Tag Archives: Westport Arts Center

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. 

Happy 95th Birthday, Leonard Everett Fisher!

Leonard Everett Fisher is a Westport icon.

One of our our town’s most cherished artist/illustrators, he’s designed 10 US postage stamps. His works hang in the collections of the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, New York Public Library, Yale Art Gallery and New Britain Museum of Art.

He’s also a World War II veteran. Between 1942 and ’46, as a topographical mapmaker he planned, edited and produced maps for campaigns in Italy, France, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the aborted invasion and occupation of Japan. In 2013 he served as grand marshal of Westport’s Memorial Day parade.

A longtime Westporter, Fisher just turned 95. Last night, at the Westport Arts Center — of which he’s a founding member, past president and current board member — friends, fans and family members celebrated his birthday.

Leonard Everett Fisher, last night at the Westport Arts Center.

Fisher has seen the WAC in and through many incarnations, from an itinerant organization, to its home at the then-closed Greens Farms Elementary School, to its current home on Riverside Avenue.

Now, the Westport Arts Center is on the move again. It will relocate soon to new digs at 19 Newtown Turnpike.

Fisher looks forward to being there for the grand opening. And for many shows and events to come.

At The Arts Center: Facing Micro-Aggressions, Head On

In March, the Westport Arts Center opened a new exhibition with an old idea.

“Tête-à-Tête: Reinventing the Conversation Bench” is based on the old Victorian “courting bench.” Its S-shape allows couples to hold intimate conversations without touching. Twenty-eight reimagined contemporary designs and prototypes are on display through May 25.

One of the many tete-a-tete benches at the Westport Arts Center exhibition.

In April, TEAM Westport announced the winners of its annual student essay contest. The topic was micro-aggressions.

Those 2 seemingly unrelated events come together next Wednesday (May 1, 6 to 7:30 p.m.).

The WAC gallery’s tête-à-tête benches are the perfect setting for dialogues on micro-aggressions.

Staples High School students Chet Ellis, Angela Ji, Daniel Boccardo and Olivia Sarno — the 4 TEAM Westport contest winners — will read short pieces from their essays.

(From left): TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey, with essay contest winners Chet Ellis, Angela Ji, Daniel Boccardo and Olivia Sarno.

Former Staples principal and Westport Arts Advisory Council member John Dodig, and Westport’s Human Services director Elaine Daignault, will moderate the tête-à-tête discussions that follow.

It’s doubtful attendees will find solutions to this contemporary problem.

But as they sit facing each other on the WAC benches, they’ll have a unique way of looking at it — both metaphorically, and for real.

(Space is limited. Please RSVP by calling 203-222-7070.)

It’s Official! Westport Arts Center Moves To Newtown Turnpike.

In December, “06880” reported that the Westport Arts Center was planning a move from its Riverside Avenue home. They’ve been in the long, narrow 3,600-square foot space since 2002.

They were eyeing Martha Stewart’s former TV studio. The address is 19 Newtown Turnpike, Westport. But the 3-story building is actually located a few feet over the border, in Norwalk.

Today, the WAC confirmed those plans. The first phase of their relocation and expansion will open this fall.

They’ll take nearly 10,000 square feet of 19 Newtown Turnpike, nearly tripling their current space.

The former Martha Stewart TV studio on Newtown Turnpike.

The opening coincides with the Arts Center’s 50th anniversary. It was formed in 1969 as the Westport-Weston Arts Council. The organization was renamed Westport Arts Center in 1986. It was housed in a variety of locations, including the then-closed Greens Farms Elementary School.

In a press release, the  WAC says they’ll be “marrying our rich heritage with an exciting new chapter as a leading contemporary arts destination.”

The Newtown Avenue 1926 stone building, attached warehouse and free-standing cottages offer the potential of 33,000 square feet for museum exhibitions, state-of-the-art classrooms, concerts and events, and offices.

The 6-acre property includes an outdoor garden space and parking for 110 vehicles.

WAC executive director Amanda Innes says:


This important expansion of the Arts Center allows us to greatly broaden the scope of our programming and exhibitions. We will be able to showcase large-scale, innovative art pieces and installations both in the gallery and on the exterior grounds. Our first exhibition in the new space will be something never before seen in Connecticut. We look forward to unveiling details of the exciting exhibition and expansion at our 50th Anniversary gala on May 18th.

The interior remodel and renovation of 19 Newtown Turnpike is led by Howard Lathrop of Sellars Lathrop Architects. He has served as designer and project architect on major museums around the world.

Pic Of The Day #672

The Westport Arts Center is hosting an exhibition of photos by famed Staples graduate Spencer Platt. It runs through March 2. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Westport Arts Center Eyes Martha Stewart Move

The Westport Arts Center may be on the move.

To a few feet over the Norwalk border.

The gallery — which also sponsors educational outreach, talks, music concerts and films, in its Riverside Avenue home and other venues — has hired Sellars Lathrop Architects to possibly convert Martha Stewart’s former TV studio into the WAC’s new home.

The address is 19 Newtown Turnpike, Westport. But the 3-story building is in Norwalk.

Sellars Lathrop has invited neighbors to an informal meeting tomorrow (Wednesday, December 19). It’s an early step in the process.

The former Martha Stewart TV studio on Newtown Turnpike.

The Westport Arts Center has a long history. When Greens Farms Elementary School was closed, the WAC moved in. Artists and sculptors rented studios in former classrooms, and the gymnasium was used for exhibits.

The town eventually reclaimed GFS for education. After being homeless for several years, the WAC eventually landed at 51 Riverside Avenue. The long, narrow space works as a gallery, and has a killer view of the Saugatuck River.

But there is little room for other programming — and none at all for working artists.

Westport Arts Center, 51 Riverside Avenue.

The Newtown Avenue project is not a done deal. Sellars Lathrop must make an application to Norwalk’s Planning & Zoning department. Westport officials will be involved too, because the entrance to the property is here.

“It’s no secret we’ve been looking for space for the better part of 3 years,” says Amanda Innes, executive director of the WAC.

“We’ve looked at many places in Westport. Some are near downtown. But this is a great property. There are 110 parking spaces. It’s nearly 10 times the size of where we are now.”

Riverside Avenue — which is rented by the WAC, as the Martha Stewart property would be — is just 3,400 square feet.

“We’re part of the whole fabric of Westport,” Innes notes. The Martha Stewart studio “is still Westport to us. In order to grow, this is the best space for all of us — hands down.”

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.

Leonard Everett Fisher’s “GI Jews” Film Airs Nationally

Leonard Everett Fisher is a Westport icon.

One of our our town’s most cherished artist/illustrators, he’s designed 10 US postage stamps. His works hang in the collections of the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, New York Public Library, Yale Art Gallery and New Britain Museum of Art.

At 93 — and a member of the Westport Arts Center’s board of directors — he’s working hard to create a Westport Artists Museum at Baron’s South.

But just as important to Fisher was his service in World War II. Between 1942 and ’46 he was a topographical mapmaker. He planned, edited and produced ground maps for invasions and campaigns in Italy, France, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and the aborted invasion and occupation of Japan.

Leonard Everett Fisher at Westport’s Memorial Day last year.

More than 70 years after the war, his contributions are finally drawing national attention.

This Wednesday (April 11, 10 p.m.), PBS airs “GI Jews: Jewish Americans in World War II.” Fisher is one of the interviews in the film.

He’s in good company. Henry Kissinger, Mel Brooks and other Jewish Americans — some famous, others unknown — share their experience as part of the 550,000 men and women who fought for their nation, struggled with anti-Semitism in their ranks, and emerged transformed, to fight for equality and justice at home.

The film has already been shown at the Westchester Jewish Film Festival, and the Center for Jewish History. It will be screened this Tuesday (April 10), at the JCC Manhattan.

Fisher is one of the oldest living World War II veterans in Westport. Every one has an intriguing story.

But only Fisher’s will be told on national television this week.

(For more information on “GI Jews,” click here.)

College Art, Summer Arts Camp Scholarships Available

Westport has long been known as an arts community.

The Westport Arts Center is doing its best to make sure that’s true for many years to come.

The organization will award a $5,000 scholarship to a graduating high school senior who plans to attend an arts-based college program this fall.

Scholarships are also available for the WAC’s Summer Camp program. The week-long workshops are for ages 4 to 7 (mornings), and ages 8 to 12 (afternoons). Themed week topics include painting, clay and 3D art.

The high school and summer camp scholarships are made possible through the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center Foundation. The Main Street landlord and founder of the Downtown Merchants Association left $500,000 in his will to  help fund that group.

Scholarships are based on financial need. To begin the application process, call Westport’s Human Services Department (203-341-1050). Questions? Email hsyouth@westportct.gov.

Having fun with masks, at Westport Arts Center’s summer camp.