That’s the theme of a few of this week’s art gallery submissions. As we enjoy this end-of-a-strange-summer holiday, we also celebrate the wonders of Westport.
As always, all submissions are welcome — in any medium. The only rule: It should be inspired by, relevant to, or somehow, in some way, connected to our current world. Student art of all ages is especially welcome.
Coronavirus, social justice, politics, or just the beauty around us — have at it! Email firstname.lastname@example.org, to share your work with the world.
“Current Issues.” Photographer Rowene Weems — who took this shot at Assumption Cemetery on Kings Highway North — says, “Initially I was fascinated by the broken edges of the tree (there are so many these days. Lightning? Wind? Crazy!). Then, by the flag in the tree. Was the flag there first or after? Then I began to see it all more symbolically. There’s a lot going on in our world right now that feels pretty shattering.”
The 1950s: McCarthyism. The Cold War. Nike Sites, fallout shelters and elementary school “duck and cover” drills.
Those were the days!
Well, yeah. In many ways they were — especially around here. We had a real-live Main Street, with actual grocery stores, hardware stores, and merchants who knew your name. Kids romped in the woods free from parental worries.
And Westport was growing rapidly. Every day, it seemed, another family moved in. Many were arts-types: novelists, TV writers, playwrights, admen. They were drawn by the town’s reputations as an “artists’ colony” — and as each one arrived, more followed.
Starting this Sunday (January 29), you can revisit those days. The Westport Historical Society presents 2 exhibits looking back on that golden/scary era.
“Next Stop: Westport, The Inspiration for 1950’s TV & Film Writers” takes its title from “A Stop at Willoughby,” one of “Twilight Zone”‘s most memorable episodes. In it, an ad executive on his way home to suburban Westport repeatedly finds himself in a pastoral town called Willoughby — in 1888.
Westport’s role in “The Twilight Zone” was no coincidence. Rod Serling wrote the episode when he lived in Westport.
It was quite a time. There were so many creative types, says Linda Gramatky Smith — the daughter of “Little Toot” creator Hardie Gramatky — that there were regular writer-vs.-artist basketball and softball games.
The Historical Society exhibit features all that, and more — like Sloan Wilson’s novel The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, which was set here (the subsequent movie, starring Gregory Peck, was filmed here), and the final year of “I Love Lucy,” when the Ricardos and Mertzes move to town.
Video of a different kind will be shown at the WHS too. “The Cold War in Our Backyard” — a fascinating, chilling (and at times laughable) film compilation by Lisa Seidenberg, including everything from instructions on removing radiation from food to the still-frightening “Twilight Zone” episode on barbarism in a fallout shelter — will play in a continuous loop. (You can also click here to see it.)
Nearby, images and artifacts will recreate the fears that filled that “golden” era.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” Charles Dickens wrote.
He didn’t live in Westport.
But so many other famous writers did. Starting Sunday, the Westport Historical Society shares their stories with the world.
(The exhibit’s opening reception is this Sunday, January 29, 3-5 p.m. Click here for more information, or call 203-222-1424.)
Who knew so many people cared about the Merritt Parkway?
An overflow crowd braved last night’s cold rain to pack the Westport Public Library for a film about a road. Lisa Seidenberg showed her 35-minute documentary, “The Road Taken: The Merritt Parkway,” to an appreciative audience — only some of whom remember it being built in the 1930s.
I’ve driven the Merritt thousands of times. But I learned plenty about it last night — and was reminded of more I once knew, but forgot as quickly as the memory of tollbooths in Greenwich. For example:
The road was named for Schuyler Merritt, a 4-term congressman from Stamford who championed its construction.
The Merritt was not a federal WPA project. It was funded entirely by the State of Connecticut.
There’s a reason it’s called a “parkway.” It was envisioned as a long, narrow park with a road slicing through it. And that road? It was designed for “motoring” — not “driving.” The difference: Folks sought pleasure, not a destination.
All land was bought on the open market. Back in the day, the state could not condemn property just to build a road.
The current metal signs with hideous-looking, painted-on sharp edges are meant to evoke the original wooden signs — which really did jut dangerously out.
Though each bridge is different, with unique, fascinating artwork, they all were designed by the same man. Nowadays, the only time you notice the bridgework is when you’re stuck in traffic.
The most twisting part of the parkway — in Greenwich — is not topography-related. Those turns were the only way to get around enormous estates.
Similarly, “no man’s land” — the Exit 43-less stretch in Westport and Fairfield — came about when Greenfield Hill residents refused to allow an off-ramp in their backyard.
Thayer Chase, who oversaw the tree work, planted them in clumps — not rows — to make them seem more natural. His plan worked. Today we imagine the trees were always there. They weren’t.
Not everyone loves the trees. Former Department of Transportation commissioner (and Westport resident) Emil Frankel said: “Whenever you cut one branch, you’re inundated with phone calls.”
When he wanted to think, John Lennon would rent a car and drive up the Merritt, then back to New York. He said the parkway gave him “peace.”
The tollbooths — removed in 1988 — live on in an exhibit at Boothe Memorial Park in Stratford. Now, they’re free.
The film’s 2 best lines: “The Merritt Parkway is outdated — in the best possible way.”
And: “Many postcards featured the Merritt. None showed I-95.”
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