There are many chapters in Beechwood’s storied history.
The 3-acre property on Weston Road includes a handsome 1806 house, carriage house, and stunning 400-year-old beech tree.’
For the past 12 years it’s been the home of world renowned pianist Frederic Chiu and his wife, equally talented artist Jeanine Esposito. For nearly as long, they’ve shared it with the community.
The couple created and curated Beechwood Arts & Innovation. Originally a way to showcase music in a sunny, circular room, the non-profit soon evolved into a multi-generational, ever-changing, truly innovative salon.
Violinist Joshua Bell, artists in every medium, chefs — and an eclectic cast of culturally curious area residents — gathered every 3 or 4 months. They listened, observed, ate, asked questions, debated, and gained new perspectives on our universe.
Chapter 1 of Beechwood Arts & Innovation was its workshops, Chiu and Esposito say. They created a destination, a physical community where could join together and connect, over a shared discipline.
Chapter 2 involved greater collaboration, across arts genres, and an outreach to even more diverse artists and audiences. When COVID struck, and intimate gatherings grew difficult, Beechwood pivoted to interactive livestreams and “Salons Around the World,” happening simultaneously in a variety of venues.
Now — at the same time Esposito and Chiu are planning their 100th Beechwood event October 30 — they’re preparing for Beechwood’s Chapter 3.
Soon, the magnificent property will be on the market. The 216-year-old home they’ve spent the past 2 years renovating will be sold. They’ll stay in the area. though — and shepherd Beechwood into Chapter 3.
The end of the pandemic is only part of the reason for the latest evolution. In recent months, Chiu’s touring and piano competition judging schedule has increased dramatically.
He’s on the road constantly. And when he’s not touring, he’s teaching. He began during COVID; now he’s doing it in the classroom, away from Westport.
Yet there are still concerns about large gatherings in small spaces, especially as the weather forces more people indoors. Summertime “Beechwood Open” series — conducted outdoors — are impractical most of the year.
The summer 2021 gathering was a great success. Ongoing extensive renovations made this year’s Open impractical, however.
Esposito and Chiu had originally planned small repairs. “It’s an 1806 house though,” she notes. “One thing always leads to another.”
The immediate next “other” for Beechwood is October 30 (2 to 6 p.m., 52 Weston Road). Guests can wander around, at their leisure. There will be performances under the tree and in the music room — and an open piano and stage.
In addition, 21 artists will offer tiny paintings, commemorating secrets from the property’s long history.
A scavenger hunt will enable attendees to see parts of the house they’ve never been in. A tag sale — with items grouped by collections (and vintage outfits, hats, jewelry, scarves and bags) — will help Chiu and Esposito downsize.
Plans are not finalized for all of Chapter 3. It will, however, involve collaboration with institutions like the Westport Library, MoCA, SHU Community Theater and other partners. Small dinners will continue, with guest musicians and artists.
And a name has already been chosen: “The Hive.”
“Beehives are totally collaborative,” Esposito says.
“And buzzing with activity,”” Chiu adds.
(Guests at the October 30 event should park at the United Methodist Church on Weston Road, across the street from Beechwood. There is no charge, but pre-registration is requested; click here.)
(“06880” regularly covers Westport’s arts scene. Please click here to contribute to this hyper-local blog.)