Tag Archives: Westport Library

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:

Mo Rocca, Jeff Pegues Team Up As Library’s Newsmakers

Last year, Jeff Pegues arrived early for a book signing.

The 1988 Staples High School graduate — who rose through the broadcast ranks and is now CBS News justice/homeland security correspondent — had published his second book,  Kompromat: How Russia Undermined American Democracy.

He sat in his car at the Saugatuck Congregational Church, watching dozens of people arrive. It was a bigger crowd than in many major cities.

“I was humbled, and struck by how many Westporters are interested in information beyond the headlines,” Pegues says.

“That’s not always the case. And it troubles me.”

When the Westport Library — which had sponsored his talk off-site, during its renovation project — wrote a thank-you note, he started thinking what more he could do.

He’s a fan of New York’s 92nd Street Y, which sponsors a long-running, provocative speakers’ series.

Jeff Pegues

Pegues lives in Washington, DC. But his hometown — and hometown library — retain strong holds on him.

Would the library be interested in a series of interview/conversations with intriguing newsmakers? he wondered.

Would we ever! replied executive director Bill Harmer.

With a generous donation from Christian J. and Eva W. Trefz, the Newsmakers Series kicks off on Saturday, January 25 (7 p.m.). The first guest is Mo Rocca, noted CBS News correspondent, podcaster and TV personality.

It takes place in the soaring Forum — which, thanks to a previous $1 million gift, already bears the Trefz name.

Quarterly events are planned. Pegues will help bring intellectuals, foreign policy experts, politicians, actors, artists, athletes and other newsmakers to Westport — and will moderate each. His job is to help the audience “understand who they really are.”

Pegues is enthusiastic about the project.

“The library is a destination for ideas,” he notes. “And it’s important for newsmakers to come to a town with so many influential people.”

As a journalist, he notes, he often asks questions like “how did you get here?” What, for example, motivated the child of a single mom in Akron to not only become a basketball superstar, but to speak out about topics most athletes would not touch?

LeBron James would be a perfect candidate for a Trefz Newsmaker evening, Pegues says.

Mo Rocca

Rocca — the first interviewee — has “a unique take on people,” Pegues says. “He has an incredible ability to mix news judgment with a comedic touch.”

Rocca’s resume includes 4 seasons each with “The Daily Show” and Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show”; the “Mobituaries” podcast and book (an irreverent but well-researched appreciation of intriguing things past), and current gigs on both “CBS Sunday Morning” and NPR’s “Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!”

He’s won 2 Emmy Awards — one fewer than Pegues.

“Westporters should have access to people like Mo,” Pegues says. “They want clarity and insights.”

He looks forward to helping provide it — in a place that is particularly meaningful to him.

“Westport is a huge part of my upbringing,” Pegues says. “My parents moved here in the late 1970s for 2 reasons: the minnybus, and the library.”

The townwide transportation system — whose hub was Jesup Green — is long gone.

In 1986, the library moved to its new location, next to the green. A few months ago, it reopened in a transformed, 21st-century way.

Next month, Jeff Pegues helps the Westport Library become even more special and vibrant than it already is.

(General admission tickets for the 1st Trefz Newsmakers Series on January 25 are $35, and include a copy of Mo Rocca’s “Mobituaries” book. VIP tickets are $100, and include a private reception with Rocca, and preferred seating in the Forum. Click here for tickets.)

Unsung Heroes #125

Last weekend, the Westport Library held its annual holiday book and gift sale. As always, it was a smash.

The success of these sales — winter and summer — depends on generous donations of materials from the community.

Yet nothing would happen without volunteers. For the most recent event, 108 volunteers donated their time and energy. All worked hard.

But late Sunday afternoon, near closing time, the teen volunteers went above and beyond.

Henry Potter

The story starts with Henry Potter. He’s a project manager for Builders Beyond Borders, and for several years has overseen B3 teen volunteers at the book sales.

Through his own very high standard of working hard, Henry sets an excellent example for the group. He always does it with a smile.

During the recent Transformation Project, book donations were accepted in a temporary construction trailer on Jesup Green. The “drive up, drop off” experience was so positive for patrons, staff and volunteers that the library built a permanent annex in the Levitt parking lot, to accept and process donations.

For the past 2 months of construction, however, the library had to stop accepting contributions. Thanks to Henry and the teen volunteers though, the  new book donation annex will be open starting next Wednesday (December 4).

Mimi Greenlee, co-chair of the book sale, says, “We knew this was going to require a great deal of manpower, not only to move the items, but also to shelve the books in the correct categories. Henry happily agreed to set his team on this project.

“In 2 hours they accomplished what would have take us days. And they did it with smiling faces and great attitudes.”

Builders Beyond Borders volunteers get the donation annex ready.

B3 has done plenty of good work overseas. Last weekend, they helped out right in their own back yard.

(To nominate an Unsung Hero, email dwoog@optonline.net. Hat tip: Rachel Reese Pegnataro.)

Larry Silver Celebrates Leonardo Da Vinci

It’s been 500 years since the death of Leonardo da Vinci. Museums all over the world are celebrating the life and death of the remarkable inventor/artist/ architect — the literal embodiment of a Renaissance man.

Leonardo da Vinci

In the 16th century, a plague killed nearly a third of Milan’s population.  In its aftermath da Vinci designed a city with greater communications, water, services and sanitation — all to prevent future spreads of the plague.

Unfortunately, the city was never built.

Half a millennium later, photographers from around the world were invited to submit images that show da Vinci’s influence, as seen in today’s world.

A thousand entries were submitted. Only 30 were chosen.

One was from Westport’s own Larry Silver. His image — taken in the Florida Everglades in 2001 — will be exhibited at the Trieste Photo Festival, and published in a companion book by Trieste’s Revoltella Museum.

But you don’t have to travel all the way to Italy to see Larry’s work. An exhibit of his remarkable photos is set for the Westport Library. It opens December 7, and runs through February 13.

There’s a reception on Friday, December 13 (6 p.m., Sheffer Room Gallery). And an artist’s talk with Miggs Burroughs at the library on January 23 (6 p.m.).

Florida Everglades, 2001 (Photo copyright/Larry Silver)

Andrew Wilk Presents …

Like many Westporters, Andrew Wilk is very impressed by the recent transformation of the Westport Library.

But, he knows, a building that pulses with creativity is a lot more than “sticks and bricks.”

What really counts is the activity inside.

Andrew Wilk

Wilk is in a position to help make the library buzz even more than it does. An Emmy-winning television executive producer and director — as well as a playwright and symphony conductor — he has one of the most impressive Rolodexes* around.

Now he’s tapping his countless contacts — men and women he’s met through “Live at Lincoln Center,” as chief creative officer of Sony Music Entertainment, and vice president for the National Geographic Channel — to bring exciting, provocative pioneers in science, the arts and humanities to the interactive library stage.

“Andrew Wilk Presents…” debuts next month. Though he’s not crazy about the title — “I just find people, set them up for success and let ’em go,” he demurs — the library series looks like yet another Andrew Wilk smash.

The first guest (Thursday, December 12, 7 p.m.) is Michael Davie. A filmmaker who has worked on major projects for Oprah Winfrey, National Geographic, Discovery and many more, he’ll weave together hair-raising adventures from Kosovo to the Congo, adding personal reflections on travel, family and connecting with people all over the world.

Michael Davie in action.

Davie most recently co-created Oprah’s landmark 7-part series “Belief.” He began his video career by walking from Cape Town to Cairo (!) — alone (!!) — and recording that amazing journey.

Along the way Davie chronicled police brutality in Johannesburg, landmine victims in Mozambique, the sexual abuse of street children in Zimbabwe, and the disparity between rich and poor in Kenya.

He has also interviewed Nelson Mandela, and reported on terrorism, the persecution of gays in Iraq, the environmental cost of mining in Peru, and rescue climbing on Denali.

The second speaker is the celebrated oceanographer Dr. Robert Ballard. He found the Titanic, Bismarck, USS Yorktown and John F. Kennedy’s PT-109, and explored the Lusitania.

Dr. Robert Ballard

His next goal: discover Amelia Earhart’s plane. Wilk has no doubt Ballard will accomplish that too. “He’s an amazing person, with riveting stories,” Wilk says.

The third speaker is filmmaker Kevin Bachar. A 3-time Emmy Award-winning writer and cinematographer, he spent 10 years as a National Geographic producer. He also wrote specials for Discovery Channels’ Shark Week.

“There are so many great series at the library,” Wilk says. “I hope this is one more that will elevate the community.”

And — with speakers like Dr. Robert Ballard — take us to unimagined depths.

(General admission seats for Michael Davie are $20 each. VIP tickets cost $100, and include preferred seating, and pre-show food and drinks with Davie and Andrew Wilk. Click here for tickets.)

* The virtual kind, of course.

Photo Challenge #253

With all the ooohing and aaahing over the new Westport Library — the versatile Forum, the amazing children’s space, the great conference rooms and exhibition spaces and café — it’s easy to overlook the windows.

The east side — the one facing the police station — features a striking set of windows. I’m not sure how to describe them — heavy? curved? — so you can click here to see for yourself.

Wendy Cusick, Jonathan McClure, Clark Thiemann, James Weisz, Amy Schneider and Mark Jacobs are all library-goers who knew exactly what Heli Stagg’s photo showed. (She declined photo credit last week. She figured her role as the library’s retail manager would be too much of a hint.)

Meanwhile — for obvious reasons — I “love” this week’s Photo Challenge. If you know where in Westport you’d see it, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Sandy Rothenberg)

Pic Of The Day #910

The Westport Library held its first Mix It Up Tour last night in its new Forum space. Live music, a DJ, food, drinks, an art auction — and very cool decorations — inspired a young crowd that came early and stayed late.

The Westport Library held its first Mix It Up Tour Saturday night in its new Forum space. Live music, a DJ, food, drinks, an art auction — and very cool decorations — inspired a young crowd that came early and stayed late. (Photo/Dan Woog)

Library Fundraiser Really Mixes It Up

The Westport Library rocks!

That’s true literally — who can forget the concerts that followed Booked for the Evening events with Patti Smith and Nile Rodgers?

It’s true figuratively too. The transformed library — with its wide-open spaces, versatile stage and state-of-the-art video screen — is a fantastic venue for a dance party.

Which is exactly what happens on Saturday, October 12.

The Forum is the site of the 1st-ever Mix-It-Up Tour fundraiser. Waza — a great cover band fronted by Westporter Marty Jaramillo — will make it seem like rock legends are right there in the house library.

American Idol finalist Drew Angus — a 2007 Staples High School grad — and DJ Mo share the bill too.

A rock ‘n’ roll-inspired silent auction features works by artists Irene Penny, Stephen Goldstein, Kerry Heftman and Mark Rich.

Cocktails and bites are courtesy of Marcia Selden Catering.

When the library’s Transformation Project was underway, director Bill Harmer promised the new, versatile space would be used in creative ways no one had yet imagined.

The Mix-It-Up Tour dance party is one of those crazy-but-cool concepts that very few libraries would even think about.

In Westport, it’s just one more reason our library rocks.

(Click here for tickets, and more information.)