Tag Archives: Westport Library

Friday Flashback #64

Last weekend, when I reported that Calypso St. Barth was closing, current Westporters thought of the “luxury lifestyle brand” store’s massive concrete steps, on the very visible Post Road East/Main Street corner.

When I referred to it as “the original library building,” that helped “06880” readers who once lived here, yet no longer do, visualize the location.

But it was the photo caption that really brought back memories, for anyone of a certain age. Referring to Calypso’s entrance kitty-corner from Tiffany (the old Ships restaurant, and before that Colgan’s and Thompson’s drug store), I wrote:

“Years ago, the plaza was a public park, outside the original Westport Library.”

“Needle Park,” circa 1970.

Ah, yes: Needle Park.

That was the nickname given to what was — in the 1960s and ’70s — a very funky place.

Teenagers hung out there. They strummed guitars, held anti-Vietnam War protests, and made out.

They smoked cigarettes. They smoked weed. They bought and sold drugs too — though there was not much heroin around then. “Needle Park” was a name meant to scare people away.

But — like most attempts to tell teenagers what to do — calling it “Needle Park” just made it more attractive.

The park is gone now — victim of the corporatization of downtown (and, perhaps, no one paying attention to the fact that there was supposed to be a park “in perpetuity”).

Teenagers don’t spend time downtown anymore. Even if they did, they’d never think of hanging out on the cold concrete steps. Too intimidating.

Not welcoming at all. Nothing like the joyful image that “calypso” conveys.

Needle Park today.

Pics Of The Day #191

Tonight’s rainbow over Nash’s Pond… (Photo/Tricia Freeman)

… and over Saugatuck. (Photo/Amy Lamb)

Meanwhile, the sunset was spectacular as viewed from the Westport Library cafe… (Photo/Jo Shields)

,,, and on the river, with the Saugatuck Rowing Club … (Photo/Diana Kuen)

… in Greens Farms … (Photo/Jack Feuer)

… over Gorham Avenue …(Photo/Tom Cook)

… outside Staples High School … (Photo/Tomas Curwen)

… over Gray’s Creek … (Photo/June Eichbaum)

… and at Compo Beach. (Photo/Sarah Hock)

WestportWrites — And Adds Espresso Machine

The Westport Library is a place to do many things beyond reading: Hear book talks and concerts. Work in the MakerSpace. Check out DVDs. Get coffee.

Add to the list: Learn to write.

WestportWrites is a year-long program. Monthly mini-conferences and workshops all lead to a writers’ conference next fall.

Rachel Basch (“The Listener,” “The Passion of Reverend Nash”), literary agent Dawn Frederick and a panel from Westport writers’ groups kicked things off earlier this month.

This Monday (October 16, 6 p.m.), Patrick McCord talks about the brain’s role in the creative process. Future topics include the feminist young adult voice, screenwriting, memoirs and more.

As part of WestportWrites, the library is partnering with Staples High School’s English department. Jessica Bruder (“Nomadland,” “Burning Book” spoke to 225 students there, prior to her library appearance).

Plans are underway to collaborate on next fall’s conference. Teachers are excited about opportunities for talented writers — and those who might be turned on to an activity they never considered before.

But any library can sponsor workshops. The Westport Library is taking writing a giant step further.

A generous anonymous donor helped them buy a new Espresso machine — and it has nothing to do with coffee.

This Espresso is an on-demand book publisher. Authors provide PDFs for the text and cover (the library has templates). Espresso prints in black-and-white or color. It adds a soft cover, and trims the pages to different sizes.

In other words, it allows authors to self-publish.

This Espresso machine has nothing to do with coffee.

You’re not going to get Jane Green-size press runs. But it’s perfect for printing small numbers of books. You can also prototype a larger run — avoiding costly mistakes with pagination, or putting the Foreward at the end (true story).

Westport Library manager of experiential learning Alex Giannini, and program and events specialist Cody Daigle-Orlans, are enthusiastic about their new tool. They offer short consultations on it with interested authors (email westportwrites@gmail.com for more information).

There’s also a Westport Library in-house graphic designer to help with the cover (for a fee).

If the Espresso machine sounds like something that belongs in the MakerSpace — now moved to the balcony area during the library’s Transformation Project — it does.

In fact, Giannini says, the goal is to make next October’s writer’s conference and book fair be at the same level as Westport’s April Maker Faire.

Write on!

 

Pic Of The Day #150

A large crowd turned out for tonight’s ceremonial “groundbreaking” of the Westport Library transformation project. Speakers — including library director Bill Harmer (far right in photo above) — offered inspiring visions of the reimagined space. They’re all sitting in what — 18 months from now — will be an innovative “grandstand” and “forum.”

Pic Of The Day #146

There be a dragon at the Westport Library lower entrance. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

“River Of Names”: The Sequel

Dorothy Curran — a co-organizer of the “River of Names” fundraiser that helped bring a 26-foot long, 6-foot high mural to the lower level of the Westport Library — has been following the artwork’s future during the library’s transformation project with interest. She reports:

I spoke directly to Kurt Derner, who installed the mural (we worked together on installation logistics). He is being hired to de-install it as well.

No one is more aware than he of the many risks and loose ends attendant to the project. Happily, he is a very intelligent guy and we had a good talk.

Among other things, he plans to cut down the wall in panels which will keep entire sections intact. However, as he cuts, the margins of the affected tiles are very much at risk. Also, his work ends with the wrapping and labeling of each section. He and Marion Grebow (the tile artist) are very concerned about what plans the library has for then safely packaging, transferring and storing the work.

For the record, the only conversations that those of us who were involved in the logistics of mural installation have had with the library pertain to the wisdom (or lack thereof) of taking the mural down and its planned destination 2 years hence. We were not invited to participate in discussion of the removal, transfer, storage and re-installation logistics.

The River of Names, in the lower level of the Westport Library.

However, happily, thanks to Marion, Kurt and I now are in touch and I will try and provide some quiet coding and logistical help for him. To start, in the River of Names book, on the pullout page the coding system that we used to guide tile placement is on display.

Remarkably, though the print is fine, every name and every word on the mural pullout is legible. The tiles that Kurt believes are most at risk are the bookshelf tiles. Anything that is broken will have to be re-made, but there is no plan or budget in place for that and no agreement with Marion.

Kurt also has told the library that the panels must be stored vertically. As far as we know, they will be placed in what now is the McManus Room: exactly the same floor where the jackhammering will be going on that supposedly necessitates removal of the mural from its existing location for its “safety.” He has no idea how they plan to create or box the panels for storage. Therefore, there may be a change in condition between the time that he removes the panels and the time that they are ready for reinstallation.

The only hopeful news is that, while Kurt indeed is coming to the library on Wednesday, it is “only” for a meeting. No date has yet been finalized for the beginning of his takedown. He is anticipating September.

The library says that the mural will be removed safely, stored carefully, and reinstalled appropriately.

Advocates Fear Tide Going Out On “River Of Names”

For 20 years, the River of Names has stood as one of the Westport Library‘most unique, quirky and popular attractions.

Stretching 26 feet long and standing 6 feet high, the mural contains 1,162 tiles. Each was individually created and drawn by artist Marion Grebow. Some portray historical events, like the founding of Westport, onion farming and the arrival of the railroad.

Others feature favorite places around town: the Compo Beach cannons, Minute Man monument and Staples High School. Some cite local organizations and businesses.

Most show the names of nearly 1,000 families. They honor parents, children and pets. They note when the families came to town, and where they lived.

One of the tiles shows Stevan Dohanos’ Saturday Evening Post cover of the World War II memorial outside the old Town Hall. It’s surrounded by tiles honoring familes and civic organizations. (Photo courtesy of fotki.com)

The River of Names was a special fundraiser. Under the direction of former 2nd selectman Betty Lou Cummings and Westport Historical Society/Westport Woman’s Club leader Dorothy Curran, sales of the tiles brought in $300,000 for the library’s capital campaign.

Donors were promised that the mural would exist in perpetuity.

The River of Names draws visitors — some curious, some wanting to find their own tile, all intrigued — to the lower “Riverwalk” level of the library.

Grebow designed her mural to be looked at like the river itself. Taken together, the individual tiles appear to shimmer and move — imitating the Saugatuck River a few yards away.

The River of Names.

But the library has embarked on an exciting 18-month “transformation” project. The downstairs level will be where most books are stored; a new entrance there will open up the river, improving the entire library experience for all.

On Wednesday, the mural will be taken down. A group of Westporters — including Curran, Cummings and arts advocates — fears for what happens next.

They worry that the library has no written plan for removing the mural from the wall. They don’t know where it will be stored, and how the tiles will be labeled so they can be replaced in the precise spots Grebow selected. And they haven’t gotten definite word on where it will be exhibited once the transformation is complete.

I asked library director Bill Harmer about those concerns. He replied: “Yes, it’s safe. It will be safely taken down and safely stored. It will be available for re-hanging when the library renovation project is completed.”

Town arts curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz adds:

The Library has held discussions with Marion  Grebow, individuals involved in the 1998 fundraising project, the original installer, and (as early as 2014) with 3rd-party fine art service firms on how best to de-install, pack, transport and store the wall.

The priority has always been to protect the wall during construction. I am confident it will be professionally handled and stored until it can come back to the library.

Meanwhile, mural advocates produced a video about the River of Names.

At the end, Curran says: “Every day the tide goes in, and the tide goes out. But the river remains.

“I hope that the names will, too.”

(For more information, email save.our.river.of.names@gmail.com)

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)

Pic Of The Day #93

Lazing on a late afternoon by the library. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Book It! Main Street Art Show A Smash

With spectacular weather — and a wise move from Parker Harding Plaza, back to its original Main Street roots — this weekend’s 44th annual Fine Arts Festival drew twice last year’s numbers.

An eclectic mix of 148 artists, sculptors, photographers and jewelry makers — and the addition of new dining options — drew raves from longtime festival-goers and newcomers alike. The event is sponsored by the Westport Downtown Merchants Association.

Every artist has a specialty.

Elm Street was also filled with artists. These two had natural shade.

Gloria McRoberts specializes in sculptural weaving.

The alley next to the old Westport Pizzeria was transformed into al fresco dining.

Sculptures filled the street in front of Banana Republic.

A few steps from the art show, the Westport Library sponsored its annual ginormous Book Sale. 

In a world filled with Kindles and iPhones, it’s nice to know thousands of people still love to read books. 

And listen to CDs and vinyl, which were also on sale.

Like those tens of thousands of books — all could be had for a song.

The Westport Library book sale covers every category imaginable. Inside, there was even a sign marked “Beatles.” (It was for books, not music.)

The many long tables were perfect for browsing.

The hardest part of the Westport Library is choosing.

The art show and book sale were only 2 of many events in Westport this weekend.

And there’s much more to come. Happy summer!