Tag Archives: Nina Bentley

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.

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.


Welcome Home, Eve Potts!

Thomas Wolfe famously said, “You can’t go home again.”

What a crock!

Eve Potts is back. And it’s a tossup who’s happier: she, or the entire town.

Eve Potts, in a recent photo.

Eve Potts, in a recent photo.

The Hamden native first arrived in 1956. She was working as an ad director in New Haven; her new husband, Bob, was an ad salesman for a New York publisher. Westport was a perfect, in-between choice.

The couple rented the top floor of a plumbing shop on Riverside Avenue. For $76 a month they got a great view of the river (and a nearby ping pong ball factory).

That building is long gone. Today’s it’s the Westport Arts Center. That’s fitting, because so much of Eve’s life has been centered on the arts.

Bob was promoted, and the Pottses moved to Chicago for 4 years. But they wanted their kids — they soon had 4 — to go to Westport schools.

They bought a house on Acorn Lane. Several years later, they moved to the corner of Compo and Bradley.

Eve was one of Westport’s most dedicated volunteers. She served the Westport Historical Society, the Westport Schools Permanent Art Committee, and PTA Council. She chaired the Historic District Commission, and helped convert Bedford Elementary School into the current Town Hall.

But in 1991, Eve and Bob moved to Essex. Their kids were grown; he’s a big boater, and the Connecticut River community promised a wonderful, slower-paced lifestyle.

Eve Potts (left) and her sister Marion Morra. The women collaborated on several books, including "Choices" about cancer treatment.

Eve Potts (left) and her sister Marion Morra, at the Henry Ford Museum exhibit of an old Merritt Parkway tollbooth. The women collaborated on several books, including “Choices,” for cancer patients.

Eve’s sister — the late Mollie Donovan, who moved here a few years after Eve — kept her up to date on all things Westport. Eve remained on the WHS board, and often visited relatives in the area.

In addition to many nieces and nephews, her son Matt is in Norwalk; Amy and her 2 children are in Milford, and Abby and her 5 kids are in Greenwich. (Mark is the outlier: He lives in Lawrence, Kansas.)

The pull of Westport remained strong. For several years, she and Bob talked about coming back. It did not happen. He died several years ago.

A few days ago, Eve moved into a sunny, spacious Regents Park condo.

“I can’t believe we didn’t do this 10 years ago!” Eve says.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here. The energy in Westport is so invigorating!”

She’s jumped right back into the arts scene. Although many older artists moved away or died, Eve has found new friends in families like the Bentleys.

The cover of Eve Potts and Andrew Bentley's book.

The cover of Eve Potts and Andrew Bentley’s book.

Nina is a noted artist. From Essex, Eve had collaborated with Nina’s son Andrew on the Historical Society’s book depicting 50 New Yorker covers. (He moved to Westport in 1991 — the same year she left.)

“Andy’s been so welcoming,” Eve says. “He introduced me to all his friends. It’s nice to know a whole new group of people.”

The other day, Eve went to the Westport Country Playhouse. After the performance of “Art,” Andy’s wife — art historian Fiona Garland — spoke.

“It was fantastic!” Eve says. “She’s so bright, and everyone was so engaged.”

After nearly 4 decades here — and then 25 years away — Eve Potts sees Westport through both old and new eyes.

Serena & Lily -- the former Kemper-Gunn House -- now open on Elm Street.

Serena & Lily — the former Kemper-Gunn House — now open on Elm Street.

She is excited at the changes Bedford Square will bring downtown. She looks at Serena & Lily and sees both a beautiful new store, and the old Victorian house before it was moved across Elm Street. It was called the Kemper-Gunn house — because, Eve says, “my lawyer, Ben Gunn, was there!”

Certain things never change, of course. There’s the natural beauty of the beach, and the ineffable charm of the people and our heritage.

It’s easy to knock the 2016 version of Westport. The behavior of some folks, and the destruction of old homes and trees, is a frequent theme on “06880.”

But, Eve Potts reminds us, “Westport has so much going for it. So much of our history still remains.”

Thanks, Eve, for helping us see our hometown from a wonderful, old/new perspective.

And thanks too for coming home.