Tag Archives: Kristen Briner

Never Too Busy To Give Back To The Arts

You know the saying: “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”

It’s hard to find someone busier than a new mom with a full-time job. And planning a huge event — like the annual fundraiser for the Westport Arts Center — is almost another full job in itself.

Yet Caitlin Burke and Kristen Briner are doing just that.

It says a lot about them — and just as much about the importance of the arts to our entire town.

The theme of this year’s event (Saturday, April 26, Cranbury Park in Norwalk) is “WONDERland – A Mad Art Party.” Both women are well versed in the “wonder” of Westport arts.

WAC

Kristen came here as a little girl to visit her godparents. She started her business — the very creative Madison/Mott digital marketing agency — here 20 years later, with 1991 Staples grad Luke Scott. Serving local businesses like Gault Energy and Wish List, along with international clients, the company has a hip, funky vibe that is the 21st-century version of Westport’s arts heritage, dating back over a century.

“Westport has always been a breeding ground for artists of all genres,” Kristen says. She joined the WAC board because of the organization’s commitment to connect Westport and surrounding areas to the arts — and the energy with which staff and members do so.

Caitlin Burke (left) and Kristen Briner.

Caitlin Burke (left) and Kristen Briner.

Caitlin — a 1996 Staples alum, whose parents Bud and Sharon Frey also graduated from Staples — returned here in 2007. She’s the new director of marketing for Norwalk-based ICR.

As a youngster, Caitlin did not know much about the Westport Arts Center (she played field hockey, and served on her class committee). But, she quickly learned as a new homeowner, “it’s a lot more than just a gallery.” Caitlin has been impressed with the WAC’s outreach to urban schools, veterans (through Homes for the Brave), the elderly and Smilow Cancer Center.

Both women look forward to sharing the “wonder” of the Westport Arts Center — and Westport’s arts history — with their young sons. (Very young. Caitlin’s is 8 months old; Kristen’s is just 2 months.)

WAC“WONDERland” follows in the tradition of unique WAC fundraisers like the Warhol Ball and Art Noir. (Each time there’s a new venue, too.) This year, guests will “sip, savor and seek” as they “discover the unexpected” with a trip through the looking glass, and down the rabbit hole.

The evening includes a performance by Juilliard trained opera singer and 1993 Staples graduate Lucia Palmieri.

“The Westport Arts Center is a manifestation of everything that makes Westport such a wonderful, magical, music- and art-filled place to live,” Lucia says.

“WAC programs are not only educational, entertaining and fun, they are an integral outlet for artists in almost every medium. I am honored to be part of this evening.”

“Yes, it’s challenging to organize all this as working moms of little kids,” Caitlin says. “But it’s a great way to meet amazing people, and do some good. The WAC gives back in many ways, and this is one way we can help.”

It takes a busy person (or 2) to get a big job done. Many Westporters are busy people, with not enough time to attend every worthy cause.

This one, though, is well worth checking out.

(“WONDERland – A Mad Art Party” includes a 5:30 p.m. reception and dinner for Ann Sheffer, the WAC’s “Queen of the Arts” [$500 per ticket] and an 8 p.m. Friends of the Arts part [$225 per ticket]. For more information, click here.)

Madison/Mott Makes Its Move

The ping pong table was key.

When Luke Scott and Kristen Briner were designing the new office for Madison/Mott — the very cool, very hip marketing/design firm that moved this month from SoNo to Saugatuck — they knew they needed many things.

Blazing fast and always dependable internet connections.

Plenty of space, lots of light, room for all their funky furniture.

And definitely, a ping pong table.

Luke Scott, Kristen Briner and the famous ping pong table.

That table — one of the first things you see when you walk in off Ketchum Street — symbolizes Madison/Mott.

The name combines classic Madison Avenue creativity with East Village punk. The young staff is fluent in mobile and social media, but also experts in branding and print. And the new office combines the hip feel of Silicon Valley with the pulsing excitement of the Saugatuck renaissance.

Moving back to Westport — Madison/Mott was founded here in 1999 as “Dogsname” by Kristen, Luke, and Luke’s late father John Scott — is satisfying, Luke says.

(Full disclosure: I’ve known Luke since the late 1980s, when I coached him in soccer. He’s now a great friend, and also a collaborator: Madison/Mott created StaplesSoccer.com, which has been called [ahem] “the best high school sports website in the country.”)

But the story is even better than just great-business-returns-home. Luke grew up a quarter mile from his current office. He worked at Peter’s Bridge Market, washed dishes at Mario’s, and skipped school to take boats out on the river.

Saugatuck lost its edge in the intervening years. Peter’s closed, the hot restaurants were in Fairfield (and SoNo), and there was no reason for young people — like the Madison/Mott crew — to come here.

Now there is. Luke, Kristen and the rest of their creative staff form the vanguard of new small businesses that are revitalizing that section of town. They walk to restaurants — and from the train station. They can’t believe there’s a kayak rental shop around the corner.

The new office is conducive to great work. In 13 years the firm has gone from hand-coding HTML (“poorly,” Luke admits)  and hand-submitting sites to Yahoo (“they were the Number One search engine”), to being an award-winning hybrid shop with a diverse portfolio.

Madison/Mott's home page design for Bahlsen.

HobNob Wines is a client, and Bahlsen (European biscuits and chocolates). So are Yale West Apartments and Greenfield Partners (real estate investors).

Yet Madison/Mott has not forgotten its roots. Gault has been a client for over 10 years. WishList has been too. Soon, the firm will roll out Westport Arts Center’s redesigned site.

“It’s such an exciting and challenging time,” Luke says, referring both to his industry’s increasing emphasis on mobile platforms and social media, and his company’s return to its Westport roots.

Working with Gault, Luke and Kristen knew that the Phase II redevelopment of Saugatuck would be a tipping point. “We felt energy, creativity and inspiration,” Luke says. “Saugatuck was getting the life and love it needed.”

He and Kristen toured a dark, boxy building — former home to GE research, then Mecklermedia. The floor was cement, and wires hung from the ceiling. But Kristen envisioned what it could be.

Now her vision is a reality. (Another plus: Parking is so much better than SoNo.)

“There’s a real community feeling here,” Kristen says. “Everyone has welcomed us in.”

Kristen Briner and Luke Scott, on a gorgeous spring day.

On their very first day in Saugatuck, an architect walked in the door. She’d seen the Madison/Mott blog, which invited people to say hello. “She literally stopped in,” Kristen laughs.

They chatted. There may be collaboration ahead. There’s definitely a new friendship.

“We love being part of this excitement,” Luke says. “There’s so much energy and youth around. Bright, motivated, artistic, intelligent people are making changes here for all the right reasons. We dig it!”

And now, when he feels the urge to go out on the river, he doesn’t have to skip school.

He can just skip out of work.