Tag Archives: Westport Library

Abstract Irony

Alert “06880” reader — and ace photographer — JP Vellotti sent me this shot, from the weekend’s Fine Arts Festival. He calls it “Abstract Irony.”

(Photo/JP Vellotti)

It took me a few seconds to figure out why he gave it that title.

When I realized the reason, it fit perfectly.

If you catch the irony in JP’s image, click “Comments” below.

Meanwhile, kudos to the Westport Downtown Merchants Association for this year’s 45th annual event.

Over 180 exhibitors in charcoal, watercolor, pastel, pencil, ink, photography, digital art, sculpture, printmaking, mixed media, glass, ceramics, jewelry and wood filled Main Street, Elm Street and Church Lane.

Live music, special performances, children’s activities, food and non-profit groups’ exhibits added to the flair.

Around the corner, the Westport Library‘s annual book sale drew plenty of bargain hunters (some of whom were also paying serious prices for art).

The book (and CD) (and DVD) (and more) sale continues tomorrow (Monday, July 16, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., half price day) and Tuesday (9 a.m. to 1 p.m., everything free but contributions gladly accepted).

It was a great weekend to be downtown.

And I say that without any irony whatsoever.

Justin Paul Wows “Booked” Crowd

During its first 19 years, the Westport Library’s “Booked for the Evening” fundraising event has included many A-list names.

Tom Brokaw, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Alan Alda imparted wisdom to sold-out crowds.

Patti Smith and Nile Rodgers entertained them.

But “Booked” has never seen — or heard — anyone quite like the 20th honoree.

Justin Paul — the Oscar, Grammy and Tony Award-winning, white-hot songwriting star and proud Westport native — kicked the Library’s signature evening into the stratosphere last night.

The 2003 Staples High School graduate thrilled, inspired and paid homage to a crowd of 500 at Rolling Hills Country Club. (The library was unavailable, due to its ongoing Transformation project.)

Weaving together 2 themes — the importance of libraries (especially Westport’s), and his hometown’s longtime embrace of arts education — Paul was visibly moved by his “Booked” honor.

The Westport Library, he said, “nurtured my love of learning, and enhanced my understanding of the world. It’s a hopeful and beautiful place.”

Justin Paul entertained and inspired last night’s “Booked for the Evening” crowd.

Teachers like Ben Frimmer showed the “left out” middle schooler who he could really be. At Staples, Alice Lipson, David Roth and others helped him find his voice, and his life’s work.

He also cited influences from Long Lots Elementary School, Music Theatre of Connecticut, and Chris Coogan.

Of course, he’s still quite young. After videos of his life, and tributes from the likes of Hugh Jackman filled the screen, Paul joked about watching “the retrospective of a 33-year-old. Not a lot of people have their grandmother at their lifetime achievement award.”

Paul acknowledged that not everyone grows up in a town like Westport. He urged the audience to pay attention — and provide resources — to youngsters in the many places that do not provide the opportunities, and access to the arts, that his hometown does.

He then launched into 3 of his best-loved, and most meaningful, compositions: “For Forever” from “Dear Evan Hansen,” “City of Stars” (“La La Land”), and “This Is Me” (“The Greatest Showman”).

Paul — who, with his songwriting partner Benj Pasek writes beautiful, hopeful music for stage and screen — is admired by countless fans, young and old, around the globe.

But he’s a special hero to Staples students. Two generations — recent college graduates and current performing stars Mia Gentile, Tyler Jent and Michelle Pauker, along with today’s Orphenians — joined Paul on stage.

The mood was joyful. But the “Booked for the Evening” star wore the biggest smile of all.

Justin Paul at the piano, with fellow Staples graduates and current student stars.

BONUS REELMark Platt, the producer of “La La Land,” was one of the many big names appearing on video. He made a special announcement: He’s funding a new recording studio, now under construction at the Westport Library.

It will be named for Justin Paul.

Pic Of The Day #340

The Westport Library’s Transformation project continues (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Photo Challenge #168

In 1906, Westport got a library.

It was a gift from Morris Jesup. A successful businessman, whose money came from selling railroad supplies, he endowed the building on on the Post Road (then called State Street), near Main Street.

The cornerstone was laid in 1906. Michael Calise, Daine Silfen, Matt Murray. Michael Brennecke, Stephanie Ehrman, Rosalie Kaye, Lawrence Zlatin, Janice Strizever, Robert Mitchell, Bobbie Herman, Eva Lopez Reyman, Jonathan McClure, Seth Goltzer and Dede Fitch all recognized Lynn U. Miller’s image. To see last week’s photo challenge, click here.

The library grew, expanded west, then took over the 2nd floor. In 1986 it had outgrown its original home, and moved across the street, past Jesup Road and up the hill, to landfill that had once been the town dump.

The old library is home now to (among others) HSBC Bank, Starbucks and Freshii.

Today, the library is in the midst of another transformation. But none of it would have been possible without Jesup’s philanthropy.

The Westport Library was not Jesup’s only gift. He was a major benefactor of the American Museum of Natural History. He also commissioned a 5-year anthropological expedition to Alaska and Siberia. The northernmost piece of land in the world, at the tip of Greenland, is named Cape Morris Jesup.

In 1908 — just before he died — he donated his old home as a parsonage for the Saugatuck Congregational Church.

This week’s photo challenge comes from Molly Alger. If you know where in Westport you’d find this Stonehenge-like formation, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Molly Alger)

“I Am …” The Westport Library Photo Campaign. Are You?

In the summer of 2016, over 500 people had their “geek moment” at the Westport Library.

Talented family and portrait photographer Pam Einarsen snapped them, as they held or wore objects identifying their particular passions. The “I Geek…” project portrayed an astonishing array of talents and interests, all of which the library encourages and helps us fulfill.

Among our geeks: human biology, burgundy, Harry Potter, Greek Islands, Toquet Hall, astronomy, break dancing, coffee, archery, knitting, astronomy, the Green Bay Packers, folk music, dragons, baking, and sleeping.

It all ended with a big party. The Great Hall was filled with food, entertainment — and Pam’s compelling portraits.

Now she’s at it again.

This time, when library users sit for their photos, they’re asked for 3 descriptors. Pam’s images, and those self-identifying phrases, are then shared on the library’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

David Pogue says “I am a dad. A showoff. A softie.” (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

It’s part of the library’s goal — in the midst of its Transformation project — for folks to imagine how the library can help them, in entirely new ways.

“What are you passionate about?” library director Bill Harmer says the “I Am…” campaign is asking.

“And how can we work together, with you and your passions, in this great new space?”

Mary Brown’s “I Am…” photo on Instagram. She says she is “an art historian, obsessed with music, and a Fireball Island master.” (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

The new library, Harmer adds, is “all about building community, and creating spaces where human beings can interact.”

More photo sessions will be scheduled soon. Check the library website for details.

Hey — it’s me! To find out my 3 descriptors, you’ll have to wait until the library posts this on social media. (Photo/Pam Einarsen)

 

Library Flexes Its Transformation

The Westport Library’s renovation project involves much more than a facelift.

It’s a Transformation — they capitalize the word — in which every interior space is reimagined and redesigned to respond to the ever-changing needs of 21st-century users.

One of the elements of the new facility is “flexibility.”

So — in the midst of the 18-month effort — officials are sponsoring “Flex.” The 5-day series of innovative programs offers a tantalizing taste of  just how flexible and creative the new library will be.

The Westport Library’s Transformation Project includes a “forum” on the main floor. As construction proceeds, that same Great Hall will be the site of several “Flex” events.

“Flex” brings together art, cinema, music, dance, food, authors and more. Some events are free; others are fundraisers to support the library.

All are worth checking out.

“Flex” begins on Wednesday, March 21 (12-3 p.m.). Jane Green — Westport’s own multi-million-selling author — hosts a celebrity lunch. Sam Kass — former Obama White House chef, senior policy advisor for nutrition, and Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign executive director — will deliver a keynote address, and sign copies of his “Eat a Little Better” book. James Beard Award winner Elissa Altman emcees. (Tickets: $150)

That night (Wednesday, March 21, 7 p.m.), the Friedman Gallery in Bedford Square) is the site for Moth-style storytelling about rock ‘n’ roll. With Michael Friedman’s stunning photos as a backdrop, local residents Mark Naftalin, Crispin Cioe, Roger Kaufman, Wendy May, Bari Alyse Rudin, Cassie St. Onge, Rusty Ford and others will talk about their amazing experiences in the music world. Full disclosure: I’m emceeing, and will toss in a tale or two myself. (Tickets: $50)

Michael Friedman in his pop-up gallery. His photo shows Levon Helm, drummer for The Band.

Four events are planned for Thursday, March 22. At 9 and 10 a.m., the Great Hall is the site of 2 dance-a-thon classes led by Jose Ozuna, an actor, dancer and Ailey Extension instructor. Prizes will be supplied by Athleta, Soleil Toile and Faces Beautiful. (Free)

At 1 and 3 p.m., the Great Hall transforms into a theater. Matinee movies feature Westport’s own Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. (Tickets $25)

The Great Hall changes again, for a 7 p.m. food lovers’ Q-and-A with internationally known food writer Ruth Reichl, and a celebrity panel including local chef/restaurateur Bill Taibe, sustainability expert Annie Farrell and “entertainologist” Lulu Powers. (Tickets: $75)

The day ends at the Whelk, with a 9 p.m. dinner with Reichl and guests. (Tickets: $500)

Bill Taibe serves up octopus and squid at The Whelk. He’ll be joined by Ruth Reichl as part of the Westport Library’s “Flex” programming.

Friday, March 23 is “unplugged” — a day of relaxing with author readings and live music in the Great Hall. Area writers include Alisyn Camerota, Fiona Davis, Nina Sankovitch, Lynne Constantine, Catherine Onyemelukwe, Carole Schweid and Suzanne Krauss. Among the local musicians (3:15 to 8 p.m.): Brian Dolzani, Twice Around, the Mike Cusato Band, Ethan Walmark, and Suzy Bessett and Rob Morton. (Suggested donation: $25)

The Great Hall transforms yet again on Saturday, March 24. This time it’s a performance and party space. A gala evening of food, dancing and fun stars Chevy Chevis and her band, honoring local treasure Eartha Kitt. After dinner (7 to 9 p.m.) things heat up with a dance party (9 p.m. to 1 a.m.) featuring live music, a noted mixologist and a dessert extravaganza. (Tickets: $500 entire evening, $250 dance party only)

“Flex” ends on Sunday, March 25 with a family day (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.): arts and crafts, face painting, magic and more. Tech guru and Westport resident David Pogue kicks off the event, which includes story times with local authors Victoria Kann (“Pinkalicious”), Joshua Prince (“I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Tracks”), Tommy Greenwald and Lauren Tarshis, plus illustrator Tim Fite. Participants can also write a love letter to the library, with artist/storyteller Diego Romero and the Typing Machine. (Free)

David Pogue brings his creative mind to the Westport Library’s “Flex” family event.

“Flex: is curated by Westport Library creative director Moshe Aelyon. He’s a noted event planner and design expert.

Moshe is very talented.

And — like the event he has planned, at the library he serves — extremely flexible.

(For more information, and to purchase tickets, click here.)

Pic Of The Day #304

View from the library (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Veterans Reflect On War — And Peace

Westport is awash in war stories.

This year’s WestportREADS library book — “Regeneration” — shines a light on a British officer’s refusal to continue serving during the “senseless slaughter” of World War I.

On January 28, the Westport Historical Society opens an exhibit honoring Ed Vebell. Now 96, the longtime resident was a noted illustrator during World War II. He’s drawn and written about the military ever since.

World Wars I and II — and Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan — come together at the WHS on Sunday, February 4 (3 p.m.). “On the Front: Veterans Reflections” offers insights into how war affects people, communities — and the peacetime that follows.

A panel of veterans — from World War II on — will provide their thoughts. But, says WHS education and programs director Nicole Carpenter — the hope is for plenty of questions and interactivity.

Ed Vebell is one of Westport’s honored — and few remaining — World War II veterans. Last May, he was grand marshal of the Memorial Day ceremonies.

“Obviously, the Historical Society’s mission is to remember where we’ve been,” she says. “But veterans are an important part of America today. Every discussion we have — whether it’s about foreign policy, healthcare, whatever — involves veterans.”

This is a poignant time in history, she notes. “We’re losing World War II veterans every day. We need to hear their voices before they’re gone.”

She hopes people will ask provocative questions — leading to an “open, progressive discussion.”

That’s important. After all, it’s what every veteran in history fought to protect.

Take A Knee? TEAM Westport Asks Teens Their Take

Last year, TEAM Westport‘s annual teen diversity essay contest tackled a hot topic: white privilege. Submissions were insightful and strong. Reaction was strong too, though not nearly as intelligent. A national controversy ensued.

TEAM Westport was not cowed. The town’s multicultural committee has just announced this year’s 5th annual contest. The topic is once again in the news.

And the idea once again is to make local teenagers — and everyone else reading their essays — think.

The prompt says:

Recently, several professional athletes have “taken a knee” during the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” to bring attention to — and to protest — ongoing bias and discriminatory practices in American society in general, and by law enforcement officers in particular.

In reaction, some people have called these athletes “unpatriotic.”  In 1,000 words or fewer, describe your understanding of what it means to be a patriot, what kinds of behavior you think would be unpatriotic, and what forms of protest against discriminatory laws, customs, or patterns of behavior you would consider legitimate.

This is not your typical essay contest.

But — as the nation continues to be grapple with issues relating to race, ethnicity, religion and identity, along with questions about what America is and what it stands for — it is exactly the kind of essay contest we need.

The contest — co-sponsored with the Westport Library — is open to students in grades 9 through 12 who attend Staples High School or another school in Westport, or who live in Westport and attend school elsewhere.

Applications are available here. The deadline is February 27. Winners will be announced at a ceremony at the library on April 2. Based on the volume and caliber of entries received, judges may award up to 3 prizes. First prize is $1,000; 2nd prize is $750, 3rd is $500.

(Individuals or organizations who would like to help sponsor the contest can click here or email info@teamwestport.org. Contributions are deductible to the extent permitted by law.)

WestportREADS “Regeneration”

The Westport Library has kicked off its annual WestportREADS program. This year’s book is “Regeneration” — Pat Barker’s historical fiction about a British officer who refuses to continue serving during the “senseless slaughter” of World War I.

It’s a complex novel, exploring the effect of the war on identity, masculinity and social structure. There’s lots to dig into, and the library has created a number of events based on the book.

For example, next Saturday (January 13, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) is Digitization Day. Area residents can bring World War I keepsakes — your grandfather’s photo album; a stack of letters found in your great-grandmother’s attic; anything else like medals, keepsakes or objects — to the library.

They’ll be scanned or photographed by library staff members, as both a permanent record and to help create a profile of the World War I-era person you want to remember.

On Sunday, January 28 (2 p.m., Saugatuck Congregational Church) the West Point Glee Club performs music from World War I. Some may be familiar (“Over There”). But much will not.

Other organizations are involved too. One of the most intriguing is a collaboration with the Westport Arts Center and Westport Arts Advisory Committee.

On Thursday, February 1 (7 p.m., Westport Arts Center), the 3 groups sponsor a poetry event.

The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand (shown here with his family) helped set in motion events that led to World War I. Poets are invited to consider history — and current events — for the upcoming Westport Arts Center project.

Adults and high school students are invited to submit poetry, on broad themes: your interpretation of history, our current times, or the challenges we all face. Poets selected will read their work publicly.

The event is part of the WAC’s current exhibition, Ward Shelley’s “What Keeps Mankind Alive.” It features paintings that reveal how we all create narratives and stories to explain the world around us.

The deadline for submissions is Sunday, January 21. Click here for more information.

And on Saturday, February 10 (4 p.m., Westport Town Hall) the library partners with the Westport Cinema Initiative for a screening of “Letters From Baghdad.” The documentary tells the story of Gertrude Bell, a British spy and explorer who helped shape the modern Middle East after World War I in ways that reverberate today. Click here for tickets.

For a full list of WestportREADS activities, click here.