Tag Archives: Westport Library

Pop (Up) Goes The Library Shop

The Westport Library’s Transformation Project roars along. It’s on schedule to be finished in June.

Of course, the library is still open. But to make sure that holiday shoppers don’t miss a chance to buy goodies from its store, the library has opened a pop-up shop.

It’s in Bedford Square — across from the Spotted Horse restaurant, and most recently the site of the CronArt gallery.

The space is filled with greeting cards, reading glasses, cards and notepads, socks and scarves, booties and onesies, toys, games, building sets, novelties, bags and pouches, jewelry, umbrellas, tech gadgets, decorative lighting, maker kits and more.

A few of the many items available at the Westport Library pop-up store …

Some items are handmade. Some are quirky. There’s something for everyone, of any age.

This being the library shop — even off-site — there are even books for sale. Fiction, mystery, coffee table, children’s books — you’ll find them all. The selection changes weekly.

The pop-up shop is open through the end of the year: weekdays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sundays, 12-5 p.m. All proceeds benefit the Westport Library.

… and some of the books.

Photo Challenge #199

Old library card catalogs never die. They just get recycled.

At the Westport Library, the repurposing is particularly creative. For a few years now, the cafe has filled the now-obsolete wooden drawers with utensils, sugar packets and the like. It’s a great way to save space — and save what was once an integral part of the library experience.

Fred Cantor, Seth Schachter, Arleen Block, Nancy Bloom, Rich Stein, Joyce Barnhart, Nina Streitfeld, Ronna Zaken, Karen Como, Molly Alger, Mary Palmieri Gai, Ellen Wentworth, Arlene Gottlieb, Arline Gertzoff, Trammi Nguyen, Jessica Newshel and Karen Kim all identified last week’s Photo  Challenge. (Click here for the photo.)

Sure, it was easy. Let’s hope it was fun.

This week’s Photo Challenge shows several security cameras, and other electronic equipment. They’ve become part of our lives, so now we barely notice them.

But have you noticed this particular set? If so, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

Saugatuck StoryFest: The “Write” Way To Celebrate

From F. Scott Fitzgerald and J.D. Salinger to John Hersey and Peter De Vries, then on to current residents A.E. Hotchner and Jane Green, Westport has long been a writer’s town.

Back in the day, a special Rabbit Hill festival celebrated the works of local children’s author Robert Lawson.

But there’s never been a community-wide event, for all ages, dedicated to every genre imaginable: young adult, sci-fi, novels, romance, horror, even graphic novels.

Until now.

October 12-14 marks the first-ever Saugatuck StoryFest. A collaboration between the Westport Library and Westport Public Schools — held at the library, in downtown restaurants, the Senior Center and Westport Woman’s Club and Staples High School — it is wide-ranging. Interactive. And very, very cool.

Saugatuck StoryFest has been in the works for a year. Staples English teacher Kim Herzog and literacy coach Rebecca Marsick had the idea. Library executive director Bill Harmer had been thinking of the same thing. He offered the help of library manager of experiential learning Alex Giannini and program/events specialist Cody Daigle-Orlans.

A $25,000 grant from the Board of Education Innovation Fund helped secure authors like Newbery Honor recipient Jason Reynolds (a keynote speaker) and National Book Award nominee Nic Stone.

Those writers drew in others. National and local authors quickly jumped on board. Over 100 authors will participate, in a variety of ways.

The planning committee included a dozen students from Staples and Bridgeport, a Bridgeport teacher, and Fairfield University’s Connecticut Writing Project director Bryan Ripley Crandall.

Jason Reynolds

They’ve created a remarkable lineup. The 3-day celebration of reading, writing and ideas kicks off Friday, October 12 with a keynote by Emmy-winning documentarian Sheila Nevins, and a concert/storytelling session with Drama Desk-nominated composer/lyricist Joe Iconis.

Saturday, October 13 includes Reynolds, Stone, best-selling children’s author Chris Grabenstein and National Book Award winner Robin Benway, plus “Game of Foams” performances on Jesup Green recreating epic battles in the “Game of Thrones” books, and hands-on activities with comic creators.

Meanwhile, the Senior Center hosts “Writing Your Next Chapter: Inspiration and Support for Those Who Have Lived Many Stories.”

Saturday night features a lit crawl and pub trivia in downtown restaurants and bars. The evening ends at the Woman’s Club with a celebration of the legacy of Ray Bradbury, courtesy of author Sam Weller and Westport’s Play With Your Food.

On Sunday, October 14 StoryFest moves to Staples. A full day of workshops, panels and a mini-BookCon kicks off with a local authors’ breakfast, and conversations between our own noted writers like Charlotte Rogan and Nina Sankovitch.

Sunday’s keynote is delivered by National Book Award nominee Ibi Zoboi. Other headliners that day include Peter Blauner, Andrew Gross and Riley Sager.

There’s much more — too much in fact for even this local writer to cram in to this story. For full details, click here.

All kinds of books are featured at Saugatuck StoryFest — including “Yes: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestleMania.”

Bernstein On Broadway — And The Westport Library

This year marks the 100th anniversary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth. The legendary composer/conductor had a profound impact on Broadway, the Philharmonic, television, young people. You name it, he touched it.

He also had strong local ties. For much of his life he had a home in Fairfield, just over the Westport line. Area residents knew him well.

Leonard Bernstein

Andrew Wilk did not. But like many children of his era, he loved Bernstein’s “Young People’s Concerts” on CBS. They inspired his career in music and TV.

At New York University, Wilk was the only student who could read a full conductor’s score. When the CBS music coordinator was sick prior to a Lincoln Center show, Wilk’s professor got him to fill in.

The network paid him $50, and fired the other guy. At 19, Wilk won an Emmy for his work on the “Young People’s Concerts.”

He now has 4 more. And — in addition to his noted career as executive director of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts — the Westporter serves as a trustee of the Westport Library.

Last year he produced the organization’s Malloy Lecture in the Arts, one of the library’s signature annual events. Past programs have featured Arthur Miller, Christo, Joshua Bell, Joyce Carol Oates, Christopher Plummer and Salman Rushdie.

Andrew Wilk in the “Live From Lincoln Center” remote truck, during “Falsettos.”

Wilk had just produced the film version of “Falsettos” for PBS. He brought the director and cast to the library. It sold out the day it was announced.

So it’s only natural that this year he’s reprising his producing role for the Malloy Lecture — and focusing on Leonard Bernstein.

The event — set for Monday, October 22 (7:30 p.m., Quick Center at Fairfield University) has 2 parts.

The first focuses on Bernstein and Broadway. A panel discussion with his children Nina and Alexander will be moderated by conductor/composer/ producer George Steel. Rare family footage will be shown, including scenes from their life in Fairfield.

The second half of the evening features live musical performances of iconic shows like “West Side Story,” “On the Town” and “Wonderful Town.” Broadway soloists will be joined by the Staples High School Orphenians.

Musical director Michael Barrett will also perform a 4-hand piano arrangement of the “Candide Overture,” with Westport’s own internationally famed Frederic Chiu.

It will all be “a unique perspective on an amazing man,” Wilk promises.

Susan Malloy

It’s one more in the series named after a remarkable person herself. Artist and philanthropist Susan Malloy  died in 2015, age 91.

Thirteen years earlier, she had endowed the lecture series. It’s a free, public annual discussion by a person with significant cultural influence, and whose work has enhanced the understanding and appreciation of the arts.

(The Malloy Lecture in the Arts has already sold out. Call the Quick Center at 203-254-4010 or email boxoffice@quickcenter.com to be put on the wait list. For more information, click here.)

 

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.)