, painters, photographers, and digital and collage artists. Some have experimented with new mediums. Others have had the luxury of time to delve deeper into their genres.

Some have been inspired anew by the pandemic. Others have been stymied.

All speak eloquently about their craft. Particularly moving are Westport legends like Ann Chernow, Leonard Everett Fisher, Roe Halper, Nina Bentley, Judith Katz and Niki Ketchman. Their age makes them vulnerable to the coronavirus — but they steam ahead creatively.

The most recent episode features Charles Joyner. His intricate, layered collages meld colors, patterns and symbols inspired by his growing up in rural North Carolina, and his extensive travels to Ghana.

So how is the longtime Carolinian a “Westport artist”?

In 1964, he came to Westport through an American Friends Service program that brought 35 Southern students to the North to promote integration. He lived with the Ader family.

After graduating from Staples High School he headed to Iowa State University on a football scholarship, transferred to North Carolina A&T, then earned a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

Joyner spent many years as a tenured professor in the North Carolina State University College of Art and Design. He is also an outstanding jazz drummer.

His interview with the “Artists in Residences” program is fascinating. Click below to see. Then click here for all interviews.

(Carole Erger-Fass talks about “Artists in Residences” on WPKN-FM 89.5 “Open Book” show, at noon on November 30.)