Tag Archives: Westport Library

Pics Of The Day #1044

Downtown Westport, courtesy of Brandon Malin’s drone:

National Hall, and the west bank of the Saugatuck River

Downtown

Bedford Square

Westport Library

Town Hall (Drone photos/Brandon Malin)

Library Book Sales: A Bold New Venture

The Westport Library book sales are a wonderful Westport tradition.

Every July — and, in a smaller form, spring — thousands of book-lovers find countless treasures. And it’s not only books (in every category imaginable). CDs, DVDs, even sheet music are also on sale.

After more than 2 decades, the sales are taking a new step forward. Today the library announced the launch of Westport Book Sale Ventures.

The new entity has a dual mission: raising funds to support the library, while providing meaningful employment for adults with disabilities.

Starting next month, the Westport Library book sales will be operated by Westport Book Sale Ventures, Inc. — an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit.

A typical summer Westport Library Book Sale scene.

“The book sales are a beloved community tradition that provide essential support for Library programming,” says executive director Bill Harmer. “The sales are powered by a dedicated team of volunteers, and tens of thousands of book donations from our generous community.

“Facilitating meaningful employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities is squarely aligned with the Library’s mission to strengthen our community, motivate engagement and serve diverse constituencies, and we are incredibly proud to launch this new initiative.”

The new venture is coordinated by Jocelyn Barandiaran, Sharuna Mahesh and Linda Monteiro-Hopper, Westport residents with a passion for the Library and the expanded book sale mission.

Mimi Greenlee and Dick Lowenstein — who have led book sales for 2 decades — will provide guidance.

Dick Lowenstein, Mimi Greenlee and Suzy Hooper — longtime Book Sale stalwarts. (Photo/John Karrel)

Barandiaran notes, “The unemployment rate for Americans with disabilities is twice as high as the rate for people with no disabilities. For many young adults with disabilities there is a significant gap following high school, when individuals no longer have the support of the public education system’s transition services, and their social networks disburse.

“We hope this new venture will provide transferable job skills and opportunities for community engagement, and motivate our community and our businesses to be ever more inclusive of people with disabilities.”

The Annex, which was installed in the upper lot to receive book donations, will continue to function in the same way. Donations may be made at any time during the Library’s operating hours.

The first Book Sale Event managed by the new venture is set for Friday, March 13 through Sunday, March 15, in the Library Forum of the Westport Library. To learn more about Westport Book Sale Ventures, click here.

“Vagina Monologues” Comes To Town

It began as casual conversations with friends. Soon Eve Ensler began talking with women she did not know. Eventually she spoke with 200 of them.

Their discussions about sex and relationships often turned to the topic of violence against women. The project — which Ensler had envisioned as a celebration of vaginas and femininity — became a crusade to stop that violence.

Since its off-Broadway debut in 1996, “The Vagina Monologues” — which explores consensual and nonconsensual sexual experiences, body image, genital mutilation, sex work and other topics through the eyes of women of various ages, races and sexualities — has become one of the most impactful plays of our time.

It also sparked the V-Day Movement, a global non-profit aimed at ending violence against women and girls.

“The Vagina Monologues” forms the cornerstone of the movement. Benefit performances take place worldwide each year between February and April. All  must stick to an annual script that V-Day puts out.

Performances benefit rape crisis centers, shelters for women and similar resources. So far, they’ve raised over $120 million.

This year, Westport Library has been chosen to produce a V-Day event. Beneficiaries are the Center for Family Justice and the Rowan Center sexual assault agency. Many cast members are Westport residents.

Set for Friday, February 21, the event begins with a 6:30 p.m. cocktail reception. The performance will be followed by a conversation between the cast and audience, about themes and issues brought up in the play.

The suggested donation is $20. However, all donation levels are accepted (and appreciated). For tickets, click here.

Photo Challenge #266

The snow in Kathleen Motes Bennewitz’s image last week made it hard to figure out exactly what the Photo Challenge showed. (Click here to see.)

But not so hard that Andrew Colabella, Seth Schachter, Lynn Untermeyer Miller, Amy Schneider, Arthur Hayes, Mousumi Ghosh, Sean Doyle and Peter Barlow didn’t know the answer.

It was the big, abstract steel sculpture, created between 1976 and ’81 by Charles Ginnever titled “Charities.” It sits on Jesup Green, near the new entrance to the Westport Library by the Taylor parking lot.

According to Ann Chernow and Miggs Burroughs, writing in the Westport News’ “Art Town” column, it was donated to the town in 1996 by a friend of Ginnever,

It was originally placed in Winslow Park, facing the Post Road. The next year it was moved to Jesup Green.

It’s been there ever since, framing the library and serving as an inviting spot for kids to scamper on.

And for snow to collect.

This week’s Photo Challenge is easy to identify — for longtime Westporters, anyway. It’s the lighthouse that for decades stood between the marina and pool entrance at Longshore (near where the pavilion and snack bar are now).

So that’s not the challenge. What we want to know is: Where does this painting hang today?

That’s a question that any Westporter — no matter how recently you moved here — might be able to answer.

If you know, click “Comments” below.

Pics Of The Day #1020

The Westport Library was quieter than usual today — some of the time.

The 21st annual Crossword Puzzle Contest drew a record 130-plus cruciverbalists, from as far as Pittsburgh and Illinois. 

A small portion of the 130-plus puzzlers.

Led by New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz — the host and grandmaster for all 21 years — the contestants tackled 3 crosswords. 

That was the quiet part. During breaks, there were loud, animated conversations — about puzzles, the genius of Will Shortz, and life. 

The judges at work.

After those preliminary rounds, the finalists took the stage. Glenn Ryan of Norwich dethroned defending champion Ken Stern, finishing a “Friday puzzle” without a mistake in a blazing 4 minutes, 50 seconds.

Finalists,just minutes after the championship round began.

He won a book about the origins of words — and an hour test drive in a Maserati, courtesy of the Westport dealer.

From left: finalists Ken Stern, Jesse Lansner and champion Glenn Ryan, with Westport Library executive director  Bill Harmer and New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz.

That may the only thing faster than Glenn.

Not to brag, but — well, okay, a little. (Photos/Dan Woog)

 

WestportREADS: Library Celebrates 100 Years Of Women’s Suffrage

The United States has never had a female president.

Then again, 101 years ago women were not allowed to vote.

As the nation celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment — women’s suffrage was ratified in 1920 — the Westport Library joins in. A year-long series of events looks back on that then-controversial decision.

They’ll also examine the current voting landscape. A century after half the country finally joined participatory democracy, our country grapples with issues like voter suppression, and the security of our ballots.

The library’s programs are part of its first-ever year-long WestportREADS initiative. Formerly a one-month event, it’s now expanded into a full campaign: “Westport Suffragists — Our Neighbors, Our Crusaders.”

More than a year ago, Westporters Lucy Johnson and Marcia Falk asked  director Bill Harmer if the library could note the upcoming 19th Amendment anniversary.

He embraced the idea, and suggested it fall under the WestportREADS umbrella. The program encourages the entire community to read the same book, and organizes events around that theme.

Last fall’s kickoff featured journalist Elaine Weiss. She discussed her book “The Woman’s Hour,” a riveting account of the far-harder-than-it-should-have-been political and social drive to pass the amendment.

The next book event focuses on fiction. On Tuesday, March 3 (7 p.m.), Kate Walbert welcomes Women’s History Month with a discussion of “A Short History of Women.”

Her novel explores the ripples of the suffrage movement through one family, starting in 1914 at the deathbed of suffragist Dorothy Townsend. It follows her daughter, watches her niece choose a more conventional path, and completes the family portrait with a great-granddaughter in post-9/11 Manhattan.

The battle for suffrage was long and hard.

But that’s only part of the WestportREADS schedule.

Here are just a few other events:

  • The League of Women Voters tells its story (February 9, 1:30 p.m., Westport Woman’s Club)
  • “Battle of the Sexes” video, about the groundbreaking tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs (February 18, 2 p.m., Westport Library Komansky Room)
  • Opening reception for an exhibit on Westport women central to the suffrage movement (March 6, 6 p.m., Westport Library Sheffer Room)
  • Talk about Lillian Wald, social activist and founder of the Henry Street Settlement who retired to Westport (March 18, 7 p.m., Westport Library Forum).

Lillian Wald: social justice warrior, and Westporter.

Authors, historians and journalists will present other panels and exhibits through August. That month — marking final ratification of the 19th Amendment (you go, Tennessee!) — WestportREADS sponsors a final, big program. Details will be announced soon.

Working on this project has been enlightening, Johnson says.

“The fight for suffrage began long before the 20th century,” she notes. “It took a long time. But without television, the internet or social media — through sheer will and determination, with marches and lobbying, state by state — people got it done. It was an amazing feat.”

The library has partnered with the League of Women Voters. Representatives will be at every event, to enroll new voters.

All women are encouraged to register.

All men, too.

(For more information on the “Westport Suffragists” WestportREADS program, click here.)

Titanic Discoverer, Undersea Explorer Surfaces At Library

The 2nd “Andrew Wilk Presents…” will be fascinating.

On Thursday, February 13 (7 p.m.), Dr. Robert Ballard speaks at the Westport Library.

I was excited to interview him, for a sneak peak. In 1985 he discovered the wreck of Titanic. He’s also found the Bismarck, the lost fleet of Guadalcanal, the aircraft carrier Yorktown (sunk in the Battle of Midway), and John F. Kennedy’s PT-109.

Dr. Robert Ballard

But when I started talking about those titanic discoveries, he basically said, “Who cares?”

Ballard has bigger fish to fry.

The National Geographic Society Explorer-at-Large says his most important discoveries were of hydrothermal vents — and the exotic life forms living miles below the surface.

Basically, Ballard found the origins of life on earth. These creatures have found ways to duplicate photosynthesis without sunlight. Thanks to Ballard, we now know that life can flourish all over the universe.

He’ll talk about all that in Westport. (And Titanic too. “It’s part of the story of human history,” he realizes.)

But wait! There’s more!

Ballard is also about to embark on “the 2nd Lewis & Clark Expedition.” Of course, there are a couple of differences between this, and the one 2 centuries ago that uncovered the wonders of our still-unexplored continent.

Dr. Robert Ballard, ready to explore

For one, Ballard is going underwater. The US owns waters 200 miles from our coastline — and we’ve got a lot of coast. Including Alaska, Hawaii and all our Pacific islands like Guam, Ballard says there is as much undersea as the entire surface of the United States.

And we have no idea what minerals and species are down there.

“I’ll tell you when I find it,” Ballard says confidently.

A second difference between the 1800s and 2000s: Half of the explorers this time will be female.

“I’m calling it the Lois and Clark Expedition,” Ballard says.

So he’s not only astonishingly smart, and superbly adventurous. Ballard is also quite funny.

“Andrew Wilk Presents…” — hosted by Westport’s Emmy-winning television executive producer and director/playwright/symphony conductor — brings remarkable men and women to the library. The series kicked off last month with Michael Davie, a filmmaker who has worked on major projects for Oprah Winfrey, National Geographic, Discovery and more.

Ballard will be a compelling guest. His sense of adventure is — clearly — profound.

So I wanted to know more about what he will discover, in his upcoming exploration of our planet’s vast oceans.

“What did Lewis and Clark expect when they got in their canoes?” Ballard asked rhetorically.

“I’ll tell you when I find it.”

(Tickets for Dr. Robert Ballard’s talk with Andrew Wilk are $50 for reserved seating; $150 for VIP reception and reserved seating. Click here for tickets and more information.)

Youth Concert Brings China To Westport

Years ago, the Westport Youth Concert began as an opportunity to enrich students’ cultural awareness, through music.

As the school district’s emphasis on global understanding has grown, so has the Youth Concert. It’s evolved into a cross-cultural, collaborative event involving not only music, but Westport Public Schools’ visual arts and world language departments.

Outside organizations like the Westport Library, Westport Public Art Collections and PTA Cultural Arts have signed on as community partners.

A scene from last year’s Youth Concert.

This year’s event exemplifies the music department’s mission. “Music of China” features Staples High School musicians, the award-winning Middle School Percussion Ensemble, and guest artists from the New York Chinese Cultural Center. They’ll perform a lion dance and musical piece using a pipa, guzheng and erhu — with mini-lessons about each instrument.

The feature performance is Tuesday, February 4 (7 p.m., Staples auditorium). On that day, and February 6, in-school educational concerts for 3rd through 6th graders will complement the public concert.

It’s a huge undertaking. Youth Concert planning begins at the start of the school year. Coordinator Candi Innaco creates a classroom guide. It introduces the theme, and includes links to resources and classroom instruction.

Leading up to the event, teachers at Greens Farms, Long Lots and Saugatuck Elementary School had students design China-related art: hanging lanterns, wish kites, brush paintings, Ming Dynasty vases and the like.

Westport student art: Ming Dynasty vases.

All elementary music instructors are teaching the tune and lyrics to “Jasmine Flower.” At the concert, students will sing it from the audience — led by Staples’ Orphenians.

Staples’ world language department is involved too. Mandarin students will emcee the concert, and photos taken by teacher Chris Fray on his recent visit to China will be shown.

WestPAC, meanwhile, is displaying art and photography from China at their traveling pop-up galleries, at every school.

In March, the Westport Library will bring the same guest artists from the New York China Cultural Center, to perform again.

China lion dance, performed by members of the New York Chinese Cultural Center.

The public is invited to the free February 4 evening performance. For more information about this event and the Westport music program, click here.

Photo Challenge #263

No one is alive today to remember, but in 1906 the cornerstone was laid for a new Westport Public Library.

Since 1877, residents had had access to books, magazines and newspapers — contributed by their neighbors — on the 2nd floor of the Hurlbutt building on State Street (Post Road). That’s the block between Taylor Place and the entrance to the Taylor parking lot, by the river.

There were very few volumes, however. The public could check out books on Tuesdays and Fridays only.

The 1906 library was a gift from Morris K. Jesup. He donated land opposite the Hurlbutt building — near the corner of the Post Road and Main Street — plus $5,000 for construction.

Two years later — on April 8, 1908 — 300 Westporters turned out for the dedication. Morris Jesup was not there. He had died 4 months earlier.

In 1986 the library moved across Jesup Road — to landfill not there in Jesup’s day. Two renovations later, it is the pride of the town.

But back in another century, so was Jesup’s. The cornerstone still stands, though the building now houses an art gallery and other tenants. (Starbucks and Freshii are in an addition, from the 1950s.)

That cornerstone was last week’s Photo Challenge (click here to see). Dan Vener, Robert Mitchell, Tom Trisch, Christine McCarthy, Chip Stephens, John Hartwell, Elaine Marino, Bobbie Herman, Seth Schachter, Seth Goltzer, Linda Amos, Bruce Salvo, Susan Huppi and Mary Ann Batsell all knew exactly what the photo showed.

You could look it up. But they didn’t have to.

As for this week’s Photo Challenge, here’s a hint: It has nothing to do with a library. Obviously.

(Photo/Susan Ross)

If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

Longshore Kids’ Wall Resurfaces At Library

Nearly 20 years ago, 1,400 Westport middle school students created what is believed to be the largest piece of public art in Fairfield County.

Designed by students in their art classrooms — with help from noted artists Katherine Ross and Miggs Burroughs — the “Kids’ Wall” rose 8 feet high, and stretched 44 feet wide.

Costing $18,000 — donated by dozens of individuals and organizations — it included 1,500 pounds of tile and adhesive, 1,000 pounds of “Wonder Board” (tile backing), and 200 pounds of grout.

There are 64 panels, 500 pieces of broken tile, and other objects on each panel. That’s 32,000 individual pieces on the mural, give or take a few.

Each panel was completed in one 50-minute art class. There were 64 classes, covering every 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grader in town.

The Kids’ Wall, at Longshore.

The approval process took 2 years. The Planning & Zoning Commission, Architectural Review Board, Parks & Recreation Department, Public Works, Police Department, Conservation Commission, RTM, Arts Advisory Council and Board of Selectmen all weighed in

Finally, it was done. The Kids’ Wall was unveiled near the Longshore pool on May 28, 2000.

It’s still there.

But it’s also at the Westport Library.

Just inside the upper parking lot entrance, there’s an exhibit celebrating the 20th anniversary. It includes a 1/3-scale banner of the wall, plus newspaper stories and more.

The Kids’ Wall exhibit at the library.(From left): Artists Miggs Burroughs and Katherine Ross; outgoing Library exhibits director Chris Timmons; incoming exhibits director Carol Erger-Fass.

Somehow, this enormous public art project never got the publicity it deserved. If you go to the Longshore pool or sailing school, you see it.

But no one else does — or even knows about it.

The “transformed” library opened 3 months ago. Perhaps this exhibit will transform the little-known Kids’ Wall into an artistic treasure, known far and wide.

Or at least beyond Longshore.

KIDS’ WALL BONUS: Click below for a video on the making of the mural: