Tag Archives: Westport Library

Photo Challenge #125

Westport Library patrons are smart people.

Last week’s photo challenge — Jerry Kuyper’s intriguing shot of the shadows cast by a sculpture on the wall of the upper level library entrance — was quickly identified by Elaine Marino, Leigh Gage, Seth Schachter, Dominique Dwor-Frecaut, Kris Nash, Valerie Kermoal, Melody James, Audrey Doniger and Amee Borys. (Click here for the photo, and all guesses.)

Maxine Bleiweis added the fun fact that the sculpture — called “Walter” — was created by Westonite Carole Eisner. “It looks like something Naiad Einsel might have done,” Maxine said, referring to the mis-identification of the sculptor by some readers.

Maxine should know. She’s the former director of the library.

Ed Simek sends along this week’s challenge. I have to admit: I didn’t think I’d ever seen it before. But it’s another one of those pieces of Westport hiding in plain sight.

Bonus challenge: Tell us the family this memorial is named for! Click “Comments” below.




Daniel Lanzilotta’s Trashy Art

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Which means there are tons of treasures downtown.

Take, for example, the little green (and non-biodegradable) plastic stirrers you get with your Starbucks coffee.

Daniel Lanzilotta says they cause havoc when they get into storm drains, and the nearby Saugatuck River.

So he makes them into sculptures.

That’s just one way he turns “street debris” into art. He’s got many other pieces — and they’re on view right now in the Westport Library Riverwalk (lower level) display case. Fittingly, it’s just a few steps from Starbucks.

Daniel Lanzilottsa wears one of his creations.

On Wednesday, May 31 (6:15 p.m., McManus Room) the library hosts a reception for Lanzilotta. He’ll give a talk on environmental issues at 7 p.m., followed by a discussion with Earthplace representatives.

The topic: How Westport can address and remedy some of the issues raised in his talk.

Lanzilotta is the right man for the job. An artist, environmentalist and chef, he’s seen this town from many different angles.

As a member of Celebrate Westport, he helped create the Farmers’ Market with Michel Nischan. Lanzilotta also helped design First Night Westport’s “Trashin’ Fashion” program for kids.


“My work brings consciousness into the waste stream,” Lanzilotta says.

In downtown Westport, he finds all the inspiration he needs.

(For more information, click here.)

Moving Morris

This morning’s “06880” story — about Miggs Burroughs’ “Signs of Compassion” photo project — noted that it’s the last exhibit in the Westport Library’s Great Hall before their transformation project begins.

The library will remain open during the renovation. But preparations are already underway.

Art throughout the building is being packed up and stored.

Next Friday, it’s Morris Jesup’s turn.

The iconic bust of the library’s founding patron will head to Town Hall, where he will chill out for the transformation duration.

From left: Carole Erger-Fass, Christine Timmons, Judy Auber Jahnel, Morris Jesup  and Kathie Motes Bennewitz. (Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

Before he goes, the library invites fans to come by, and take your photo with the old guy. In the photo above, library staffers and town arts curator Kathie Motes Bennewitz show how it’s done.

Photos can be shared on social media. Use the hashtag #Moving Morris.

He looks austere. But don’t be put off.

Morris Jesup is down for anything.

Miggs Burroughs’ Signs Of Compassion

You have to hand it to Miggs Burroughs.

The Westport artist — whose long career includes Time magazine covers, a US postage stamp, and pro bono work for every local organization that ever existed — has just completed a compelling new project.

Like many of us, Miggs is fascinated by signers — the men and women who use American Sign Language to interpret speeches for hearing-impaired people. He’s amazed by their speed, as well as the variety and movements they make with their hands.

Three years ago, he created the “Tunnel Vision” exhibit that enlivens the pedestrian walkway  between  Main Street and Parker Harding Plaza. With his specialty — lenticular photography — Miggs used Westporters’ hands to show a variety of Westporters’ experiences. The photos change dramatically, depending on where you stand.

Miggs Burroughs, in his “Tunnel Vision” creation.

As he thought about the ASL signers, he realized that by slowing down their movements, he could use lenticular photos to portray their grace and beauty.

Online, he found an ASL dictionary. Users type in a word; up pops a video of its sign. As Miggs watched in slow motion, his idea took shape.

Meanwhile, America’s political climate was heating up. Miggs wondered how local artists would react. He’s always believed creative folks do what they can — however they can — to make the world a better place.

Miggs turned the focus of his new project toward finding a poem of manageable length.

Emily Dickinson

He doesn’t read a lot of poetry. But when his son attended Hampshire College, he lived across from Emily Dickinson’s house.

Miggs found a poem of hers, called “Signs of Compassion. The title is perfect.

Miggs planned to photograph a teenage girl — fellow artist Nina Bentley’s granddaughter — signing the entire poem. But Chris Timmons of the Westport Library — where Miggs serves as artist-in-residence — suggested using a variety of people in town.

“That was the key,” Miggs notes. “Now we have representatives of the entire community talking about compassion.”

Miggs mined his many contacts to find models. Nearly everyone he asked said yes. The 30 photos he used include whites, blacks and Asians. There are young Westporters, and old. First Selectman Jim Marpe is one model. I’m another.

I signed the word “I.”

How did we know what to do? Noah Steinman — then a WAC staffer, now at the Aldrich — knows ASL.

Miggs used his iPhone to film Noah signing the poem, while explaining each motion. Miggs then broke every one into 2 distinct gestures.

He photographed each model doing both gestures. Under every photo is Dickinson’s poem, with that particular word or phrase highlighted.

Dereje Tarrant signed “without.”

The result, Miggs says, is “not an exhibit of 30 different photos. It’s a visual chorus of our community expressing the need for compassion in the world.”

This will be the last Great Hall exhibit before the library transformation project begins. (The library itself will not close.)

In its silence, it speaks volumes.

(The opening reception is Friday, May 26 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The exhibit is on display through July 27. For more information, click here.)

Jeanine Esposito signed “not.” (Photos/Miggs Burroughs)

This Is What Our Librarian Looks Like

Jaina Shaw is the Westport Library‘s popular and creative teen services librarian.

She’s also very cool.

Now she’s famous too.

In 2014, photographer Kyle Cassidy published a series of photos on Slate. Called “This is What a Librarian Looks Like,” the images — of black, white and brown men and women; some with multi-color hair, dreads, beards and piercings — pierced the stereotype of the staid sssshhhh-monster.

The feature was so popular, Cassidy set up a booth at the next American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas.

Jaina was there, and wandered by. She wrote a statement, posed for a photo — and now she’s in the book that Cassidy just published.

It too is called “This is What a Librarian Looks Like.”

Jaina Shaw, with her page (left) in the book.

Jaina’s quote is this:

When I went into librarianship, my friends and family said, “Aren’t you a little loud for that?” But libraries need to have loud people.

Growing up, I went to the library almost every day and nobody ever asked my name. I want to make that experience different for teens. I want them to feel that they’re important – that what they read or watch or play or geek out to matters. I want them to know that there’s a place where they can be themselves.

Libraries don’t grade you or judge you or care that you have the right Uggs or whatever. Just be yourself. We are here for you.

Jaina is certainly there for every Westport kid.

Patrons of all ages love her.

Thanks to Kyle Cassidy, everyone who buys this book will love her too.

Check Out This New Library “Seeding”

Of course, you can check out books at the Westport Library.

And — though purists once shuddered at the thought — you can also borrow CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays.

In fact — just like Alice’s Restaurant — you can get almost anything you want at our library.

Including seeds.

Two years ago, the Westport Library began offering organic seeds. Folks loved it.

Seeds are stored in an old Westport Library card catalog, near the reference section.

Now, the Westport Farmers’ Market has donated over 75 packets of heirloom and open-pollinated seeds to the Westport Grows Seed Exchange and Library. (“Borrowers” are encouraged to donate back to the program.)

The heirloom seeds — saved for generations by local farmers and gardeners — add to a collection that already included organic seeds from noted growers like High Mowing and Baker’s Creek.

The donation comes after the Farmers’ Market launched its own seed-saving program in February. The response was overwhelming. With thousands of seeds left, it was an easy decision to give them to the library — the market’s neighbor, across the Imperial Avenue footbridge.

Gardeners, farmers, homesteaders, chefs — and everyone else — is invited to stop by the library.

Browse a catalog at the entrance to the reference section.

Then “check out” — literally — a stunning variety of open-pollinated, heirloom or organic species of fruit, vegetables and flowers.

(For more information click here, or email director@westportfarmersmarket.com)


Dragon Needs A Home

Thousands of Maker Faire-goers admired the dragon standing outside the library on Saturday.

(Photo/Lynn U. Miller)

But now it’s Monday. The event is over. This is not the New York Public Library. Unlike its 2 famous lions, our dragon can’t stay here forever.

If you want the dragon — for whatever reason; no questions asked — contact Alex Giannini, the Westport Library’s manager of experiential learning (agiannini@westportlibrary.org; 203-291-4847).

You can’t beat the price: free. The library may even help you transport it.

PS: The New York lions are named “Patience” and “Fortitude.”

Our dragon should be called “Cool.”

Maker Faire Makes Its Mark

You can’t keep a good geek down.

Chilly temperatures and a light rain did not deter thousands of folks from descending on the Westport Library, Jesup Green and Bedford Square, for today’s 6th annual Maker Faire.

Every type of STEM creation was represented: robots, 3-D designs, flight simulators, submersibles and more.

The arts were there too: violinists, jewelry makers, sculptors…

And of course local organizations: the Y, Wakeman Town Farm and Rotary Club were among those showing their commitment to creativity and community.

In 6 short years, the Maker Faire has become one of the biggest events of the Westport year. Now all we need is some young guy or girl who can control the weather.

Which I’m sure we’ll see next spring.

Hand-made robots were a huge hit.

Christopher Crowe’s creations drew a crowd.

What better spot to hang out in than the Westport Library’s permanent Maker Space?

State Senators Toni Boucher (front) and Tony Hwang (right) joined 1st Selectman Jim Marpe (left) and Westport Library trustee Iain Bruce at the Maker Faire.

A father gives a hands-on wind tunnel demonstration to his daughter.

Westporter Charlie Wolgast — a professional pilot — checks out a flight simulator in Bedford Square.



During last night’s rain, a giant “6” appeared on the Westport Library roof.

It glowed. It pulsed. It changed colors.

I know why it’s there.

Do you?

If you’ve got an idea, click “Comments” below.

NOTE: Unlike another “06880” story published earlier today, this is not an April Fool’s joke!

I Figure Memorial Day

Spring arrived at 6:28 this morning.

But no matter how nice the weather gets, this pile o’ smushed-together, salted-in, iced-over snow won’t melt any time soon.

(Photo/Britt Steel)

It’s not the only one. An even bigger and blacker mound looms over the Compo Shopping Center parking lot, opposite Planet Pizza.

But this photo is the one I’m running.

Because I really want to know why there’s a highway cone sitting on the hood of that Mercedes.