Tag Archives: Drew Friedman Community Arts Center

Drew Friedman’s Gift Keeps On Giving. So Does WestPAC.

Despite its name, the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center is not a place.

It’s an organization, named for a bequest by the longtime restaurant owner (Onion Alley, Cobb’s Mill Inn, Stonehenge Inn) and downtown landlord (much of Main Street).

His first wife, Bobbie, was an accomplished artist who died in 2011. Drew was a great supporter of her work, and her many local artist friends.

After his death in 2016, his estate funded the Community Arts Center. Administered by Drew’s business partner Nick Visconti, it supports non-profit art programs, with a special emphasis on youth.

One of its centerpieces is a scholarship program. For the 3rd year in a row, Friedman’s endowment has provided college grants — totaling $25,000 — to 4 Westport students.

The committee has chosen well. Here are samples of the works of the 4 awardees.

Thanks to Drew Friedman, the Westport school system — and our entire arts-loving town — the creative future is in great hands.

Alexandra Lam graduates next month from Staples High School. She will study at the School for Visual Arts in New York.

Staples graduate Whitney O’Reardon is a rising senior at Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

Staples High School 2019 graduate Margot Liotta will study at Berklee College in Boston.

Staples graduate Sam Mann is a rising senior at Southern Connecticut State University.

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Meanwhile, in other art news, the Board of Selectmen voted this week to accept 30 works of art sought by Westport’s Public Art Collections.

This is the first time the Westport Arts Advisory Committee — which oversees WestPAC — has purchased items for the collection.

Until now, donations have enabled more than 1,500 artworks to hang in public buildings. Schools, Town Hall, the Senior Center, Parks & Rec office — everywhere in Westport, you see public art.

Now, the WAAC is proactively contemporizing and updating the collection. Most of the 30 works accepted by the selectmen this week were donations. They include the mixed media collage “Village @ Ntonso” by 1965 Staples High School graduate and retired North Carolina State University professor of design Charles Joyner.

“Village @ Ntonso” (Charles Joyner 2020, mixed media)

However, 4 were purchased, thanks to Friends of WestPAC. Two are by Westport photographer Jerri Graham; one is by Stamford painter Christa Forrest, the other by nationally renowned photographer Adger Cowans of Bridgeport.

“Sisters” (Jerri Graham, 2020) , Taken at the George Floyd memorial protest on Westport’s  Jesup Green,

The goal of the purchasing program is for “residents, students, and school and town staff to be able to see themselves reflected in – and inspired by – a more diverse range of original works of art,” says town arts curator Kathie Bennewitz.

“We hope too that these works will help foster community dialogues.” 

To learn more about how to donate art, or make tax-deductible contributions to WestPAC, click here.

“Three Shadows – The Bronx” (Adger Cowans 1968, 1977 silver gelatin print)

People. Politics. Planet.

People. Politics. Planet.

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:

  • Alicia Cobb
  • Dereje Tarrant
  • Guy Sealey
  • Jerri Graham
  • Kerry Long
  • kHyal
  • Louise Cadoux
  • Margaret Roleke
  • Mia Lipstick
  • Steven Parton
  • Trace Burroughs
  • Liz Squillace.

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.

Street Art Enlivens South Compo

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.”

 

“Spirit Animal” Art At Powell Place

Art lifts. Art energizes. Art inspires.

So does the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center. The non-profit — funded by a $500,000 bequest from the late downtown landlord and Cobb’s Mill Inn owner — has quietly but strongly impacted the lives of young Westporters. Led by passionate volunteer artists, these boys and girls create their own art — right where they live.

Homes with Hope runs an after-school program for children and teenagers living in the organization’s Powell Place housing, and the surrounding neighborhood Saugatuck Avenue neighborhood.  It provides positive role models, academic support and enrichment, 4 days a week.

First, with the guidance of Miggs Burroughs, the Drew Friedman Center helped kids in the program create a mural of their self-portraits.

Recently, they embarked on their 2nd project. Each student chose a “spirit animal,” then created their own interpretation of that animal and its environment.

Hard at work on the mural.

Artist Katherine Ross and her daughter Rebecca worked with them to devise a layout and composition for the mural, then helped them realize their visions.

Art is a collaborative process.

The mural now hangs proudly in the Powell Place community room.

Artists young and old, and their mural. (Photo releases were not obtained for all young artists.)

This project — run by Lynn Abramson — is just the latest for the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center. They’ve already sponsored art classes at Project Return, in Randy Herbertson’s studio, and for developmentally disabled youngsters at CLASP Homes.

Art lifts, energizes and inspires. Thanks to Drew Friedman’s generosity, it’s also accessible now to every child, no matter where in Westport they live.

This young artist’s work began as a sketch.

Kids Create Art — And More?

Drew Friedman is the gift that keeps giving.

The late restaurant owner and longtime arts supporter’s $1 million bequest to endow a Community Arts Center — a series of projects, rather than an actual building — has already funded several scholarships and programs for under-served students.

On Thursday afternoon, another installment of Art on the Beach brought youngsters to the Compo pavilion.

Led by Westport artist and educator Katherine Ross and her daughter Rebecca, the budding artists painted, drew and created collages.

A few of the works created Thursday at Compo Beach.

They also talked about forming a collective for young artists in town. Thanks to Drew’s funds, all sessions would be free.

To learn more — as a young artist, or the parent or friend of one — email Miggs Burroughs: miggsb@optonline.net.

Art For All This Month

For over a century, Westport has been known as an arts community.

While our focus is often on noted artists, art comes in many forms. So does “community.”

Two upcoming events honor art of different types — and the concept of community.

A free “HeARTS Open Wide” gala on Thursday, May 17 (5 p.m., Westport Woman’s Club) celebrates the work of budding artists from CLASP Homes, Project Return and Homes With Hope.

Those local organizations support adults with disabilities, teenage girls and young women in crisis, and homeless families — populations that may not seem to have time for art, but for whom it can be a life-changing form of expression.

The Westport Arts Center and Westport Historical Society will also be represented at the gala.

The event is the first-ever art show for the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center.

Senator Richard Blumenthal is scheduled to present 3 DFCAC scholarships at the gala, in partnership with the WAC and Westport Woman’s Club. Staples High School seniors Lilianna Giaume, Katelyn Loucas and Zoe Molina each earned a $5,000 award.

The evening also includes the introduction of the $1 million DFCAC Fund. Over the next 10 years, it will support art programs and scholarships for underserved artists of all ages.

Miggs Burroughs — a noted artist DFCAC board member — has matched local organizations with art instructors from the Westport Arts Collective. That jump-started the foundation’s mission: reaching budding artists who may otherwise not have access to supplies and education.

There will be music too, from the incomparable Suzanne Tanner — and of course food. Friedman and Nick Visconti — chair of the DFCAC, and Friedman’s longtime business partner — owned local restaurants.

Nick Visconti (front row, middle) and Miggs Burroughs (back row, middle) with some of the art students helped by the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center.

CLASP Homes and Project Return are also beneficiaries of a portion of sales at 2 pop-up gallery shows. They’re set for 153 Post Road East — the building opposite Design Within Reach (old post office), between Westport Pizzeria and Finalmente/Jeera Thai.

Over 30 artists will be featured from May 10 to June 3. There are 2 receptions, with food and music: Saturday, May 12 (4 to 6 p.m.), and Sunday, May 27 (6 to 8 p.m.).

The pop-up shows are directed by artists Amy Kaplan and Trace Burroughs. Their goal is to “connect the community, and energize downtown Westport through art.”

The 1st (May 10-22) includes Kaplan and Burroughs, plus Kat Evans, Miggs Burroughs, Irene Penny, Nina Bentley and others.

Amy Kaplan’s “Dreamweave.”

The 2nd show (May 24-June 3) includes Noah Steinman, Dan Long, Katherine Ross, Charles Douthalt, Melissa Newman, Diane Pollack and more.

There’s plenty of art for Westport this month. After all these years, we are still very much an arts community.

Drew Friedman: One In Half A Million

Drew Friedman was a pillar of downtown Westport. A major landowner, a founder of the Westport Downtown Merchants Association and landlord of restaurants like Onion Alley, Bobby Q’s and Acqua, he influenced much of Main Street.

His holdings once included the original Westport Public Library building on the Post Road between Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza (now Starbucks and Freshii). He also owned Post Road property beyond downtown. And was a presence in Weston too, as the owner of Cobb’s Mill Inn.

He died in February 2016, at 86.

Drew Friedman and his wife Laura Papallo Friedman, at Cobb’s Mill Inn. (Photo/Patricia Gay)

Now Friedman is back in the news.

In his will, he left $500,000 to set up a “Drew Friedman Community Arts Center.”

But it’s not a place.

It’s a foundation.

Friedman’s former business partner Nick Visconti asked artist/photographer Miggs Burroughs — whose “Tunnel Vision” project is installed next to and across from some of Friedman’s former properties — and Visconti’s sister Louise Fusco to join him on the foundation board.

Their mission is to give $50,000 a year to one or more worthy artists and/or arts organizations and activities in Westport or Weston.

Nick Visconti, MIggs Burroughs and Louise Fusco announce the fulfillment of Drew Friedman’s dream.

So far, money has gone to Homes With Hope, CLASP Homes, the Westport Arts Center and Westport Historical Society. It will help fund art classes and activities for under-served students and young adults. This spring, an art exhibit will showcase all their work.

In addition, the foundation will award 2 scholarships, of $7,500 each, so high school students with need can attend an arts college, or art classes at a community college.

A special gala at the Westport Woman’s Club on May 17 will celebrate the arts program — and artists’ — great accomplishments.

Though not an artist himself, Friedman married one. His wife Bobbie created memorable works of art on canvas, and in clay and bronze, in a beautiful studio he built at their Westport home.

Now Bobby Q’s, Acqua and Cobb’s Mill are all gone.

So are Drew and Bobbie Friedman.

But thanks to his generosity and foresight, the arts — and artists — in Westport and Weston will live on for years.

(Candidates for Drew Friedman Community Arts Center scholarships should click here for more information.)