Tag Archives: Miggs Burroughs

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.

Behind The Artists’ Studios: Take A Peek Inside

Face it: We’re all voyeurs.

We go on Holiday House and Secret Garden Tours to ogle homes we’d otherwise never be invited into. We stroll into real estate open houses with no intention of buying, because we always wondered what’s behind that door down the block.

On Saturday, May 5 we get a chance to indulge our inner voyeur and honor Westport’s artistic heritage. It’s a special yin and yang of house tours.

This one is special. The Westport Artists Collective is opening up 13 members’ studios to the public. From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., any of us can wander into the work spaces of folks like Miggs Burroughs, Nina Bentley and Dale Najarian. We can poke around the paintbrushes, watch them as they create, and ask questions about the artistic process.

Nina Bentley, in her studio.

Some of the studios are very neat; others are messy. Some are spacious and light; others are stuffed into the corner of a basement.

All are fascinating.

The tour is the latest outreach effort from the Collective. Begun 4 years ago as a professional and social gathering space for artists, it’s grown to 150 members. They paint, draw, sculpt and work with metal and plastic. They’re struggling artists and accomplished names; they’ve lived here all their lives, and just relocated from New York.

They meet the last Wednesday of every month. Among their projects: the popular pop-up shows at the Westport Arts Center, quickly hung and just as speedily disassembled in between major exhibits.

“We’re really active. And we’re passionate about how art has impacted our lives. We want to share it as much as we can,” says Amy Kaplan, a Collective member who chairs the studio tour. Her studio is also one of those on the route.

Amy Kaplan’s studio will be on the May 5 tour …

The Collective is going all out to make this a fun day. It starts with a 10 a.m. brunch at The ‘Port restaurant. Artists will be there (mimosas, too). Maps and writeups about each studio will be available. Guests then head to as many studios as they wish, in whatever order they want.

“One thing we all share is our passion for the power and possibilities of art,” says Kaplan — speaking of both the Collective and the tour.

“We’re all aware of how the act of making art opens up a door inside, making us better versions of ourselves.”

That’s metaphorical. In a few days, they’ll open up their real doors.

They invite all of us to step inside.

… and so will Dale Najarian’s.

Click here for tickets to the Westport Artists Collective May 5 studio tour ($25 each; $15 for designers and students, free for those 16 and under). Proceeds benefit the Collective, and the Westport Arts Center’s community partner and outreach programs. A preview party on Friday, May 4 (6 to 8 p.m., Design Within Reach) featuring cocktails, live music and a pop-up art exhibit is free, and open to all. Questions? Email collectivestudiotours@gmail.com.

Artists opening their studios for the tour include Nina Bentley, Miggs Burroughs, Leonar Dao, Kat Evans, Scott Glaser, Veronica Hofstetter, Jana Ireijo, Amy Kaplan, Jane Lubin, Carole McClintock, Dale Najarian, Kris Toohey and Cynthia Whalen.

The Day Patty Hearst Gave Rodney Dangerfield No Respect

Patty Hearst has been in and out of the media spotlight for decades.

The granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst was kidnapped in 1974 by the very ’70s-ish Symbionese Liberation Army. Within weeks she had joined the SLA, was photographed in front of the SLA flag — and helped rob a bank.

The iconic photo of Patty Hearst, as an SLA member.

After nearly 2 years, Hearst was captured. She served 22 months in prison before her sentence was commuted by President Carter. On President Clinton’s last day in office — acting on her statements that she had been brainwashed, raped and tortured by her captors — he pardoned her.

This Sunday, CNN premieres a 6-part series: “The Radical Story of Patty Hearst.” A weekly podcast — “Patty Has a Gun: The Life and Crimes of Patricia Hearst” — has already begun.

Meanwhile, pressure from Hearst convinced Twentieth Century Fox to cancel a film about her ordeal. She invoked the #MeToo movement, saying the project would re-victimize her.

With the heiress/bank robber/victim back in the news, Westporters of a certain age remember her as a neighbor. She and husband Bernard Shaw — a former member of her security detail, when she was out on bail — lived off Clapboard Hill, in the 1980s. They had 2 children together, along with Shaw’s son from a previous marriage.

Not far away — on Hedley Farms Road — lived another famous Westporter: comedian Rodney Dangerfield.

You’d figure that — besides being a mile apart — their paths would never cross.

You’d figure wrong.

In 1985, artist Miggs Burroughs designed a special flag for the 150th anniversary of Westport’s founding. Dangerfield donated funds to produce 60 full-sized flags. To celebrate — and show some respect for the guy who said he never got any — a celebration was set for Barbara Roth’s Greens Farms home.

Miggs Burroughs, his Westport flag and Rodney Dangerfield, at the 1985 celebration.

A crowd of 100 gathered. Miggs and 1st Selectman Bill Seiden were seated in front.

Dangerfield stood up to speak.

“Obviously impaired, and sweaty and nervous, he was fumbling his way through a short talk while 2 women in the back of the crowd loudly chatted,” Miggs recalls.

The stand-up comic did not use his wit to embarrass them. Instead, Miggs says, he scolded them “without any humor or restraint.” He called them “rude,” shocking the crowd.

Miggs looked at the women — and was mortified to see that one was his wife, Mimi.

She was talking with Patty Hearst.

Mimi — who also remembers the incident well — thinks they were talking about their kids, who were in pre-school at Greens Farms Congregational Church together.

She says that after the presentation, Dangerfield walked over to them. He sputtered more scolding words.

Rodney Dangerfield

Paul McGuirk — a Norwalk Hour photographer who had known Mimi in high school — was there too. He recalls that day too. In fact, he says, Dangerfield was in such a “fuming rage” that Mimi left in tears.

Hearst — having been through much worse — told him to “go f— himself,” McGuirk says.

Miggs — who was giving interviews and “missed the fun” — adds, “My impression of Patty was how petite and very attractive she was in person — especially compared to the larger-than-life and dangerous image portrayed in the media.”

But there’s more to the Patty Hearst/Miggs Burroughs connection. Years earlier, he had been asked to paint “Tania” — her SLA alias — for a New Times magazine cover.

Patty Hearst - New Times cover by Miggs Burroughs

He worked from the photo shown at the top of this story. But Miggs’ editors asked him to “sex it up,” with her hair blowing in the wind and her shirt unbuttoned to the waist as she wielded a machine gun during the bank robbery.

Miggs ran into Hearst and her husband a few times after the Westport 150th-anniversary flag event.

“They were always very friendly and down to earth,” he notes.

“To this day I don’t know if she was aware that I was the one who did that cover of her.

“And I was always reluctant to bring it up.”

BONUS MIGGS BURROUGHS AND PATTY HEARST FEATURE: During one of those casual conversations, Miggs asked Patty to tape a brief endorsement for his “Miggs B on TV” Cablevision show.

She quickly agreed. Here’s the result — filmed in her front yard:

Town Hall Heritage Tree Shines

Everyone driving past Town Hall enjoys the Christmas tree on its sloping lawn. An ordinary evergreen all year long, it’s lit every night during the holiday season.

But there’s a second one worth seeing. It’s inside Town Hall, just outside the auditorium.

The Town Hall Heritage Tree.

It’s called a Heritage Tree. And for good reason: Every December, for over 35 years, new ornaments are added. Each is designed by a Westport artist. Taken together, the nearly 150 designs represent our artistic heritage in a unique, beautiful way.

Elizabeth Devoll’s ornament features historical Westport photos.

Among the many artists represented: Bernie Burroughs, Mel Casson, Stevan Dohanos, Naiad and Walter Einsel, Leonard Everett Fisher, Neil Hardy, Robert Lambdin, Gordon Mellor, Howard Munce, Jim Sharpe, Dolli Tingle, Barbara Wilk and Al Willmott.

Tammy Winser’s Westport snowman.

This year, 5 new ornaments were added:

  • A whimsical glass ornament (“100% Santa approved”) by Nina Bentley.
  • A diamond-shaped acrylic lenticular featuring the William F. Cribari Bridge — with and without Christmas lights, by Miggs Burroughs.
  • A large, multi-faceted 20-view polygon featuring historical Westport photos, by Elizabeth Devoll.
  • A delicate pine cone, subtly embellished with text and color by Katherine Ross.
  • A glass-domed “Carrot: Building a Snowman in Westport” by Tammy Winser.

Miggs Burroughs’ lenticular features the Saugatuck bridge.

The new ornaments were hung — front and center on the tree — by Eve Potts and Marion Morra. They carry on the Heritage Tree tradition started by their sister, the late Mollie Donovan, nearly 40 years ago. The tree is sponsored by the Westport Historical Society.

Katherine Ross’ pine cone.

So don’t just drive by the Christmas tree outside Town Hall. Drive up, walk inside, and admire the Heritage Tree too.

Happy holidays!

Nina Bentley’s glass ornament.

 

Selectman Candidates Truly Serve The Public

Political candidates often talk about “serving the public.”

This Friday (October 13, 6 p.m., Design Within Reach), all 4 first selectman candidates — and the 2 who are running for 2nd selectman — will absolutely do that.

They’re celebrity bartenders at the Westport Historical Society‘s “Tomorrow’s History Gala.”

The event — which coincides with the current “06880 + 50: Visions of Westport in Fifty Years” exhibit — includes our current and (possibly) future leaders serving past, present and future-style cocktails.

The old-time drink: an Old Fashioned (naturally).

The present drink: draft beer from Veracious Brewing Company.

The future drink: the Miggs. It’s blue and it glows — and is named for one of the WHS’ favorite volunteers, Miggs Burroughs.

Also on tap: a Prosecco bar (including the very rare 130th anniversary Cuvee), live music, an auction and (of course) fortune telling.

In addition to the political celebrities, other famous names will be at the gala: Melissa Joan Hart and Cynthia Gibbs, for example. Photographer Larry Silver is the guest of honor. Retiring executive director Sue Gold will be feted too.

But they won’t be serving drinks.

Only the candidates will “mix” politics, history and fun.

(For ticket information, click here.)

Pic Of The Day #97

Miggs Burroughs curated the “Day in the Life of Westport” exhibit at the Westport Library. It included 70 great images, all taken on June 21 (summer solstice) in Westport by amateur and professional photographers. The exhibit runs for about 3 more weeks. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Picasso, Warhol And Matisse Hang In Westport

The Westport Public Art Collection has been around for over 50 years. It’s grown to over 1,500 works — paintings, watercolors, drawings, prints, cartoons, photos, sculptures and murals — by international artists (Picasso, Warhol, Matisse, Mothewell, Miro, Christo, Calder) and, just as importantly, giant Westport names like Stevan Dohanos, Hardie Gramatky, Leonard Evertt Fisher, Miggs Burroughs and Ann Chernow.

But a “Friends” group was formed only last year.

Now they’re planning their 1st-ever fundraiser. Set for Thursday, June 8 (7 p.m., Rive Bistro), it includes a special exhibit of art from the collection — including all those masters listed above.

There’s also an auction of fantastic works — like Larry Silver’s classic “Beach Showers” photo — and a chance to meet and mingle with our town’s top artists.

Larry Silver’s famous “Beach Showers.”
(Photo courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery)

Funds raised will help conserve, maintain and display works in the Public Art Collection.

If you’ve ever been inside a Westport school — or any other public building — you’ve been impacted by the collection. It hangs in hallways, libraries, classrooms, lobbies, offices and conference rooms. It inspires, provokes, soothes and challenges students, teachers, library-goers and Town Hall visitors.

Students in Staples High School’s Inklings classrooms are inspired by photos from prize-winning photographers (and alums) Tyler Hicks, Lynsey Addario and Spencer Platt.

The Public Art Collection is one of those Westport treasures that surround us every day. Most of us seldom think about how the art got there — or what it takes to keep it alive and fresh.

But members of the Westport Permanent Art Collection — and their Friends group — do. That’s why they want to see you at Rive Bistro on June 8.

(For tickets and more information, click here. To learn more about WestPAC, click here. For a searchable online database of works in the collection, click here.)

Westport artist Stevan Dohanos’s Saturday Evening Post cover has special significance. The models were all Staples students. The Westport Permanent Art Collection recently restored the original artwork.

Arts Campus On Baron’s South? P&Z Draws The Line.

The Westport Arts Center is a wonderful, vibrant place.

It’s also wholly inadequate.

Essentially one long room on Riverside Avenue — with a spectacular view of the Saugatuck River — it functions as a small studio and gallery. But it can host only one meeting, lecture, concert, class or exhibit at a time.

Given Westport’s long arts heritage — and the interest of so many Westporters, from senior citizens to kids, in art in all its forms — it’s no wonder the WAC has sought more suitable digs.

Last fall, town representatives approached the organization. Would the WAC be interested in preserving and using Golden Shadows — the main building on the southeast corner of 23-acre Baron’s South (named for the perfume developed by its previous owner, Baron Walter Langer von Langendorff) — for exhibits and performances?

Golden Shadows. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The town soon came back with a new question: Would the WAC like to take over the other 3 long-neglected buildings there too?

Meanwhile, a group of veteran, well-respected local artists and photographers — including Leonard Everett Fisher, Ann Chernow, Miggs Burroughs, Niki Ketchman and Larry Silver — had been meeting regularly to discuss their own idea.

These “deans” of the Westport arts scene wanted a dedicated museum-type space to preserve the town’s artistic legacy.

And at the same time, folks like Burroughs, Westport arts curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz, RTM moderator Eileen Lavigne Flug and the Westport Historical  Society’s Bob Mitchell were seeking ways to involve the WAC more fully with other arts organizations in town.

The result was a public/private partnership to create a “community arts campus” at Baron’s South.

As presented last night by 3rd Selectman Helen Garten, at a Planning & Zoning Commission pre-application meeting, there would be 3 phases:

  1. The Westport Arts Center would lease and restore Golden Shadows, retaining most of its decorative interior, for use as offices, classrooms and gallery space.
  2. The WAC would lease and restore the  Tudor revival guest house at 70 Compo Road South as additional gallery space.
  3. They would lease the 2 units at 52 and 52B Compo Road South, for use as artists’ residences.

The house next door to Golden Shadows. The plan would have leased it to artists.

“Leasing all 4 buildings to a single user is the best way to ensure minimal impact on the public open space and surrounding neighborhood,” Garten said.

“Instead of 4 separate buildings, each accessed by its own roadway and each with its own use, there will be a single integrated property.” It would function much as the baron’s estate did, decades ago.

However, P&Z members gave the arts campus plan a frosty reception last night. A pre-app meeting is intended to give applicants a sense of what the zoning board feels about a plan. Commissioners insisted that the concept is too intense for the “light use” zoning of Baron’s South. It’s zoned as “passive recreational open space.”

Arts advocates were unsure last night what their next step will be.

Back to the drawing board they go.

A view into Golden Shadows’ central parlor shows a chandelier and handsome circular staircase. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The town currently owns 72 Compo Road South, on the eastern edge of Baron’s South. This was planned to be gallery space.

Miggs Burroughs’ Signs Of Compassion

You have to hand it to Miggs Burroughs.

The Westport artist — whose long career includes Time magazine covers, a US postage stamp, and pro bono work for every local organization that ever existed — has just completed a compelling new project.

Like many of us, Miggs is fascinated by signers — the men and women who use American Sign Language to interpret speeches for hearing-impaired people. He’s amazed by their speed, as well as the variety and movements they make with their hands.

Three years ago, he created the “Tunnel Vision” exhibit that enlivens the pedestrian walkway  between  Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza. With his specialty — lenticular photography — Miggs used Westporters’ hands to show a variety of Westporters’ experiences. The photos change dramatically, depending on where you stand.

Miggs Burroughs, in his “Tunnel Vision” creation.

As he thought about the ASL signers, he realized that by slowing down their movements, he could use lenticular photos to portray their grace and beauty.

Online, he found an ASL dictionary. Users type in a word; up pops a video of its sign. As Miggs watched in slow motion, his idea took shape.

Meanwhile, America’s political climate was heating up. Miggs wondered how local artists would react. He’s always believed creative folks do what they can — however they can — to make the world a better place.

Miggs turned the focus of his new project toward finding a poem of manageable length.

Emily Dickinson

He doesn’t read a lot of poetry. But when his son attended Hampshire College, he lived across from Emily Dickinson’s house.

Miggs found a poem of hers, called “Signs of Compassion. The title is perfect.

Miggs planned to photograph a teenage girl — fellow artist Nina Bentley’s granddaughter — signing the entire poem. But Chris Timmons of the Westport Library — where Miggs serves as artist-in-residence — suggested using a variety of people in town.

“That was the key,” Miggs notes. “Now we have representatives of the entire community talking about compassion.”

Miggs mined his many contacts to find models. Nearly everyone he asked said yes. The 30 photos he used include whites, blacks and Asians. There are young Westporters, and old. First Selectman Jim Marpe is one model. I’m another.

I signed the word “I.”

How did we know what to do? Noah Steinman — then a WAC staffer, now at the Aldrich — knows ASL.

Miggs used his iPhone to film Noah signing the poem, while explaining each motion. Miggs then broke every one into 2 distinct gestures.

He photographed each model doing both gestures. Under every photo is Dickinson’s poem, with that particular word or phrase highlighted.

Dereje Tarrant signed “without.”

The result, Miggs says, is “not an exhibit of 30 different photos. It’s a visual chorus of our community expressing the need for compassion in the world.”

This will be the last Great Hall exhibit before the library transformation project begins. (The library itself will not close.)

In its silence, it speaks volumes.

(The opening reception is Friday, May 26 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The exhibit is on display through July 27. For more information, click here.)

Jeanine Esposito signed “not.” (Photos/Miggs Burroughs)

“Main Street To Madison Avenue” Opens Tomorrow On Riverside

When the Westport Arts Center announced its next exhibition — “Main Street to Madison Avenue,” honoring Westporters’ involvement in advertising and art over the last 70 years — folks flocked to offer items.

Children, grandchildren and surviving spouses scoured studios, attics and basements to find sketches, paintings and storyboards. WAC officials had expected some interesting submissions. But they were stunned at how much had lain around, unnoticed and untouched for years.

One of the people was Miggs Burroughs. A noted artist and photographer himself, he hauled in his father’s portfolio. In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, Bernie Burroughs was one of those Westporters whose drawings helped influence consumer habits around the country — and eventually the world.

Miggs had not looked at some of his father’s work for decades. The Arts Center staff was fascinated by it.

After a couple of hours, Miggs casually mentioned Bernie’s van Heusen ad campaign — which Andy Warhol later appropriated.

That fit in perfectly with the “Main Street to Madison Avenue theme.” In addition to paying homage to Westporters, the show examines nationally known artists who were influenced by the iconic design and aesthetic of that era.

And when Warhol used Bernie Burroughs’ work, his model was Ronald Reagan.

“That’s the whole point of this show: making those connections,” WAC executive director Amanda Innes says.

“Van Heusen 356,” by Andy Warhol — based on work by Bernie Burroughs.

Miggs had another surprise for the WAC curators. He said that as a child, he’d go to the Westport station with his dad. When the train pulled in, Bernie would hand his portfolio to the conductor — along with some cash.

The conductor delivered it to Bernie’s New York ad agency. That was common practice, Miggs said.

“Conductor,” by Bernie Burroughs, is part of the Westport Arts Center show.

“That’s a great story about trust,” Innes says.

“But it also shows the anonymity of these artists. They created the work, but they didn’t sign them. They weren’t invited to ad meetings. They didn’t even own the art — the agencies did.”

Part of the reason for this show, she says, is to “honor the men who created so much of this iconic imaging and branding.” (And yes, everyone in this show — like nearly all of Madison Avenue then — is male.)

The Arts Center show opens tomorrow (Friday, April 21, reception from 6 to 8 p.m.). On display is original art and advertisements from illustrators like Bernie Burroughs, Al Parker and Bernie Fuchs. Hung alongside are works by artists like Andy Warhol, Walter Robinson and Richard Prince, who appropriated so much of that material.

Westport artist Bernie Fuchs painted this for Pepsi. He also created art for Coke. Both are displayed in the WAC show.

Innes has had a great time — and an excellent education — mounting the exhibit. For example, hearing it was in the works, Harold Levine headed over. He spent 2 hours regaling Innes about his career.

He had a lot to talk about. In addition to co-founding (with Chet Huntley) a legendary ad agency, he knew Warhol when the struggling young artist asked him for work.

Sadly, Levine will not be there tomorrow. He died in February, at 95.

But that gives you an idea of the kind of show it will be.

Part of Jonathan Horowitz’s “Coke/Pepsi,” on display at the Westport Arts Center. He draws upon the work of Andy Warhol — who in turn appropriated advertisements drawn by Westport artists.

Simultaneously, the WAC will showcase 30 works by high school students. The show is juried by treasured Westport artists Ann Chernow and Leonard Everett Fisher.

Tomorrow evening, a Westport student will receive the Tracy Sugarman Award — named for another of our most famous artists.

That award — and the entire show — is a great way to tie our artistic/advertising past in with our consumer culture present. It’s also a chance to highlight the next generation of local artists.

Some day, some may gain fame for their paintings. Some may toil anonymously, but have their works seen by millions.

And — like the professionals featured in the new Westport Arts Center show — some may do both.

(During tomorrow’s opening reception for “Main Street to Madison Avenue,” the video room will run a loop of advertisements — including some from Harold Levine’s agency. The show runs through June 22.)