Tag Archives: Westport Library

Roundup: Splatz, Immigration, Turkey Dogs, More …


Kids don’t have a lot to laugh about these days. And — let’s face it — Harvard and MIT scientists are not usual much for giggles.

But Westport mom Alli DiVincenzo — an accomplished entrepreneurial designer — has joined forced with those university researchers. They’ve created playful personal care products for kids, turning “ordinary tasks into extraordinary experiences.”

The first product from One Fun Company is a hand soap called Splatz. A gentle squeeze makes a “splat.” Each Splatz soap bubble “turns this essential, often tedious task into good clean fun,” Alli says.

She should know. Her son did not like washing his hands. But he enjoyed playing with slime, and anything else tactile.

She tracked down those scientists, and pitched them the idea for a popping hand soap. They loved it. For a couple of years they all tinkered in their kitchens.

When Alli dropped off 100 samples with friends, kids used up the entire test bottles in a day. She and the scientists knew they were on to something.

For the holidays, One Fun has teamed up with WestportMoms’ Local Love initiative, and Westport elementary schools’ Pay It Forward campaign. And in conjunction with the upcoming Small Business Saturday, One Fun offers 10% off Splatz all weekend long. Just click here, and use the code WOOG10.

PS: Keeping it local, Splatz’s packaging and distribution comes courtesy of Randy Herbertson’s The Visual Brand.


How’s this for a provocative title: The Guarded Gate: Bigotry, Eugenics, and the Law That Kept Two Generations of Jews, Italians, and Other European Immigrants Out of America.

 That’s Daniel Okrent’s latest book. The insightful observer of American politics and history — and the first New York Times public editor — will be featured in a virtual talk December 2 (7 p.m.).

He’ll discuss his new work. It’s a chilling tale of how anti-immigration activists of the early 20th century — most of them well-born, many of them progressives –used the bogus science of eugenics to justify closing the immigration door in 1924.

Okrent’s appearance is sponsored by the Westport Library and Silvermine Arts Center. The center’s current exhibit, “The Golden Door” — an exploration of the complex histories and cultural identities that define and enrich contemporary America — runs through January 16.

Click here to register for Okrent’s free virtual talk.

Daniel Okrent

In other Library news:

The Westport Book Sale is temporarily suspending book donations effective today, until further notice. The decision is a result of rising COVID cases, and concern for volunteers who stand in the cold for hours accepting donations.

They invite everyone — in Westport and beyond — to shop the Online Holiday and Winter Book Sale.


I don’t know if Winslow Park Animal Hospital treats turkeys, as well as dogs.

But the Post Road East veterinary clinic always manages to mark holidays well.

(Photo/Rowene Weems)

And finally … on this day in 1859, Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species.

 

Artists In Residences: Step Into My Studio …

Any ol’ place can have an artist in residence.

Leave it to the Westport Library to have “Artists in Residences.”

That’s the clever name for an equally clever project. COVID-19 has closed the library’s 3 rotating galleries — popular spaces that were booked nearly 2 years ahead.

So exhibit curator Carole Erger-Fass and artist/library supporter/creative guru Miggs Burroughs — whose “Artist to Artist” discussion series was also shelved — devised a new way to connect artists and art-loving patrons.

The Zoom series provides peeks into otherwise-hidden spaces: artists’ studios.

The first episode was with Nancy Moore. Her “Unconventional Women” exhibit was scheduled to be installed the day the library shut down in March.

Instead, Nancy invited a crew into her airy workplace. She shared her works in progress, showed off the tools of her trade and discussed the inspiration for her vibrantly patterned paintings that no one could now enjoy in person.

The series blossomed into a living document of the state of the arts — and artists — in Westport. Twenty-four episodes have already been recorded. More are in the works.

They feature sculptors, painters, photographers, and digital and collage artists. Some have experimented with new mediums. Others have had the luxury of time to delve deeper into their genres.

Some have been inspired anew by the pandemic. Others have been stymied.

All speak eloquently about their craft. Particularly moving are Westport legends like Ann Chernow, Leonard Everett Fisher, Roe Halper, Nina Bentley, Judith Katz and Niki Ketchman. Their age makes them vulnerable to the coronavirus — but they steam ahead creatively.

The most recent episode features Charles Joyner. His intricate, layered collages meld colors, patterns and symbols inspired by his growing up in rural North Carolina, and his extensive travels to Ghana.

So how is the longtime Carolinian a “Westport artist”?

In 1964, he came to Westport through an American Friends Service program that brought 35 Southern students to the North to promote integration. He lived with the Ader family.

After graduating from Staples High School he headed to Iowa State University on a football scholarship, transferred to North Carolina A&T, then earned a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

Joyner spent many years as a tenured professor in the North Carolina State University College of Art and Design. He is also an outstanding jazz drummer.

His interview with the “Artists in Residences” program is fascinating. Click below to see. Then click here for all interviews.

(Carole Erger-Fass talks about “Artists in Residences” on WPKN-FM 89.5 “Open Book” show, at noon on November 30.)

COVID Alert: Westport Is Now Red

The State of Connecticut has implemented a color-coded map indicating the average daily rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 population by town.

Based on a 14-day rolling average, Westport’s rate is 22.4. That places us well within the “red” category, of 15+ cases per 100,000.

Connecticut’s COVID map.

Given this status, the state Department of Health recommends that:

  • High risk individuals stay home and stay safe.
  • Others should limit trips outside of the home and avoid gatherings with non-family members.
  • Organized indoor activities, as well as outdoor activities where social distancing and mask wearing cannot be maintained, should be postponed.
  • Gatherings at private residences are limited to 10 people.

1st Selectman Jim Marpe notes:

“The new COVID cases are primarily a result of large gatherings, parties and organized sports activities. As such, the Westport Public Schools, Westport businesses and restaurants and other public facilities will continue to operate under the State’s Phase 2.1 guidelines.

“The Parks and Recreation Department acknowledges that it is important for individuals and families to get outside and exercise. As a result,

  • Fields, beaches and parks will remain open with reinstituted rules regarding court usage.  Facility users are expected wear a face covering if a 6-foot distance cannot be maintained with those who do not live in the same household. Higher risk sports, such as boys lacrosse and 11-on-11 football, should not take place.
  • The Compo Beach skate park and basketball courts will remain open, but may be closed if proper guidelines are not followed.
  • The Longshore golf course remains open. Beginning Saturday, November 14, golf cart rentals will go back to single rider only (unless in same household).
  • The Parks & Recreation Department has revoked field permits, and will not issue new permits until further notice.

Permits for use at the Wakeman athletic fields have been revoked..

The Westport Library will remain open with its expanded hours and services.  All Library events will continue to be virtual. Click here for details.

Architecture Awards For 2 Downtown Projects

“Commercial, Institutional, Educational and Multi-Family Residential Design” sounds like a pretty dull category.

But the American Institute of Architects found 12 projects worthy of honors this year.

Two — a full 16% — are in Westport. In fact, they’re within a few yards of each other.

Bedford Square’s Centerbrook Architects and Planners earned a citation for its “thoughtful and highly sympathetic renovation and re-adaption” of the former Westport Weston Family YMCA.

The judges noted, “it’s a multi piece development, and when you walk along the sidewalk, it’s just a remarkable improvement and investment. Westport was lucky to have selected this architect.”

Bedford Square (Photo/Nathaniel Riley)

Across Jesup Green, HMA2 Architects earned a citation too. They transformed the Westport Library from a less-than-workable building on a beautiful property into a functional and handsome space, now worthy of its setting.

Library director Bill Harmer praises HMA2’s “fine sense of design (and) keen understanding of how we were altering the space for 21st century use.”

The firm’s founder, Henry Myerberg, adds, “The design of the transformed library speaks to the extraordinary energy and participation of the Westport Library staff and community. The pandemic has not slowed them down to find new ways to make the library a special part of everyone’s life.”

The Westport Library, before coronavirus. (Photo/Aida Sulova)

Now, if only an architect could do something about the Post Road that separates these 2 award winning projects …

(Click here for the full story of AIA Connecticut Design Award winners.)

Roundup: Election Day, Fall Cleanup, First Graders, More


They’re running for the same Connecticut House of Representatives District 136 seat.

But incumbent Jonathan Steinberg and challenger Chip Stephens — both Staples High School graduates, a year apart (1974 and ’73, respectively) — gladly posed for a COVID-compliant fist bump this morning, at the Coleytown Elementary School polling place.

That’s the type of politics everyone can agree on!

Jonathan Steinberg (left) and Chip Stephens. (Photo/Jack Whittle)


Meanwhile, as the nation votes, 10 Westporters are spending their 2nd day in Pennsylvania.

Part of the Biden Voter Protection Team, they found an “energized” electorate yesterday. First-time voters were excited; others said they planned their whole day around voting today.

The group fanned out in Northeast Philadelphia and Bucks County.

Bottom row (from left): Catherine Lewis, Zoe Tarrant, Nicole Gerber. Top: Lauren Cohen, Ana Johnson, Candace Banks, Kevin McLaughlin, Danielle Dobin, Jenny Perlman, Ariana Napier.


With fall yard cleanups at hand, Aspetuck Land Trust advises:

Tell your landscaping companies to make changes. You’re paying them; you don’t have to do 100% of what they recommend. Do what’s right for your yard and our environment.

For example:

Tuck in your beds. Rake leaves into your garden beds or under trees. Up to 3 inches of leaves can be stored here — and you’ll save on mulch in spring.

Mow, don’t blow. To promote biodiversity, don’t use leaf blowers. Mulched leaves are decomposed by earthworms and microorganisms,and turned into plant-usable organic matter. You can either remove the mower bag and simply go over a thin layer of leaves with your mower, or invest in a mulching lawn mower. Mulched leaves will put nutrients back into the soil.

Procrastinate: Sure, procrastinating gets a bad rap. But there are residents in your dead stalks. Little sweat bees survive the winter in hollow flower stalks, and birds shelter between dead branches. Put cutting off until the spring, to let them rest in peace.

For more information on fall clean up, click here for an article by Liz Craig from the Pollinator Pathway. And Healthy Yards of Westchester has great information about the many benefits of mulch.


Normally at this time of year, the Westport Library would be hosting 1st graders on tours, reading them stories, helping them select books and giving them their first library cards.

To cope with COVID, the Library created a “Virtual Field Trip.” First take a brief tour, see a Maker demonstration, and have a story read to them. The tour includes a link for parents to request a Westport Library card for their child.

This month, librarians will deliver the cards to each elementary school, plus a special gift: kids’ own copies of It’s Snowing by Gail Gibbons. The Library has asked administration to help them contact elementary school age virtual learners.

Questions? Email kids@westportlibrary.org.

The view from the Children’s Library. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)


And finally … with not much going on today, I just picked a totally random song, completely out of thin air. Go figure.

Election Day: Long Lines, Excitement And Hand Sanitizer

8,000 Westport voters mailed in or dropped off ballots before Election Day.

But thousands of others did not.

Before dawn today, they lined up at polling places around town.

At Greens Farms Elementary School, the line snaked all the way around the perimeter of the parking lot.

Greens Farms Elementary School this morning … (Photo/Matt Murray)

A man in his 50s who grew up here says, “I have never had to wait a minute to vote at Coleytown El. I got here at 6:11. This line is amazing.” As at Greens Farms, it stretched far into the lot.

,,, and Coleytown Elementary School … (Photo/Dan Donovan)

When the Saugatuck Elementary School doors opened, approximately 200 people were already waiting.

The process was very efficient. A voter who joined the line near the football field was done voting 15 minutes later.

… and Saugatuck Elementary School … (Photo/Chip Stephens)

By 6:15, more than 50 men and women stood outside the Westport Library. By 6:45, they stretched through the police station parking lot, to Jesup Road.

… and the Westport Library.

Inside the library, poll watchers — including several high school students — offered voters hand sanitizer (optional) and gloves (mandatory).

Others checked names, and directed them to (socially distanced) voting stations.

The mood was cheery, and civic-minded.

In many ways, it was an election unlike any Westporters have ever seen.

In others, it was just a bunch of Americans doing what we always do.

Check It Out: Anna Deavere Smith, International Film Festival At The Library

The Westport Library produces 2 signature events each year.

“Booked for the Evening” has brought Big Names like Alan Alda, Patti Smith, Martin Scorsese, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Tom Brokaw to the library stage.

The Malloy Lecture in the Arts is just as impressive. Salman Rushdie, Christopher Plummer, Joyce Carol Oates, Arthur Miller and Christo have all inspired audiences with their insights.

COVID knocked out last spring “Booked” event. But the 2020 Malloy Lecture is on the books — virtually, of course.

Anna Deavere Smith is this year’s speaker. The event is Tuesday, November 10 (7 p.m.).

Anna Deavere Smith

Smith — a playwright, actor and educator — explores issues of community, character and diversity in America. The MacArthur Foundation gave her a “genius” grant, citing her creation of “a new form of theatre — a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism, and intimate reverie.”

In 2012, President Obama awarded her a National Humanities Medal.

Smith travels the country, “absorbing America.” She performs portrayals of people she’s met, recreating a diversity of emotions and points of view on controversial issues. She has crafted more than 15 one-woman shows, transforming herself into an astonishing number of characters.

Her most recent play, “Notes from the Field,” examines the school-top-prison pipeline, and inequality in low-income communities. It won an Obie Award, and Time called it one of the Top 10 plays of the year.

Currently, Smith appears on “Black-ish” and “For the People.” She may be most recognizable as the hospital administrator on “Nurse Jackie,” and the national security advisor on “The West Wing.”

“Booked for the Evening” is a fundraiser; tickets are priced accordingly. Malloy Lectures, on the other hand, are free. They were established by longtime Westporter, arts patron and philanthropist Susan Malloy in 2002. She died in 2015, at 91.

For more information about Anna Deavere Smith’s appearance, and a link to free registration, click here.


But that’s not all that’s happening downtown by the river.

Couldn’t get to the Tribeca or South by Southwest Film Festival? Looking for entertainment while cooped up during COVID?

As it so often does, the Westport Library rides to the rescue.

“Short Cuts” — a short film festival — screens virtually on Thursday, November 12 (7 p.m.).

The event is a collaboration with Westport’s JIB Productions. Thanks to the library’s state-of-the-art technology, viewers will enjoy a professional experience.

The films will be followed by a discussion among 3 directors, and “Short Cuts” producer Nancy Diamond. The talkback has been a key to “Short Cuts”‘ success as a live event for the past 10 years.

The virtual format means that filmmakers will appear live from where they live. That includes New Zealand and Texas.

The “Short Cuts” films:

  • Single an “anti-romantic comedy challenging preconceived notions of life with a disability
  • Coup d’Etat Math: 4 immigrant stories using graphic animation.
  • Tapes: The discovery of an old recording leads to an awkward and raucous family dinner.
  • Dirty Laundry follows the misadventures of 2 foreigners trying to dispose of an old washing machine.
  • Liliu: Based on a true story; director Jeremiah Tauamiti was inspired by his own journey as a high chief from his Samoan village.

Tickets for the films and talkback are $25. Click here to purchase.

 

Roundup: Kings Highway Bridge, Farmers’ Market, Shark!, More


It’s the project that never ends.

The Kings Highway North Bridge — the one at the light near Canal Street, near several medical office buildings — has been under construction since (it seems) the Truman administration.

Work may last through the Sasha Obama (or Barron Trump) administration.

But it’s important work. The bridge was in dire need of repair or replacement. School buses could no longer legally cross, because of its deteriorated condition.

Last winter, the P&Z explored many options to speed up the process. However, as chair Danielle Dobin notes on Westport Front Porch, work will continue through this winter.

The Frontier telephone lines that go under the sidewalk are being relocated now. Crews will then finish the sheeting, build the footings, set the precast bridge sections, and build the parapet walls (which are designed to evoke the historic design of the old bridge).

If this winter is warm, work could be completed by April or May. Otherwise, it will likely continue through May or June.

Large stones in the abutments beneath the Kings Highway North Bridge may be remnants of a much earlier bridge. (Photo: Wendy Crowther)


Saturday’s Westport Library “Show of Shows” was wonderful. The hour-long program featured tons of local personalities in comedy sketches, humorous shout-outs and musical numbers.

David Pogue MCed the event, and Andrew Wilk produced and directed. It ended with 2 powerful moments: a stirring video created by teens through the library’s media program, and the Staples Orphenians singing “Imagine.”

If you missed the show — or want to see it again — click here.

Who’s that guy stealing wine from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe’s cellar? Find out by watching the Westport Library’s “Show of Shows.”


Wakeman Town Farm’s upcoming offerings are intriguing. Among them: a Little Farmers Parent/Child class, and an Election Day Camp for kids ages 8-12.

Click here to register (search for “WTF”) for programs. Problems? Call 203-341-5152 or email recreation@westportct.gov.

WTF’s holiday pie fundraiser kicks off next week too. To get on the email list for notification, cilck here.


Sighted recently at Compo Beach: a baby shark.

But not in the Sound. This one was displayed on a South Beach picnic table, far from shore.

I’m not sure how it got there. But it sure got my attention.

(Photo/Matthew Levine)


Drivers stopped at the Playhouse Square traffic light often delight in the whimsical, ever-changing costumes worn by the animal sculptures on the Post Road lawn.

This Halloween, the creatures have been joined by a slew of skeletons. Despite COVID, looks like the animal hospital staff are up to their old tricks.

(Photo/Molly Alger)


And finally … Mahalia Jackson was born 109 years ago yesterday. The Queen of Gospel died just 60 years later. But she left a remarkable legacy.

Pic Of The Day #1287

Westport Library sculpture (Photo/Judith Katz)

Roundup: Pumpkinfest, Hoops, Compo Beach, More


What’s new on Main Street?

Hundreds of pumpkins, pounds and pounds of apples, and bushels of art supplies.

It’s all part of Sunday’s “Pumpkinfest” (October 25, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.)

Thanks to he Westport Downtown Merchants Association, Parks & Recreation Department and Westport PAL, hundreds of (costumed) families will have a chance to decorate pumpkins, take selfies in front of hand-painted backdrops (created by the Artists Collective of Westport, MoCA Westport and One River), and take home delicious (well, Cortland orchard) apples, courtesy of Camp Playland.

Pre-registration was required — and space was quickly filled. Earth Animal stepped up to underwrite an extra session, for 30 more families.

Families that want to gamble can stop by, in case there are last-minute openings.

The event is also the inauguration of a new program: Downtown Dollars. Gift cards for local stores will be awarded to families with the most creative pumpkins.

For more information, click here.


First, March Madness fell victim to COVID. Then the major sports leagues. High school spring sports were canceled — and so was 11-man football this fall.

Now comes news that one of the best sporting events on the planet — Westport Parks & Rec youth basketball — will not be played this winter either.

The department is following recommendations of the state Department of Public Health. They categorize indoor basketball as “moderate risk,” and suggest no team play.

In addition, Parks & Rec does not have access to the school facilities used for the program, director Jen Fava says.

She adds:

We understand this may be disappointing for some, but we must put the health and safety of our youth, and the community as a whole above all else. With the current rise in cases, events moving inside for the winter months and several upcoming holidays, there is uncertainty about what lies ahead. Adding a basketball league is an additional risk we feel should not be taken at this time.

Fava said that Parks & Rec is looking into alternative programs. Some basketball might be played if the DPH changes its recommendations, and school facilities become available.


This is a normal scene — in May, June, July or August.

Late October: not so much.

The beach sweeping crew was out yesterday, as the temperature neared 80.

(Photo/Chip Stephens)

Temperatures will still be in the 60s today and tomorrow. Everyone into the pool!


Tickets are still available for this Saturday’s “Show of Shows” (October 24, 7 p.m.), livestreamed from the Westport Library.

The great David Pogue MCs. Award-winning producer Andrew Wilk is the (very) creative director.

The show includes local personalities, comedy sketches, musical numbers with unexpected twists, and more.

Click here for information and tickets.


Westport Masks — the volunteer effort begun in the early days of the pandemic — has now made over 5,300 face coverings.

Thanks to sales, they’ve donated $1,500 to local food banks.

And they’re still going strong.

Tomorrow (Saturday, October 24) they’ll have their first pop-up shop mask sale. It’s at 19 Center Street (the corner of Brightfield Lane). Stop by — to keep yourself safe, and your neighbors fed.


And finally … yesterday was the 75th birthday of the Rascals’ Eddie Brigati. The vocalist/tambourine player helped write “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long,” “Groovin’,” “How Can I Be Sure” — and this classic: