Tag Archives: Westport Library

“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!

Unsung Hero #6

This Saturday at 4 p.m., when the Westport Cinema Initiative screens “The High School That Rocked!” Fred Cantor will sit contentedly in the Town Hall auditorium.

Few in the audience will know that the ever-smiling Westporter came up with the idea for a film about 6 major bands — you may have heard of the Doors? — that played at Staples High School in the mid-1960s.

Cantor then produced the intriguing film. He tracked down archival photos, arranged interviews and found funding.

Fred Cantor, at the opening of the Westport Historical Society’s “The High School That Rocked!” exhibit. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

After the talkback that follows the showing, Cantor will head across the street to the Westport Historical Society for a cocktail hour. Guests will enjoy the “High School That Rocked!” exhibit — inspired, and curated in part, by Cantor.

At 8 p.m. Saturday, Cantor will sit on the Levitt Pavilion grass. He’ll watch with satisfaction as an all-star cast of Staples High School 1971 classmates — Charlie Karp, Brian Keane and Michael Mugrage, all of whom played and recorded with the biggest names in entertainment — join several other very talented ’71 classmates for one of the best shows of summer.

Cantor masterminded that event too.

He won’t get much credit for any of this. But he won’t mind. It’s just his way of contributing to the life, joy and history of the town he’s called home since he was 10 years old.

Cantor moved to Easton Road with his family from Fresh Meadows, Queens. (He loves that place too — and wrote a book about the middle class families that thrived there after World War II.)

While serving as a public interest lawyer in New York City, he and his wife Debbie Silberstein bought a 2nd home on Drumlin Road. They now live there full-time. True to his volunteer — and community-minded — form, Cantor is active in his road association, and a great neighbor to all in need.

Fred Cantor, in the Staples High School 1971 yearbook.

His selfless ways are legion. Several years ago, a Staples freshman soccer player with a single mother had no transportation after practice and games. Every day, Cantor — a former soccer star at Staples and Yale — drove him home.

Twenty years ago Cantor combined his passions for soccer, writing and history with a book, “The Autumn of Our Lives.” He followed the Staples team for an entire season, and told a compelling story of the changes — and similarities — between 2 teams, 25 years apart.

Cantor has done more than perhaps anyone in the world to keep the Remains’ memory alive. The Westport band that opened the Beatles’ 1966 tour — and that was, Jon Landau said, “how you told a stranger about rock ‘n’ roll” — has been memorialized in an off-Broadway play (“All Good Things“) and documentary film (“America’s Lost Band“).

Cantor came up with the idea for both. And made sure that both got made.

Always, he stayed out of the limelight.

These days you can often find Cantor at the Westport Library. He’s researching some element of Westport history.

Often, that research — or simple inspiration — leads to an “06880” story idea.

You may not have known the enormous impact Fred Cantor has had on this blog. Or this town.

Now that he’s this week’s Unsung Hero, you do.

(Know of an unsung hero we should celebrate? Email details to dwoog@optonline.net)

It Takes A Village To Make A Book Sale

It takes a village to raise a child.

And it takes a small city — well, 300 to 400 people anyway — to run the Westport Library’s annual Book Sale.

The tents are already up for the July 15-18 event. That’s done professionally.

A typical scene at the Westport Library Book Sale. (Photo/Westport Library)

But nearly everything else — hauling boxes, unboxing books, shelving, signage, on-site help, line control, security, checkout, cleanup and takedown — is done by volunteers.

They converge on Jesup Green from all corners of town (and beyond). They come in all shapes and sizes (and ages). They represent the Y’s Men, Staples Service League of Boys, National Charity League, the Gillespie Center and a local addiction recovery house.

Some are giving back to their community. Some are performing court-ordered community service. Some love the library, or books in general. Some welcome a chance to socialize.

All are welcome.

One of the book sale’s many volunteers.

Mimi Greenlee is the longtime c0-chair of the Book Sale. She’s also one of those uber-volunteers who epitomize the saying, “If you need something done, ask a busy person.”

Since moving here in 1971 with her husband Chuck, Mimi has raised 4 kids; taught at Burr Farms Elementary School; served with the Westport Young Woman’s League, United Way, Westport Soccer Association and a slew of PTAs, and run the Westport Downtown Merchants Association art show.

Still, the Book Sale is special. It’s a true community event, with that huge volunteer/collaborative component.

“It’s like a puzzle. I love watching the pieces come together,” Mimi says. “And every piece is a person.”

Nothing ever rattles Mimi Greenlee — not even the controlled chaos of the Westport Library Book Sale.

As the book sale grew — from one tiny table in the McManus Room, to an outdoor tent, to the many tents now on Jesup Green — so did the need for help.

Suzy Hooper gets the volunteers for the 9 days it takes to set up, run and take down the event.

There’s a job for everyone. Some of it is very physical. (“Those Y’s Men put me to shame,” Mimi marvels.)

Some can be done sitting down — even in a wheelchair.

Mimi, Suzy and the library staff have it all down to a science. Last year, it took just one hour from the end of the sale Tuesday, until everything was packed away.

“We get everyone,” Mimi says. There’s a man from New Canaan who arranges his travel schedule every year to do this. There are people who volunteered when they were living in the homeless shelter just across the way. Now they’ve got housing, but they still want to help.”

Mimi invites everyone to the book sale. It starts Saturday, July 15 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.); continues Sunday, July 16 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), Monday, July 17 (9 a.m. to 5 p.m., half-price day), and ends Tuesday, July 18 (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; everything is free, but contributions are welcome).

And if you’d like to volunteer on the sale days — or help with the book sorting process throughout the year — just email shooper@westportlibrary.org, or click here.

Groundbreaking Near For Exciting Library Project

It’s not a “renovation.” Nor is it a “remodeling.”

On August 1, the Westport Library breaks ground on a “transformation” project.

Through 21 months of construction — during which it remains open for use — the 31-year-old building will be reimagined, top to bottom.

Literally.

The stark and dark lower level — currently home to the video department, offices, the cramped McManus Room and a few offices — turns into a place of light, nature and activity.

The lower entrance off the Taylor parking lot will be spiffed up and enclosed, resulting in great river views. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The offices facing the river will be recaptured for patrons’ use — with larger windows, to enjoy the view.

Right now, offices, doors and a stairwell prevent patrons from enjoying the nearby river. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The functional Taylor parking lot entrance becomes more welcoming. A 2nd entrance — midway up Jesup Green — offers another access to the main level.

The result of all this is a better visual and visceral connection between the library, the river and the green.

A rendering of the new Jesup Green entrance. It will lead patrons into the upper level about where the graphic novels are located now.

The DVD/BluRay collection — accounting for 35% of the library’s check-outs — moves to the main floor.

So does the very popular McManus meeting room — where it will be 4 times larger.

The main level — the one accessible now only from the Levitt Pavilion lot — undergoes a mind-boggling transformation.

The cafe expands threefold. With more food choices, an outdoor terrace, a new connection to the Sheffer Reading Room and a special entrance allowing it to be used after hours for events like author and poetry readings, this area can become an actual destination.

Right now, the gift/store area is cramped — and so is the cafe behind it. A greatly expanded — and more flexible — cafe is in the works. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The newspaper and magazine reading rooms — with their gorgeous river views — remain. But mobile furniture makes them more flexible.

The hulking service desk gets revamped, to be more open and inviting. Director Bill Harmer calls the area next to it “The Hub,” where staff members offer assistance.

The area near the massive circulation desk becomes much more user-friendly. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The main room gets acoustic tiles, helping noise and aesthetics. Dozens of power outlets will line the perimeter.

But that’s only the start.

A raised floor will be built over the art display kiosks (which are actually air intake vents, too costly to move). The grandstand will be similar to Times Square. Harmer envisions similar excitement, interaction, dreaming and activity.

The Great Hall will include grandstand seating, over the current art exhibit kiosks (which actually hide air intake vents). Stacks will move downstairs.  The area near the windows will be reimagined, providing great views of Jesup Green. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

A giant LED screen and excellent sound system add to the possibilities.

A rendering of the grandstand.

The current book stacks move one floor below, freeing up room for what Harmer calls “open, flexible community forum space.” With room for 500 people (and a large screen), it’s a spot for collaborative work, and large programs.

A “forum” replaces stacks on the main floor. It’s a flexible space for collaboration and programs, with a large LED screen at the rear. This rendering shows the view toward the police station.

The entire space can be cleared if needed, for exhibitions or trade-type shows.

The Maker Space has already been disassembled, and reopened temporarily on the top floor. It will reappear — in a larger form — where the reference section, offices and computers are now. It too will have an after-hours entrance.

Harmer describes the new area as “community-oriented hacker space.” Laser cutters, lathes, power tools, sewing machines and kilns will allow for even more than tinkering, robotics, coding and 3D printing.

“We’ll provide the tools of invention,” Harmer says. “We’ll bring the community together to create magic.”

Sounds interesting, but noisy?

No problem: It’s all sound-proofed.

The old Maker Space has been disassembled. The new one will be even better.

The nearby recording studio will be sound-proofed too. “It’s not Abbey Road,” Harmer apologizes. But — designed by Rob Fraboni, an audio engineer who has worked with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, the Band, the Beach Boys, Eric Clapton and Joe Cocker — it will offer another immersive experience for patrons.

Seven conference/study rooms — more than double the current 3 — will be loaded with technology.

The new McManus Room is planned for the far end of the main floor — closest to the police station — where the stacks are now. Windows will brighten that now-dark corner of the library.

Library director Bill Harmer in the far end of the main floor. Newspapers and stacks will move downstairs, giving way to grandstand seating, an LED screen, the new McManus Room and a recording studio. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Upstairs, the balcony comes out another 5 feet. That provides “box seats” for all that goes on below, while easing the current hallway space crunch.

A much-improved waiting area outside the children’s department is planned. And the nearly unusable balcony will be widened substantially. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The Children’s Department gets an extreme makeover too. More natural light, and a bit of reconfiguring of shelves, enlivens that important area. Giant porthole windows will enable kids to look out over the Great Hall.

Small windows in the children’s section — where shelves now line the wall — will give way to large porthole windows. The Robert Lambdin mural will be moved elsewhere (as will the River of Names tile project, now downstairs). (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

The price tag for all this is $19.5 million. The town of Westport provides a quarter of the funding. The other three-quarters comes from individual, foundation and corporate donations (including a $1 million state grant).

The library has raised all but $4 million of what’s needed. Bridge financing is already in place.

The Westport Library sits on some of Westport’s most beautiful — and valuable — real estate.

It’s also one of our town’s most used — and valuable — resources.

Less than 2 years from now, the library will be “transformed.”

The project will transform more than the building, and Jesup Green around it.

It will transform all of downtown.

And all of us, too.

Right now, a few areas of the library work well. Views from the children’s department, and the 1st floor Sheffer and magazine reading rooms, will be retained. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

(To learn more about the Westport Library transformation project, click here.)

Photographers Needed! Shoot “A Day In The Life Of Westport”

“06880” posts one Pic of the Day, each day.

But the Westport Library hopes for hundreds — on one special day.

All Westporters — professional and amateur; old and young; native and newcomer; those with Nikons and those with iPhones — are invited to take photos at any time (or all day) on Wednesday, June 21.

That’s the summer solstice, so there should be plenty of light.

Shoot anything, or anyone. The only requirements: It must be somewhere in Westport. And use a high-resolution setting.

Send your 3 best images — one at a time, at the largest option offered — to dayinthelifeimages@gmail.com. Put your name and “Westport” in the subject line.

Photos chosen will be featured in the library’s Riverwalk hallway (lower level) from July 3-21. An opening reception is set for Thursday, July 6 (6:30 p.m.).

So on June 21, go for it.

Give it your best shot!

If you’re up early on June 21, you might get a shot like this. (Photo/Dave Curtis)

Pic Of The Day #54

Googly eyes at the Westport Library return box. (Photo copyright Lynn U. Miller)