Tag Archives: MoCA Westport

Roundup: Outdoor Dining And Fitness; Downtown Flowers and Barber; More


Last night, the Planning & Zoning Commission took steps to hear 2 COVID-related text amendments. Both respond to the changing business environment in town, and will be voted on July 23.

One amendment would extend temporary outdoor dining permits through the end of March 2021. Commissioners spoke of their desire to support local restaurants during an uncertain time, and reassure owners that investments they make for outdoor dining will be worthwhile beyond summer.

The second proposed text amendment would extend similar restaurant flexibility to fitness studios and gyms hoping to temporarily locate equipment outdoors. This applies to facilities like JoyRide, nearly all of which are locally owned.

Drafts of both text amendments will be posted Monday for review by the public. Comments may be emailed (pandzcomments@westportct.gov). To request a Zoom link to participate with “in-person” testimony at the July 23 meeting, email maryyoung@westportct.gov.

Romanacci’s Xpress is one of 3 Railroad Place restaurants with outdoor dining.


The pots and flower barrels lining Main Street, and hanging from poles throughout downtown, look gorgeous.

But they don’t water themselves.

The Westport Downtown Merchants Association needs volunteers. Watering takes about an hour a day. To learn more about the sign-up system — and how to choose your time — email events1@westportdma.com.

Main Street planters


Speaking of downtown: There will be one less barber next month.

Ron Provenzano — owner of the shop named for himself at 190 Main Street, in the old Sally’s Place space — is closing around August 7. He, his wife and their children are moving to Wilmington, North Carolina.

It’s not COVID-related, he says. His wife’s business is booming, and she loves that area.

Ron has been in his present shop, above Le Rouge Aaartisan Chocolates, for 6 years. That follows more than a dozen on Railroad Place.

With the closing the other day of Compo Barbers, 2 old-school men’s hair cutters are gone. Westporters will miss them both.

Ron Provenzano


Scott Smith writes:

“In all my years enjoying Old Mill Beach and Compo Beach (this social-distanced season, more than ever), I’ve never seen such a large boat working the waters so close to shore.

“I took photos from near the jetty at Soundview Avenue as this sturdy boat churned in a tight loop up and back, just off the far rocks at Compo Cove. No nets or traps; near as I can tell, it looked like it was sluicing a mound of dirt-like material piled amidships over the gunwales with a water jet.

“After an hour or so, the big black boat was off, headed for deep water and turning west.

“Anybody know if the boat was indeed offloading material into the Sound, and if so, where it came from and what it is?” If you have a clue, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Scott Smith)


Westport Library Book Sale donations are back!

Beginning next week, materials will be accepted every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, during any hours the library is open.

Donors should come to the gray brick shed in the upper parking lot. Donations will be quarantined there for 3 days, before being handled by sale volunteers.

You can bring used books, audiobooks, CDs, DVDs, vinyl records, vintage magazines and other ephemera. Please: no water-damaged or mildewed materials, VHS tapes, audiocassettes, or self-recorded CDs and DVDs.  For more information, click here.

New book sale volunteers are always welcome. Help is needed all year to sort, research and price donated materials; provide merchandising and customer support at book sale events, and supervise and train employees with disabilities.  To learn more, email  info@westportbooksales.org


As noted in yesterday’s Roundup, MoCA Westport’s Helmut Lang exhibition is now open. There’s plenty of room to enjoy the show — just be like these visitors, and wear a mask!


And finally … yesterday’s “06880” story on the Paycheck Protection Program noted the 137 Westport businesses that got loans of at least $150,000, helping them meet payrolls and keep folks employed.

Another Paycheck — Johnny — had a different view of work. Back in 1977, he sang:

Roundup: Longshore Sailing; Anti-Racism; Arts Programs; Jewish Food; More


Longshore Sailing School provides this update:

“The facility has been serviced by ServPro as a response to our positive COVID case. Vessels have been postponed until today, as the weather prevented proper sanitizing.

“Though we are technically able to stay open, we are choosing to remain closed through the end of the day on Friday. We will reopen on Saturday. We will provide a refund for the missed class days of our students. Rentals and sdult programs will resume on Saturday, July 11 at 9:30 a.m. Junior programs will resume on Monday, July 13.”


Everyone’s talking about racism. But how can we talk about it appropriately and effectively, with kids?

That’s the focus of an important virtual panel discussion. “Towards Becoming an Anti-Racist Society: Talking with Young Children About Race and Racism” — sponsored by TEAM Westport, Greens Farms Academy, The Westport Library and United Way of Coastal Fairfield County — is set for Wednesday, July 22 (7 to 8:30 p.m.).

Panelists include Bank Street educator Takiema Bunche Smith, early childhood director Linda Santoro and TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey Jr. Moderator Shanelle Henry is director of equity and inclusion at GFA.

It should be an engaging (and free!) discussion. Click here to register.


MoCA Westport reopened this week with — executive director Ruth Mannes says — “a renewed sense of perspective, purpose, and hope.” Guests are welcomed to the Helmut Lang exhibition “in a very safe setting. Physically distanced visits will feel like private tours.”

Summer hours are Wednesdays through Fridays, 12 to 4 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, click here.


The Westport Country Playhouse, Shubert Theatre and Long Wharf Theatre have teamed up to present a free, virtual program for high school students in Fairfield County and New Haven County.

THRIVE (Teens Having Resilience in a Virtual Environment) includes interactive workshops and discussions on themes like spoken word, creative writing, arts, performance, wellness, job training, cooking and more, led by specialists in each field.

The program runs from Monday, July 20 through Saturday, August 8. It ends with a virtual showcase hosted by Tony-winning Broadway star (and Westport’s own) Kelli O’Hara.

The deadline to apply is (uh oh) tomorrow (Friday, July 10). Click here for more information.


Who knew that Michael Wolfe’s blog post “My Definitive And Absolutely Correct Ranking of 40 Jewish Foods” would go viral (over 220,000 views so far)? Oy!

Tonight (Thursday, July 9, 7 p.m.), the Westporter will speak online about it all. Everyone is welcome. Click here to join. Don’t forget your bagel!


Singing is supposed to be cathartic. These days, it’s also a very effective way to spread the coronavirus.

But not if the vocals are virtual.

Westport music educator Danielle Merlis has enlisted Backtrack Vocals — the New York a cappella ensemble with Broadway appearances in “Kinky Boots,” and here at Toquet Hall — to be artists in (online) residence at her Camp A Cappella.

Beginning tomorrow (Friday, July 10) Backtrack Vocals members will lead virtual for young singers entering grades 4-12. Students will learn an  arrangement of a pop song, which they’ll perform in a final video alongside the professional ensemble.

The workshop includes lessons in beatboxing, choreography and ensemble skills; each student receives individual instruction.

No prior vocal training or ensemble singing is required. Students can sign up any time before July 23rd, and watch the classes on demand! Email campacappellact@gmail.com for more information.

Danielle Merlis


Norwalk author Jerry Craft made history when “New Kid” became the first graphic novel to win the prestigious Newbery Medal. He is also only the 5th Black writer to earn the prize.

He’s the second speaker in the Westport Library’s new Camp Explore summer program, for youngsters entering grades 4 to 8. Each week there’s a new guest — a global expert in his or her field.

Craft will appear (virtually) Monday (July 13) at 4 p.m. To register, click here.


Tomorrow at noon, 4  Westport girls will be honored for their social impact ventures.

The quartet — Staples High School’s Hannah Cohen and Lina Singh, and Bedford Middle School’s Samantha Henske and Yanira Rios — participated in Girls With Impact‘s online entrepreneurship academy. The program’s goal is to increase the number of diverse women leaders and innovators in the workforce.

Tomorrow’s online event includes nearly 1,000 teenagers, from 40 states.


And finally … 65 years ago today — July 9, 1955 — “Rock Around the Clock” hit #1 on the Billboard chart. It’s called “the first rock ‘n’ roll” record. I have no idea how you define such a thing. But I do know: Neither Bill Haley nor his Comets look anything like what we call a “rock star.”

Roundup: History Museum Stays Closed; MoCA Reopens; Main Street; More


Cultural institutions are reopening around Connecticut. However, the Westport Museum for History and Culture will remain closed.

Executive director Ramin Ganeshram says it’s not because they want to. Instead, she wrote in an email to members, “we have to.”

One reason: the “antique building with small rooms and an aged HVAC system” lacks the air filtration or cross-ventilation needed to host more than 1 or 2 visitor at a time.

In addition, a “major structural failure in the center of the building that was left unaddressed for many years and exacerbated by aspects of the way the building was used” will take “a lot of time and a lot of financial resources to ultimately fix.”

However, Ganeshram said, the COVID closure has allowed staff to “fix both the structural failure and work to save collections and archives that had not been properly assessed, catalogued or preserved for many decades.”


MoCA Westport is reopening. The big day is Wednesday (July 8).

In anticipation, they’ve released a short film showcasing the current exhibition: “Helmut Lang: 41.1595° N, 73.3882° W.”

The video from Douglas Tirola and 4th Row Films offers a first-person experience of walking through the exhibition, and provides background on Lang’s inspiration for the works. Click below to see.


Last night was gorgeous. The temperature was just right. It was Friday — the start of the weekend.

It was the perfect night for a picnic, meeting friends, or sunset watching at Compo Beach. It hardly mattered that there are no grills or picnic tables, and the concession stand is closed.

Nearly everyone heeded the social distancing signs. Many wore masks. And nearly everyone seemed grateful to be outdoors, with other people, again.

(Photo/Dan Woog)


The Main Street planters are all in place. The Westport Downtown Merchants Association project was created to provide more room for shoppers.

This was the scene yesterday morning. Come on down — there’s plenty of space!


Speaking of flowers: This week’s Westport Garden Club #Friday Flowers decorations are at Nevada Hitchcock Park *the corner of Cross Highway and Weston Road).

Two great factoids: The park honors Hitchcock, a founding member of the club. And the flowers — from the gardens of Andi Turner, Janice Yost and Topsy Siderowf — are pollinators. This is National Pollinator Week.

(Photo/Topsy Siderowf)


Meanwhile, the Pop’TArt gallery downtown had a low-key opening last night for its new “Scheherezade: The Shapes of Stories” sculpture exhibition. It will be up for the next month.

It’s outdoors — to the delight of at least one young, budding art lover.


When COVID forced shutdowns and program closures, STAR went to work.

For the past 68 years, the organization has provided services and support to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families.

During the pandemic. STAR’s 45-minute Zoom classes kept clients and their loved ones connected and involved.

Westport participants have included Yvonne O’Kane, who taught cupcake decorating; artist Miggs Burroughs, State Senator Will Haskell, and Wakeman Town Farm. There’s been live music too, along with virtual dance parties.

Kudos to STAR, for this innovative, important programming — and to all who help make it work. Click here for more information.


And finally … Happy jUNe Day!

Roundup: A Camp, A Course, 2 Concerts; More


Many sports camps are closed this summer. So are science camps, space camps — most camps, period.

But the Westport Library’s new Camp Explore is open. And open to all children, everywhere.

It’s a weekly, virtual (and free) program. Kids can experience it any time. They can watch it alone, or share with friends. There’s something for everyone.

The program kicks off on July 9 with Jennie Lynn Finch. The softball pitcher led the US to a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics, and a silver 4 years later.

Also in July, deep sea explorer Dr. Robert Ballard returns to the library. The discoverer of wrecks like Titanic and the Bismarck, he’ll show campers what life is like on his ship the Nautilus.

Shark lovers will enjoy Emmy-winning writer and cinematographer Kevin Bachar. He spent 10 years as a National Geographic producer, and wrote specials for “Shark Week.”

Kids will also appreciate Emily Calandrelli. The MIT engineer-turned-TV host was a featured correspondent on “Bill Nye Saves the World,” host of “Xploration Outer Space,” and wrote the children’s book series “Ada Lace Adventures.”

New York Knicks star Charles Smith will share his story, from his career as an athlete to his accomplishments as a corporate executive.

Camp Explore also features Jerry Craft, author of the novel “New Kid” and comic strip “Mama’s Boyz.”

The program ends with R.L. Stine. The “Goosebumps” author will do a (virtual) reading around a campfire.

The Library will provide a “Keep Exploring Kit” to accompany each presentation, with suggested books to read, films to view, and fun activities. Separate kits are geared for children entering grades 4-5, and 6-8.

Click here for more details, and registration information.


Everyone’s talking about the skills young people need to navigate today’s world. We’re all concerned about civic virtues. Of course, everyone wants to develop creative thinkers.

Westport Continuing Education is sponsoring an online course — “The Art of Innovation: Cultivating Qualities for the Emerging Future” — for students entering grade 10 through college.

Set for July 13 to 17 (10 a.m. to noon), it will focus on skills like critical thinking, collaboration and global perspectives.

Click here to register. For more information, including scholarships, email conted@westportps.org, or call 203-341-1209.


There may not be fireworks. But Pauli’s Deli will celebrate July 4.

The Norwalk-based bagels-and-breakfast place replaces Bagel Maven that day.

Last night, Chris Fanning snapped a shot of the preparations:


One more reopening sign: MoCA Westport has announced a concert with the renowned American String Quartet.

It’s July 31. And it’s a real one. Not virtual, Zoom, Facebook Live or anywhere else in cyberspace.

The performance is outdoors at the museum, with groups spread 6 feet apart and masked. Concert-goers should bring their own chairs and snacks, though drinks and food are available for purchase before the concert.

MoCA Westport concert series curator (and Staples High School graduate) Alexander Platt will provide commentary. He knows the American String Quartet through his work over the last 18 years in Woodstock.

“Back then they were the gold standard in American string quartets — and they still are now,” Platt says.

“I can’t wait to hear their beautiful music again — now, more than ever. Their program — sublime Mozart, bracing Shostakovich and appropriately, Dvorak’s ‘American’ string quartet — will be the perfect musical tonic, after all we’ve been through.”

Click here for tickets, or call 203-222-7070. The maximum number of tickets will be limited by state guidelines.


Two organizations at opposite ends of the age spectrum — Toquet Hall and the Westport Senior Center — are partnering to present a free livestream concert tomorrow (Friday, June 26, 12 p.m.).

It features the funk band Mojo, with noted local musicians Drew Angus, Eric Lindahl and Spencer Inch. Click here to watch via Zoom (and note the password: 3qgZ4L).


The new planters on Main Street are drawing plenty of attention.

But there are colorful flowers beyond Elm Street. For example, Rye Ridge Deli is doing all it can to make the outdoor experience special too.

(Photo/Jamie Walsh)


And finally … as Westport, Connecticut prepares for jUNe Day this weekend (virtually, of course), let’s celebrate Westport, Ireland with Stuart Moyles.

PS: When the Levitt Pavilion opens next summer, we really need this lad as a headliner!

Roundup: Governor Lamont, Marc Lasry Speak; Musicians Play; Helicopter Flies; More


Phase 2 of Connecticut’s reopening begins next Wednesday (June 17). It’s a big day for Governor Ned Lamont. And at 9 a.m., he shares it with the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.

He’s the special guest and speaker for their virtual “Morning Network” meeting. The event is free — and open to all.

Lamont will give an update on the pandemic, discuss the next phase in reopening, offer his views on the future, and answer questions. They may be submitted ahead of time by email, or through the chat function during the event.

Pre-registration is required; click here.

Governor Ned Lamont


Also virtual — and also featuring big names — is the Westport Library’s next Trefz Newsmakers series.

CBS News justice and homeland security correspondent (and 1988 Staples High School graduate) Jeff Pegues interviews billionaire businessman, hedge fund manager, major Democratic Party donor, Milwaukee Bucks co-owner (and Westport resident) Marc Lasry.

They’ll talk about Lasry’s career, how he gives back, his advice for entrepreneurs, and COVID-19’s effect on business and the sports world.

To register, click here.


Driving around Westport and Weston, Aarti Khosla has been touched by the many yard signs and balloons congratulating high school and middle school graduates. She’s been impressed by the banners on Main Street, not far from Le Rouge — her “aartisan” chocolate shop.

But as she thought about all that’s going on America today, she was inspired to act on the words that she fervently believes in: “Spread love.” And what better place to spread love than nearby Bridgeport?

She called the superintendent of schools, and offered to celebrate their graduates with “Give a Little Love” hearts. Here’s her message to “06880” readers:

“Next week, 1115 Bridgeport students will graduate from high school. This is an enormous accomplishment. We recognize the obstacles they overcame to achieve success.

“Le Rouge asks for your support in celebrating these graduates. We will make chocolate hearts to celebrate every Bridgeport high school senior. If each Westport graduating senior — or a relative or friend, or perfect stranger — agrees to celebrate 3 Bridgeport students with a $25 sponsorship, we can give our love to the entire community via chocolate hearts.

“We have until next Monday to make this a reality. Click here to help.”

Aarti Khosla’s wonderful chocolates

 


Some youngsters returned to their elementary schools for the first time since March today. It was also their last time at “their” school.

“Moving up” car parades were held for 5th graders around town. This was the scene captured by Kings Highway Elementary School parent Tricia Lau-Lewis.

All 5 kids went to KHS. The youngest will be in 5th grade there next year.

Meanwhile, after the Saugatuck El parade, Carolyn Doan’s family headed to Sunny Daes. They met some Greens Farms Elementary folks there (below).

(Photo/Carolyn Doan)


MoCA Westport shut down in mid-March. But their beautiful Steinway grand piano did not sit idle.

As part of their pandemic programming, they invited accomplished local pianists to perform. They filmed them, and shared the virtual concerts free on their YouTube page.

Pianists are invited to play music of their choice. Some — like Chris Coogan — are inspired by MoCA’s current Helmut Lang exhibition. He wrote and performed an original piece.

This week’s performance features two Staples students. Patrick Looby and Lucas Lieberman are rising seniors. They played together in November, at Carnegie Hall.

For MoCA they play Aram Khachaturian’s  lively waltz “Masquerade.” Enjoy!


More music news! Drew Angus — the 2007 Staples High School grad profiled recently on “06880” as an example of a gig worker navigating his way through the coronavirus crisis — performs via Zoom this Friday (June 12, 12 noon).

It’s a Westport Senior Center production — but it’s open to everyone who wants to hear the work of this talented young singer/songwriter.

Click here for the Zoom link (meeting ID: 883 1489 6846; password: 2DHJSV). It’s also available on Facebook (click here, or search for Toquet Hall).


Here’s a sight you don’t see every day: Yesterday, a helicopter apparently headed for a landing at Old Mill Beach or Sherwood Island State Park.

If you know the back story, click “Comment” below.


And finally … this is a poignant song at any time. Particularly at graduation. And really particularly this year.

Here’s to the Class of 2020. You haven’t seen each other for a while. But you’ve come a long way from where you began. I hope you see each other for a long time, soon.

COVID Roundup: Main Street Planters; Protest Info; Library Dropoff And Delivery; More


As Westport reopens, the Downtown Merchants Association swings into action.

They’re getting a great response from volunteers eager to help plant and care for 16 barrel planters the WDMA is putting on Main Street. That’s the first of many enhancements, making the area welcoming and inviting.

The WDMA also produced and donated 1,000 bags for the library to use for their curbside book pickups. The bags feature a link to the new Westport Marketplace, where people can find out where to shop and how.

Main Street planters


Yesterday, both the Town of Westport and Westport Police Department Facebook pages featured an announcement about “Truth & Reconciliation: A Conversation About Race and Policing.”

Set for tomorrow (Friday, June 5, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), it’s co-sponsored by a number of organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League of Connecticut, Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, and the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

Click here to view.


In the wake of the death of George Floyd, a group of mostly young Westporters has organized another event.

A “Peaceful Against Police Brutality” is set for tomorrow (Friday, June 5, 1:30 p.m.) at the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen (Post Road) bridge in downtown Westport.

Organizers says masks and social distancing are required.


Westport Unitarian Church director of social justice David Vita was at Sunday’s “Unite Against Racism” rally on Jesup Green.

He compiled this powerful 15-minute video about the event, held in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death by a Minneapolis police officer.


Usually, the award of a big scholarship is a big deal. COVID-19 has forced even those ceremonies onto Zoom. But Karen Jacobs made Tuesday’s event a great one anyway.

Her husband died of cancer 10 years ago, at 45 years old. Since then the Chad A. Jacobs Memorial Foundation has provided over $300,000 in academic and athletic scholarships throughout the area.

This year they created a new award, called Seize the Day. Recipients Charlie and Will Capalbo received $10,000 each.

Charlie — a graduate of Fairfield Ludlowe High School — battled 2 separate cancers. His brother Will — like Charlie, a hockey player — donated bone marrow for a transplant. They are the grandsons of Westport writer Ina Chadwick.

Friends, colleagues, teammates and relatives of Chad Jacobs were on the Zoom call. So was the Capalbo family. Karen asked them to step outside, onto their front lawn.

There, she and her children — Staples graduates Taylor and Mac — presented Charlie and Will with a traditional over-sized check. This fall, Charlie will be a sophomore at Fairfield University; Will is a sophomore at Albertus Magnus.

The coronavirus can’t keep a great ceremony down!

The Capalbo family (rear), and the Jacobs family (in front, with over-sized checks).


Beginning June 15th, the Westport Library will offer curbside pickup service for materials placed on hold, and homebound delivery for eligible Westport residents.

To prepare, books and other borrowed materials can be returned to the Annex in the upper parking lot, beginning Monday (June 8).  The Library is waiving overdue fines and fees.


Westport’s National Charity League chapter is donating $7,300 to 4 organizations that support the food insecure: the Westport Department of Human Services, Homes With Hope food pantry, Mercy Learning Center and Person to Person.

Part of the funds came from members who opted to not take refunds when the chapter’s annual tea was canceled, due to the coronavirus. Click here for more information on the NCL’s Westport chapter.


MoCA Westport says: “We believe in the power of expression, in the voices for change and in caring for ourselves and for others. We believe that art has the power to reveal, inspire, and affect powerful change.

“We care deeply about the ongoing problem of unequal justice in our country, and stand in solidarity with the peaceful protest movements sweeping our nation and the world.

“In a display of solidarity and reflection, MoCA Westport will cease all virtual classes, concerts and posts this week.”


One more sign the local dining scene is returning (somewhat) to normal: The (socially distanced) scene last night at Bartaco:

(Photo/Sabra Gallo)


And finally … from Fairfield’s own John Mayer:

COVID Roundup: Farmer’s Market; Rive Bistro; Drew Angus; C-130 Flyover; More


Connecticut restaurants are allowed to reopen a week from today — Wednesday, May 20 — with outdoor dining only.

Rive Bistro is raring to go.

Owner Eric Sierra already had a covered patio, off Riverside Avenue on the bank of the Saugatuck River. Now he’s extended it, making sure tables are 6 feet apart. They’ll serve a full lunch and dinner menu.

During the pandemic, Rive Bistro has been open weekends for curbside pickup only. Starting today, they’ll offer curbside dinners every day, from 4 to 8 p.m. When outdoor dining begins next week, curbside takeout will continue to be available too.


Yesterday at 10 a.m., town officials began handing out face masks at Bedford Middle School.

It was a great idea. It took Eve Potts an hour to get from Long Lots to Bedford — but she reports that the distribution was well organized. And, she says, “we now have a nice supply of masks.” Here was part of the line, spilling out to North Avenue, when distribution began.

(Photo/Eve Potts)


Two weeks ago on “06880,” Drew Angus shared his life as a gig worker in a pandemic. The 2007 Staples High School graduate is a musician. Accessing  funds through the CARES Act and PPP was a different tune than for salary and wage workers.

Today he brings us up to date on his efforts. Drew says: “My stimulus check finally came through. So did my SBA loan advance of $1,000, which is technically a grant. No word yet on the loan itself. They are processing applications as quickly as possible. The system is starting to work — slowly.

“On Friday the Department of Labor finally put the PUA application for gig worker unemployment up on their site.”

Meanwhile, Drew continues to work on his music. Here’s his latest project. It’s definitely worth checking out — and forwarding far and wide.


I’m not sure why officials have decided that a good way to honor medical workers is to spend tons of money of military flyovers — rather than, say, PPE — but another one takes place tomorrow (Thursday, May 14).

The Connecticut Air National Guard’s 103rd Airlift Wing will fly C-130s over a Connecticut hospitals and other healthcare facilities. Norwalk Hospital is on the flight path, at approximately 11:37 a.m.

Also on the list: Greenwich Hospital (11:34), Silver Hill (11:39), Bridgeport Hospital (11:43) and Yale New Haven (11:48).


Every year, MoCA Westport sponsors a student art exhibit. It’s always a remarkable show — and wonderful reminder that our arts future is alive and well.

The museum is closed indefinitely. But this year’s show is online — andn as inspiring as ever. Over 60 students from throughout the region submitted paintings, photographs, collages and ceramics. Many address these uncertain times.

Among the artists represented: Staples High School’s Alexandra Lam, Anne Machata and Caroline Rourke, and Greens Farms Academy’s Ryan Boyle and Lulu Wu.

Click here for the full gallery.

“Quarantined All Year Round” (Emma Costa Norwalk High School), part of the MOCA High School Student Art Exhibition.


Several Staples High School sports teams have provided meals to front line personnel. The latest is the boys hockey squad.

Parents and players partnered with Staples culinary instructor Alison Milwe Grace — who also owns AMG Catering — to have 50 meals delivered to Norwalk Hospital workers.

Each player sent a personal note; the team added a bigger one, thanking the healthcare workers for all they’re doing.

PS: Several players eat gluten-free diets, so they made sure half the meals they donated were gluten-free too.

PPS: Following up on a previous “06880” story: In 11 days, Staples’ girls track team raised over $7,000 (and ran over 190 miles) for the Stamford Hospital. The boys swim team provided sandwiches for Norwalk Hospital too. And girls golf has been involved with Homes With Hope.


Buried deep in Westport’s RTM Rules of Procedure is this: the “first right-hand seat of the left-hand section as you face the Moderator” should be left empty. It’s a memorial to Maclear Jacoby, one of the original members, and to all deceased RTM members.

Now comes word that Maclear Jacob Jr. died last month, after contracting the coronavirus. He was 93, and had quite a life. After growing up in Westport he spent 65 years at Landon — the elite, all-boys prep school in Bethesda, Maryland.

He served in the Navy in World War II, graduated from Trinity College, joined the Air Force and fought for a year in Korea, and became a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force Reserve. But, the Washington Post says:

In 1955 Jacoby turned his attention to educating children…. 

During his 65-year career — the longest in Landon’s history — Jacoby served many roles. In addition to math teacher, he was head of Landon’s middle school. As varsity tennis coach, he led the squad to 42 Interstate Athletic Conference titles and produced more than 20 individual championships and team titles. 

Even after he retired, Jacoby stayed close to campus, attending nearly every tennis match and keeping stats at football and basketball games.

(Hat tip: Charlie and Sandie Cole)


And finally … yesterday marked 2 months from the day Westport schools closed. Suddenly, things got real.

We had no idea how we would adapt. Could we last a couple of weeks at home? A month without a haircut or styling? How about 2 months of no sports or concerts?

Well, we’ve done it. There may be light at the end of the tunnel. Perhaps that’s just the light of a big freight train coming at us.

Either way, we know we’ve been able to do things we hadn’t thought possible. It hasn’t been easy. But now we can all say — like Michael in “A Chorus Line” — “I can do that!”

MoCA’s New Executive Director Pledges Outreach To Westport

Over the last few years, the Westport Arts Center lost its focus on supporting and promoting local artists.

Last year — with a name change to MoCA Westport (it stands for Museum of Contemporary Art), and a move from Riverside Avenue to the former Martha Stewart TV studio on Newtown Turnpike — the organization seemed to become even less connected to Westport.

MoCA, at 19 Newtown Turnpike.

The Artists’ Collective of Westport — developed as part of the WAC, by prominent artists like Miggs Burroughs and Nina Bentley — became the pre-eminent group in town. MoCA’s outreach to local educators and civic groups ground to a halt.

Recently, the handsome gallery space on the Norwalk border — and the educational, music and other programs MoCA sponsored — risked losing its Westport identity altogether.

All that may now change. Westport artists, educators and organizations will hear soon from Ruth Mannes.

Ruth Mannes (Photo/Kerry Long)

She’s MoCA’s new executive director. And one of her first priorities is outreach to the town where the Westport Arts Center began, 50 years ago.

Mannes took over Monday from Amanda Innes. She brings a 20-year career in publishing (including executive managing editor of HarperCollins) and 12 years of involvement with Westport schools (townwide PTA executive board, fundraising for Staples Players), along with a passion for art (ARTnews named her one of the top 30 young contemporary collectors in the country.)

She and her husband began collecting in their West Village apartment, before their children were born. They met artists, gallery owners and dealers. “Art made our lives,” Mannes says.

They knew Derek Goodman through the art world. Soon after moving to Westport, Mannes saw him selling lemonade with his kids. They were neighbors.

Now Goodman has helped bring Mannes to MoCA. The board understood the need for greater engagement with Westporters.

Ruth Mannes, by the MoCA gift shop.

“We’re bringing excellent shows. We have wonderful music programs.” Mannes says.

“We can be a beacon of art and film. But we really need to connect with Westport: the library, PTAs, Westport Public Art Collections — everyone. We want their thoughts on dynamic programming.

“Our art should be accessible. Westport is a community with really curious people. If we bring in great shows, they’ll be engaged.”

As a first step, she’ll reach out to teachers, senior citizens, organizations — and artists. She’ll also look at changes in areas like admission structure and member benefits.

She’s spent this week getting up to speed on all things MoCA: shows, concerts, even a children’s art class that runs during the current school vacation.

She knows that when WAC/MoCA moved from near downtown to the midst of a residential neighborhood, it risked a loss of visibility.

But Mannes points to Beacon, New York as an example. An old train building was converted into a center for minimalist art. It now attracts art lovers from far away. “People sit, have coffee, see art and educational programs,” she says. “Community thrives there.”

Can that happen at out-of-the-way Newtown Turnpike?

“The other day, 3 French people knocked on our door,” Mannes says. “They were in Westport for a business meeting, but wanted to see what we have. They were disappointed we were closed between shows.” (A Helmut Lang exhibition opens March 15.)

Getting ready to hang the Helmut Lang show.

“We have benches outside. We’ll make our cafe area more attractive. If this place is dynamic, people will come. We don’t want it to be an ivory tower.”

Mannes says that MoCA’s educational programs are ready to “explode.” She’s eager to bring back adult programming that was dropped or weeded out.

Mannes says the board — including Westporters like Tom Hofstetter and Michael Kalman — is committed to addressing the alienation that some local artists, and other Westporters, have felt.

“It’s a fresh start,” she says.

(MoCA’s annual gala has a new date: April 25. For details, click here. For more information about MoCA, including exhibitions, programs and other events, click here.)

Calling All Young Shoots

The Westport Farmers’ Market celebrates creativity.

Every Thursday, the Imperial Avenue parking lot teems with vendors offering creative ways to prepare fresh food (and not just produce — there’s meat, baked goods and more). Musicians perform. It’s fun, funky and alive.

There’s a lot to do, and see. It’s a photographer’s paradise too.

Which is why I’m happy to promote one of the the Farmers’ Market’s more creative opportunities.

An annual contest highlights images taken all summer long. And it’s got an especially creative name: The Young Shoots Digital Photography Competition.

Get it?

“Towhead Tomatoes” — 2016 Fan Favorite winner, and 2nd place in 15-18 age group. (Photo/Margaret Kraus)

There are 3 age groups: 8-10 years old, 11-14 and 15-18. All photos must be taken somewhere on the Farmers’ Market premises. Submissions are due by September 6.

This is no rinky-dink affair. Jurors include noted photographers Eileen Sawyer and Bonnie Edelman, graphic artist Miggs Burroughs, and Westport Arts Center executive director Amanda Innes.

First-place winners in each category receive a $100 cash prize, and the chance to lead a food photo shoot with Bill Taibe (chef/owner of The Whelk, Ka Wa Ni and Jesup Hall). Second-place winners get $50.

Winners will also have their work shown in a gallery-like setting at Sugar & Olives (a favorite Farmers’ Market vendor).

Anastasia Davis won 1st place in 2016 in the 11-14 age group for this shot.

The public can also vote online for their favorite images. “People’s Choice” winners in each category get a 1-year membership to the Westport Arts Center (soon to be called MoCA), and a Farmers’ Market t-shirt. All photos will be on display this fall at the Arts Center’s new home at 19 Newtown Turnpike. There’s a fun awards reception October 4 at Sugar & Olives in Norwalk.

Click here for photo guidelines and submission info. Click here to see past submissions.

Then fire away!

Westport Arts Center Disappears

When the Westport Arts Center moves to 19 Newtown Turnpike, they’ll leave more than their longtime Riverside Avenue home behind.

There’s no need to ship the large, recognizable logo  over to Martha Stewart’s former TV studio (which is actually a few feet over the border, in Norwalk).

They’re changing their name too. From now on, it’s MoCA Westport.

You won’t find an explanation anywhere in the press release, sent yesterday afternoon a few minutes before 5 (and headlined, somewhat awkwardly “Westport Arts Center Re-names as MoCA Westport”).

In fact, the new name is mentioned only obliquely — in the 7th paragraph, under “About the Organization.” It says:

“MoCA Westport, previously known as the Westport Arts Center  is a destination dedicated to using the Arts to enrich our community. We thoughtfully design and curate experiences of all types, from Visual Arts to Classical Music, including performances, juried exhibitions, lectures, excursions and other educational opportunities.”

But, I’m told, the acronym stands for Museum of Contemporary Art.

The organization was formed in 1969 — exactly 50 years ago — as the Westport-Weston Arts Council. The name was changed to the Westport Arts Center in 1986. It was housed in a variety of locations, including the then-closed Greens Farms Elementary School, before moving to Riverside Avenue in 2002.

Westport Arts Center, 51 Riverside Avenue.

Working artists still remember that Greens Farms space fondly — especially their individual studios. Together, painters, sculptors and others formed a true artists’ community.

In recent years, the Westport Arts Center has focused increasingly on non-local artists. Exhibits, shows and talks feature a number of artists and photographers with no connection to the town.

Art — and organizations — always evolve. The WAC’s — er, MoCA’s — new space in Westport — er, Norwalk — will have 2 state-of-the-art galleries, a members’ lounge, gift shop, cafe, and “an indoor/outdoor set of studios for an expanded immersive curriculum.”

19 Newtown Turnpike, before renovation. (Photo/Johnny Fogg)

It will all be on display September 19 to 22, during a grand opening weekend.

MoCA has big goals. They’re launching a new education experience, “re-inventing” the Heida Hermanns International Music Competition, planning “exciting opportunities for emerging artists of all ages,” and curating a permanent collection featuring the works of Westport’s “best visual artists.”

So long, Westport Arts Center. 

Hello, MoCA. Whatever that means.