Tag Archives: Mark Yurkiw

0*6*Art*Art*0 — Week 16 Gallery

A few 4th of July-themed works are featured in this week’s art gallery.

“06880” is finishing our 4th month featuring readers’ creations. As the world changes, your submissions are as important as ever.

Keep ’em coming. Professional, amateur, old, young — we want it all. Student works are particularly welcome!

The only rule: Your art must be inspired by, reflective of, or otherwise related to the times we’re going through. Email dwoog@optonline.net.

“Happy 4th of July!” (Amy Schneider)

“Welcome Back” (Lawrence Weisman)

Seth Schachter created this collage from discarded items he spotted, in and around downtown. “It’s sad to see litter like this (or any litter for that matter),” he says.”But of course it’s reflective of the times we live in.”

“Out for a Drive in the New Norm!” Bob Weingarten says, “While cleaning drawers, I found cars and figures that our grandkids used.” One result is this photograph.

“First Recital” (oil on canvas). Artist Cindy Wagner says, “I just watched my granddaughter perform a virtual dance recital. It’s still beautiful and made me smile, but I thought about how different it was from her past recitals.”

“The Golden Rule” (Mark Yurkiw)

Untitled. Larry Untermeyer shot this tight closeup of the pistils from within a single bloom of a wild tiger lily that grows on his patio.

Pop Goes The Art Gallery

It’s a familiar scene on Main Street: A tenant moves out. Landlords leave the space vacant for a long time, searching for the perfect replacement. Or at least, someone willing to pay the sky-high rent.

But take a look at #1. One of the most visible properties downtown — it’s in the old library building, at the Post Road intersection across from Taylor Place — it was formerly the site of Calypso. The “luxury lifestyle brand” moved out more than 2 years ago.

The space is still available. But for the past few months, it’s been occupied — very vibrantly — by a pop-up art gallery.

#1 Main Street

Pop’TArt is the brainchild of Mark Yurkiw. A longtime Westporter and physicist by training, he spent his career helping Fortune 500 companies launch products and services. Part of that involved creating story-telling sculptures for media outlets like Newsweek and Fortune.

His works include a rendition of the Capitol. Commissioned by the George W. Bush White House, it was signed by 256 members of Congress.

In 1995 Yurkiw created a piece of a real estate developer named Donald Trump. He had bought a hotel on Columbus Circle, and wanted to brand it with his name.

A few months ago, in a conversation with fellow Westport artists Miggs Burroughs and Amy Kaplan, Yurkiw learned that Rick Yarmy was looking for a way to champion local artists.

Yarmy’s is the longtime property manager for Win Properties. They handle #1 Main Street (and many other retail spaces across the country).

Yurkiw called. He told Yarmy his idea: a gallery with works that would push visitors to think about current news and headlines.

Yarmy said “sure!”

Yurkiw found a curator. Jennifer Haviland was working in Southampton. But she took a leap of faith, and moved here.

Together, they set out to find local artist who could create or re-purpose pieces to fit a theme.

The current show — called “Words Matter,” because each work’s title is important — includes some of Yurkiw’s own previous efforts. His Capitol sculpture, for example, is called “Re-Birth of a Nation.” Recalling D.W. Griffith, with an egg shape that suggests birth.

Mark Yurkiw with “Re-Birth of a Nation.” Behind him is another work: “New National Bird.” It’s a monarch butterfly.

Yurkiw froze his own passport. He calls it “Passport on ICE.” It’s provocative. But — as with every piece in the show — Yurkiw says, “people can decide how or what to feel for themselves.”

“Passport on ICE,”

Another example: a monarch butterfly, called “New National Bird.” Some people may look at it and think about all the birds that are disappearing. Others might say, “They migrate from Mexico.” Or, “Oh, we now have a monarch.”

Chris Calle — who has designed 32 US stamps, many relating to space — contributed a diptych. Titled “Fragile,” the two parts — “Climate” and “Change” — show the earth from space, in two very different forms. One is lush; the other, arid.

Reaction to Pop’TArt has been excellent, Yurkiw says. And Yarmy — the landlord’s representative — is so excited at the chance to showcase art in an otherwise empty space that he’s talking with Yurkiw about moving the show to other properties.

The storefront is still for rent. But, Yurkiw says, Yarmy sees the gallery as an asset. Potential tenants are excited to see foot traffic, and can envision their own store there.

Curator Jennifer Haviland, with Steven Goldstein’s Paul Newman art.

Meanwhile, Yurkiw forges ahead. He’s spoken with Westport poet laureate Diane Lowman about doing readings at Pop’TArt.

“We want to bring as many artists here, of all kinds, for as long as we can,” he says.

And when #1 Main Street gets rented — well, there are plenty of other vacant storefronts downtown.

(Pop’TArt is open Thursday through Sunday, from 12 to 6 p.m.)

Pic Of The Day #941

First Selectman Jim Marpe (right) and artist Mark Yurkiw, at at the PoP’TArt pop-up gallery , 1 Main Street. The current show — with plenty of provocative work — is called “Words Matter.”

Pic Of The Day #920

Art thrives, at the most visible corner in downtown Westport.

A pop-up gallery — with the clever name of Pop’TArt — just opened at 1 Main Street. That’s the juncture of the Post Road, opposite Anthropologie.

Curator/director Jennifer Ruger Haviland relocated from Southampton, for the current show. Artists — who work in oil, photographs, and wood and metal sculpture — include Miggs Burroughs, Mark Yurkiw, Robert Braczyk, Betsey Fowler, Joe Sorge, Monica Bernier and Jim Velgoti.

Below, Haviland welcomes art lovers to the warm, inviting space. It runs through the end of the month. The next show — “Words Matter” — opens November 1.

Unsung Heroes #46

Last Saturday was Green Day. All across town, dozens of Westport volunteers picked up trash.

For Bob Braczyk and Scott Williams, every day is Green Day.

Nearly every weekend for 40 years, Bob and his wife Monica Bernier come to Westport from their Manhattan apartment.

Every morning they’re here — rain or shine — Bob joins Mark Yurkiw and his wife Wendy Van Wie on their daily 3 1/2-mile dog walk. The route includes Cross Highway, Sturges Highway, Meeker Road and Bayberry Lane.

Bob is here to relax. But when he joins Mark and Wendy, Bob brings a plastic claw, and the biggest recycled plastic bag he can find. He wants to clean the streets of his weekend hometown.

No matter how big the bag — and some are huge — he always fills it up. By the end, he’s stuffing in more trash than it can hold.

Bob Braczyk, with one day's haul.

Bob Braczyk, with one day’s haul. Keeping pace is Wendy Van Wie.

Mostly, Mark says, the garbage is coffee cups, beer cans, liquor bottles, cigarette packs, fast food wrappers, and “really gross things.”

Just imagine what Westport would look like if — every weekend, on every walk — Bob just passed it all by.

Scott lives just down Sturges from Bob and Mark. You know his place: the iconic horse farm on the corner of Cross Highway.

Scott is a 1-man army. He cleans up all around the Merritt Parkway underpass — both sides of the bridge.

People use it as a dumping ground. For some reason, truckers park there and unload their trash.

On the other side of the bridge he cleans up dead trees, manicures and mows.

Scott Williams’ iconic farm. He cleans up all around, all the time. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Mark says that Scott keeps the farm, and environs, looking exactly like it did on a Saturday Evening Post cover (and the opening shot of the “Stepford Wives” movie).

Scott’s farm actually falls on the Fairfield side of the town border. But he — and Bob — are true “06880” heroes.

And any other zip code.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net)

Read This Story. Buy This House.

“06880” has written often — and admiringly — of a handsome old Cross Highway home.

Built in 1728 by Samuel Meeker, it was already half a century old when the British marched past, on their way to Danbury. They took Meeker’s 2 sons prisoners — but not without a fight. A musket ball lodged in the door offered vivid evidence that this house had history.

Today, it’s known as the Schilthuis-Meeker house. (More history: Sally Schilthuis was influential in preventing construction of Merritt Parkway Exit 43 in the area, resulting in the current “No Man’s Land” between Exits 42 and 44).

The saltbox incorporates 3 vernaculars of American architectural history. It almost met the wrecking ball, but owners Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Wie spent several years (and a ton of money) restoring it, and ensuring its legal preservation in perpetuity.

The front view of 180 Cross Highway. (Photo/Amy Dolego)

The front view of 188 Cross Highway. (Photo/Amy Dolego)

Next Wednesday, the house will be listed for sale. But Mark and Wendy are offering a unique opportunity to “06880” readers:

You can buy it before it hits the market.

No, I’m not pimping real estate on the side. But I love this house. I’d buy it myself if I had a few hundred thousand dollars floating around.

And because the owners want to find someone as special as the place they’ve worked hard to protect and preserve — someone who appreciates the home’s connection to Westport, US and architectural history — I’m happy to help.

The rear view. (Photo/Amy Dolego)

The rear view.

The listing price is $1,499,000. But if you contact Mark and Wendy before Tuesday afternoon (February 28), they’re willing to work with you. “We can be creative in how it’s sold to the best buyer,” they add.

Timing is everything. If you’re interested, email mark.think3d@gmail.com before next Wednesday.

Just tell ’em your real estate advisor — “06880” — sent you.

The sitting and dining room.

The sitting and dining room.

The living room.

The living room.

180 Cross Highway: Saved!

Our country is more polarized than at any time since the Civil War.

But in one corner of Westport, at least, folks negotiate in good faith.

They compromise. And everyone wins.

The Planning & Zoning Commission was all set last night for a contentious hearing on Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Wie’s plea to preserve their 1700s property on Cross Highway. The couple — who spent years restoring a home and barn — wanted a waiver to live in the barn, but sell the other structure. That way, they said, it could be loved, cared for and maintained in perpetuity.

One view of 188 Cross Highway.

One view of 188 Cross Highway.

A neighbor opposed the proposal.

Mark and Wendy had a number of supporters in the Town Hall crowd. An “06880” story — with 100 or so comments — was read into the record.

But before anything else happened, both sides huddled. Suddenly, the neighbor’s attorney announced he’d drop the objection — provided Mark and Wendy adhere to a few simple conditions.

Bingo!

The P&Z approved what they needed to. Because it contains historic homes, the property can now be subdivided. The homes will remain.

Everybody wins.

Perhaps we can send that crew down to Washington?

UPDATE: 180 Cross Highway: Important Meeting Moved To November 17

Last month, “06880” highlighted the efforts of Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Wie to preserve their 1700s property on Cross Highway. The couple — who spent years restoring a home and barn — are asking the Planning & Zoning Commission for a waiver. It would allow them to live in the barn but sell the other structure, so it can be loved, cared for and maintained in perpetuity.

Nearly 100 people supported Mark and Wendy in the “Comments” section, or via personal emails and letters.

Part of the Cross Highway property.

Part of the Cross Highway property.

Now it’s time to put our money where our mouths are. Tonight (Thursday, November 3, On Thursday, November 17 (7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), the P&Z hears the waiver request. An attorney for one set of neighbors — who oppose the request — will argue against it.

Mark and Wendy have — very quietly, and with an eye toward history — enhanced their historic neighborhood. They don’t like speaking in public.

But they hope that their presence later this month — and that of other concerned Westporters — will speak volumes about the value of preservation.

Westporters Renovate 2 Historic Structures. Now Neighbors Want Them Torn Down.

Most Westport preservation battles follow the same pattern.

A historic house is sold. The new owner wants to tear it down. Outraged residents object. Others point out that preservationists could have bought the home, but did not — and the people who did, can now do whatever they want.

In rare cases — like 93 Cross Highway108 Cross Highway, or the one across the street at #113 — the home is saved. It’s a handsome stretch on an important main road.

Further down Cross Highway though, something bizarre is happening.

Near the Fairfield border sits 188 Cross Highway. The gorgeous 2.9-acre property includes a saltbox built in 1728,  a barn circa 1790-1810, and 2 legal pre-1959 cottage apartments.

When the British marched past in 1777 en route to Danbury — taking brothers Benjamin and Daniel Meeker prisoner, and sacking the house — it was already half a century old.

The "Meeker house" in the 1930s, as photographed for a WPA project. After the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Meeker built the barn in back. It -- and the house -- still stand today.

The “Meeker house” in the 1930s, as photographed for a WPA project. After the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Meeker built the barn in back. They still stand.

The Schilthuis-Meeker house — Sally Schilthuis was influential in preventing construction of Merritt Parkway Exit 43 in the area, resulting in the current “No Man’s Land” between Exits 42 and 44 — is one of 5 remaining nationwide of original medieval structure Colonial revival construction.

In 2003, Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Wie purchased the property. It was in foreclosure. The houses were in distress, ready to be plowed under. But the couple saved the historic homes.

For 2 decades, they have poured time and energy into their renovation project. The result is gorgeous.

The exterior of 188 Cross Highway.

The exterior of 188 Cross Highway.

But it’s been costly.

And one couple can’t live in 2 houses. They live in the barn, and rented out the saltbox. The tenants wanted to buy. Mark and  Wendy would love to sell to them — as a practical matter, and to make sure the historic structure is loved, cared for and maintained as it deserves.

They’re even willing to add covenants to keep — in perpetuity — the historic house as a single-family dwelling; forever maintain the facade, and do whatever else is necessary to maintain the house where it is. In other words, no future owner could move — or demolish — the structure.

Right now though, they can’t sell. Planning and Zoning regulations don’t permit 2 homes to exist on 1 piece of property.

Sounds like a win-win: for Mark and Wendy, and the neighborhood.

But a small cadre of Cross Highway neighbors object.

At a Planning and Zoning Commission hearing on Thursday, they (and their lawyer) cited traffic, safety, density, the fact that the house is currently unoccupied, and the sight of dandelions on the lawn as reasons to reject the application.

A recent, sun-dappled fall day.

A recent, sun-dappled fall day.

After 2 hours of heated testimony — during which Wendy and her supporters countered most of the objections, then offered even more covenants and encumbrances to save the historic building and properties — the real issue came through.

Robert Yules and a few other neighbors opposed the subdivision because it would save the historic houses.

He said essentially that the state of the property did not reflect his McMansion, and others nearby. The grounds — period gardens and stone walls, with cobblestone walkways — did not match his extremely well-kept lawn.

One more view of 188 Cross Highway.

One more view of 188 Cross Highway.

“Trash” and “eyesore” are usually not associated with painstaking historic rehab projects. But they were Thursday night.

It’s astonishing. Yet in this through-the-looking-glass tale, there’s something even more eye-popping.

In 2006, Robert and Susan Yules wrote to the P&Z supporting the efforts of their “friends and neighbors,” Wendy and Mark, on the “renovating and improving of the main house and free standing cottage/barn.”

The Yuleses added, “Their efforts have transformed the buildings significantly. Please permit them to continue to remodel the buildings as they will enhance the beauty of the neighborhood.”

An interior view of the bright, high-ceilinged renovated barn.

An interior view of the bright, high-ceilinged renovated barn.

They were not the only neighbors to appreciate Mark and Wendy’s work.

Others described how Mark and Wendy had “lovingly restore(d) these irreplaceable architectural treasures” to their “deserved place” in Westport and American history.

Now the Yuleses and a few neighbors have changed their tune. They believe a new, large construction better fits the neighborhood than a plan that would save 2 structures — lovingly restored, and paying homage to the days when history quite literally marched past the front door.

“Houses are only kept alive by their owners,” Mark says.

“This is very discouraging. We’re not trying to ‘win.’ We’re trying to give the town something.

This could be one of the most topsy-turvy tales I’ve ever told.

But don’t take my word for it. Drive by 188 Cross Highway. (That’s the official number. The mailboxes have always said 178 and 180). See for yourself. Then — if you want to contact the Planning & Zoning Commission — click here.

Sticking With Poetry

Some folks wander around Westport, waxing poetic about their surroundings.

If you’re on Sturges Highway, you’ll find poetry — literally.

Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Vie walk their dogs every day. Around the corner from their house, there’s “poetry on a stick.”

Poetry 1

Anyone is welcome to enjoy the offerings, which change regularly.

Poetry 2

Robert Frost took the road less traveled.

If you’ve got a choice in Westport, try Sturges Highway.