Tag Archives: Susan Malloy

Westport Arts Center: Susan Malloy’s Living Legacy

In her 91 years, Susan Malloy was an exceptionally generous presence in Westport. Her time, energy and financial contributions aided countless organizations in town. The accolades pouring in after her death yesterday morning are heartfelt, well deserved, and broad in scope.

It’s hard to quantify which of so many institutions benefited the most from Susan’s generosity. But at least one most definitely would not be here today without her.

In 1947 a group of Westport artists began meeting informally — “and riotously,” according to a 2002 New York Times story — at various locations in town.

By 1969 they’d evolved into the Westport-Weston Arts Council. Their home was a tiny office in Town Hall.

In 1984, Joyce Thompson told the Times, the group needed its own home. They asked to use the former Greens Farms Elementary School — shuttered a few years earlier, when the student population declined.

After a year of negotiation, they agreed on a lease: $1 a year.

Greens Farms Elementary School was the Westport Arts Center first real home.

Greens Farms Elementary School was the Westport Arts Center’s first real home.

The newly named Westport Arts Center had to raise plenty of money, though. An oil tank had to be buried; steps needed to be installed — in addition to classrooms being converted into studios, halls painted white to use as a gallery, and the auditorium converted into a performance space.

The new center hosted art exhibitions, chamber concerts, children’s sculpture workshops and jazz jams.

But in the 1990s, the Times reports, the school population rose. The town wanted its school back. The Arts Center countered that they’d invested plenty of money in the building.

WACAfter heated negotiations the town paid the WAC over $500,000 to break the lease, and reimburse them for their improvements.

The Arts Center went on the road. They held concerts at the Seabury Center, the library and school auditoriums. They hung paintings wherever they could.

What they really needed was a home.

Heida Hermanns, a concert pianist who settled in Westport after fleeing the Holocaust in World War II, had set up a foundation to fund the Arts Center. But it wasn’t enough. And the settlement from the town had been designated for programs.

Susan Malloy stepped into the breach. “I could see the search was going nowhere,” the Times quoted her as saying. “Nothing was right. This place was too small, another wasn’t even in Westport, so I finally said, ‘OK. I’ll stake the arts center.”

Susan Malloy -- an artist herself -- helped the  Westport Arts Center survive.

Susan Malloy — an artist herself — helped the Westport Arts Center survive.

Her funds covered the rent for 2 years. It also inspired more donations. The result: In June of 2002, the Westport Arts Center opened its own home, on Riverside Avenue.

It’s been there for 13 happy, fruitful, artistic years. The WAC is now as permanent a part of the town as the library or Historical Society (2 other beneficiaries of Susan Malloy’s largesse).

It’s easy to forget the past. In Susan Malloy’s case, she wasn’t looking for praise, or even thanks. She simply saw a need, and filled it.

Think of that the next time you go to the Westport Arts Center. Or drive past it.

Or the next time someone asks you to help out your town, in any way you can.

The Westport Arts Center thrives today.

The Westport Arts Center thrives today.

Remembering Susan Malloy

Susan Malloy — a longtime Westporter, arts patron and philanthropist — died early this morning, of complications from pneumonia. She was 91.

Though she kept a low profile, Malloy’s mark on Westport was broad and deep. She donated generously to a variety of cultural institutions, including the Westport Arts Center, Westport Historical Society (for which she drew a 4-color map of 1960s-era downtown), and the Westport Library (which hosts an annual arts lecture in her name).

Susan Malloy

Susan Malloy

Malloy also supported the noted “Years in the Making” documentary — which pays homage to Westport’s arts legacy — and the Whitney Museum in New York.

An artist herself, she had her 1st New York gallery show in 2009 — in her mid-80s.

In 2012 — at 88 — Malloy published her first book. A “Guide to Paris” for young people, it contains sketches she made the previous year on a trip to France with her niece Ann Sheffer, and Malloy’s 17- and 10-year-old grandchildren.

Malloy’s family began summering in Westport in 1937, when her father Aaron Rabinowitz followed his mentor Lillian Ward (of Henry Street Settlement fame) here.

The family home — “Robin’s Nest” — was a farmhouse at the corner of Bayberry Lane and Cross Highway.

After Malloy married, she and her late husband Edwin lived for many years in one of Westport’s oldest homes, in the Old Hill district. In 1986 they moved to a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired property on Dogwood Lane.

Services are set for this Friday (April 17), at 11 a.m. at Temple Emanu-El in New York City.


Deck The Halls With Westport Artwork

In 1964, Green’s Farms Elementary School art teacher Burt Chernow donated 100 works — from friends and fellow artists — to the Westport schools.

He envisioned a “museum without walls” where youngsters were surrounded by a visually stimulating arts environment — a part of their daily lives.

Today, the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection includes over 1,000 paintings, drawings, cartoons, photographs and sculptures.

It’s hung in hallways and offices of every building. It’s available to teachers and students, for integration into lesson plans, presentations and projects.

Stevan Dohanos' "Christmas in Westport" is one of many local works in the Permanent Arts Collection.

Stevan Dohanos’ “Christmas in Westport” is one of many local works in the Permanent Arts Collection.

There are Miros and Picassos, Christos and Warhols. There’s Stevan Dohanos’ famed “Westport Post Office at Christmas”; Mort Walker’s Beetle Bailey comic strip, and good ol’ Horace Staples.

The collection is the envy of museum curators and directors, who only wish they had the works Westport has — and the halls, walls and classrooms of our schools to display them.

Green's Farms School is filled with works from the permanent collection.

Green’s Farms Elementary School is filled with works from the permanent collection.

Of course, it takes money to maintain this wonderful collection. And though we’re all besieged by end-of-the-year pleas to fund worthy causes, this is a great time to ask for donations.

Susan Malloy and Ann Sheffer — longtime Westport arts patrons and philanthropists — have offered a $5,000 matching grant.

Horace Staples hangs outside the main office of the school that bears his name -- though usually without a Christmas hat.

Horace Staples hangs outside the main office of the school that bears his name — though usually without a Christmas hat.

Chances are, you’ve wandered through Westport schools, and wondered about the intriguing artwork that seems to be everywhere you look.

Now that you know where it comes from, and how it gets there, why not do your part to make sure it stays there.

(Checks made payable to “Westport Schools Permanent Arts Collection” can be sent to Linda Gramatky Smith, 60 Roseville Rd., Westport, CT 06880. To donate via credit card, send card number, expiration date, street address and phone number to Linda Smith; she will call you to finish processing the donation.  Questions?  Email kmbennewitz@gmail.com or LinKen2467@aol.com, or call 203-227-5203).

There’s Always A First Time

Some things in life are worth waiting for.  Like 85 years for a New York gallery opening.

Susan Malloy has been a lifelong painter.  For just as long, she’s contributed both her talent and her philanthropy to the Westport arts scene — most recently the acclaimed “Years in the Making” film.

"Maybe Manhattan" (2008)

"Maybe Manhattan" (2008)

But until last week, Susan never had a New York gallery show.

Thanks to “Visions of New York,” she can strike that off her to-do list.

“Visions” features paintings of skyscrapers, in a city Susan knows well.  She grew up on the West Side.  After college she lived in Greenwich Village; she married Edwin, then moved to the East Side.

Susan and Edwin moved to Westport in 1967.  But she’s “a New Yorker with images in my head” — and that’s what the show is about.

“Visions” opened Thursday evening at the ACA Galleries in Chelsea.  A horde of Susan’s relatives and Westport friends attended.

Those Westport friends go back a long way.  Susan’s family began summering in Westport in 1937.  Their 1st home was on the corner of Bayberry Lane and Cross Highway — the spot known later as “the Ashford and Simpson house,” now the site of Doug and Melissa Bernstein’s new home.

The Malloys and their 2 kids lived in 3 Westport houses.  In 1986 she and Edwin moved to Dogwood Lane.  Her studio is now there.

“It was the most wonderful thing,” she said, reveling in the post-show glow the morning after it opened. “So many people were there, and the paintings looked great.”

(Photo by Dave Matlow)

(Photo by Dave Matlow)

How significant is a New York gallery show for an octogenarian?

“It’s everything,” Susan said.  “That’s always what you aim for.”

So when is her next New York show?

“Oh, I have no idea,” she said.  “I haven’t thought that far ahead.”

(ACA Galleries is at 529 W. 20th Street, New York. The phone number is 212-206-8080.)