With Connecticut teetering on the brink of financial disaster — and education, housing, transportation and infrastructure issues clamoring for attention too — the stakes are high in next month’s election.
So besides sponsoring their usual candidates’ debate, Westport’s League of Women Voters is taking one more step to ensure citizen involvement.
The October 29 event (7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium) will include questions from community members — and they can be emailed ahead of time.
To ask State Senate candidates Toni Boucher, Will Haskell, Tony Hwang and Michelle McCabe, and House hopefuls Gail Lavielle, Stephanie Thomas, Greg Kraut and Jonathan Steinberg anything, email LWVWestportct.org.
Screeners — 1 Republican, 1 Democrat and 1 unaffiliated League member — will ensure that all questions are nonpartisan.
Can’t be there? The debate will be televised live on Cablevision Channel 79 and Frontier channel 90, and posted thereafter on the town website.
Whether you ask questions, attend the debate or miss it complete, don’t forget to vote! Election Day is November 6.
(The League of Women Voters is co-sponsoring this debate, with the Westport PTA Council.)
Wheeler House, by Stevan Dohans. It’s now the site of the Westport Historical Society — where Saturday’s tour begins.
It’s a phenomenal treasure, ranging from WPA murals created by Westport artists during the Depression, to galleries by the likes of Alexander Calder and Roy Lichtenstein.
At Kings Highway Elementary School, tour-goers will see John Steuart Curry’s “Tragedy” and “Comedy” frescoes. Green’s Farms School features works by Andy Warhol and Robert Motherwell, plus the intriguing “Fountain” installation.
Bedford Middle School hosts murals from Ralph Boyer’s “History of Fire” series, while Staples High is filled with paintings, photos, etchings, watercolors and lithographs by Westporters like Stevan Dohanos, Leonard Everett Fisher, Howard Munce, Lynsey Addario and Miggs Burroughs. There are also 40 student-curated works, with recorded audio commentary.
Igor Pikayzen. master violinist.
The next day (Sunday, Oct. 27, 2 p.m.), Town Hall is the site for the 20th anniversary celebration of the Arts Advisory Committee. There will be readings from works by John Hersey, Evan Hunter, Sinclair Lewis and Peter DeVries; film selections by Ring Lardner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Howard Fast and Max Shulman; performances by John Corigliano Jr. and Igor Pikayzen, and appearances by Scott Bryce and Joanna Gleason. All are Westporters or former residents.
Afterwards, everyone is invited to a reception across the street. The Westport Historical Society hosts an exhibition honoring former Visual Arts Awards recipients.
It’s an arts-filled weekend. Just like back in the day, when Westport was definitely an “artists’ colony.”
(For more information on the bus tour, call 203-222-1424 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on the Westport Arts Awards, click here.)
As a California native, Karen Ellman might be expected to have little regard for anything old.
But she always loved “things with past lives.” When she moved East, had 2 kids and stopped working, she went to estate sales. She found herself digging through closets — and found a new passion.
“The fabrics and colors are so different from today,” Karen says. “These clothes aren’t ‘made’; they’re constructed. You can’t find that now.”
She began buying vintage clothing — “rescuing it from landfill.” In one house she discovered 1950s dresses. Her research into items like these led Karen to “vintage websites.”
In 2004 she set up her own sales site. She called it Vintage Virtuosa (the word means “female virtuoso”; Karen likes the reference to creativity and aesthetics).
As the site grew, she was asked to personally view estates. “It was an adrenaline rush to be invited by a niece or granddaughter who had saved these things,” Karen says. “I heard their stories. It was like a lesson in history or sociology.”
Now — in a reversal of the trend that saw brick-and-mortar stores add online presences, and defying an economy that has seen many Westport businesses fold — she is setting up a vintage clothing shop in Colonial Green. Vintage Virtuosa — the same name as her website – will open “any day now,” Karen says.
“I want to see these items on people,” she explains. “I look forward to seeing people try them on. I want to connect with the people who buy vintage clothing, and share it all with the community.”
Karen sees the store as a natural extension of her longtime volunteer work here. She was president of the King’s Highway PTA, and co-president of the townwide PTA Council.
“I met so many smart, motivated, capable women in the PTAs and on town boards,” she says. She learned a lot about business from them. Now, with a sophomore at Staples and an 8th grader at Coleytown, Karen has time to put her knowledge and talents to work.
In addition to dresses, Vintage Virtuosa will feature handbags, jewelry, and items like place settings.
Karen sees her store’s customer base as “everyone from high school and college girls up through moms who want something different, and appreciate good design.”
Vintage clothing does not mean looking like “a museum piece,” Karen notes. She is concentrating on the 1940s through ’80s. There’s plenty of color; there’s day and evening wear, cocktail dresses, sweaters, and much more.
“I want to listen to what people like, and what they want — and I’ll respond. This is all about the thrill of the hunt.”
It’s a thrill for Vintage Virtuosa customers — and for Karen Ellman, its founder, owner and new storekeeper.
Audiences in Chappaqua, Bethesda, Winnetka — high-achieving, high-pressure Westport-type towns across the country — have flocked to “Race to Nowhere.”
The film — fueled largely by word of mouth (internet-style) — has drawn so many SRO crowds at schools, churches and town hall auditoriums around the country, it’s already the 20th most successful documentary ever.
Parents, educators, clergy, physicians — and teenagers — are drawn by the theme: that years spent building resumes, being tutored and seeking perfection may not produce perfect, healthy, high-achieving kids. The result, rather, could be “unhealthy, disengaged, unprepared and stressed-out youth.”
After screenings, audiences stay for facilitated discussions. Recently, in New Canaan, a few high-achieving fathers took issue with the film’s premise that intense pressure is bad.
That’s the way the world works, they said.
Two Staples students disagreed. They’d gone with Chris Lemone — the outreach worker who runs the school’s Teen Awareness Group — and stuck around to talk. (Most of the New Canaan kids left — maybe too much homework?)
The Stapleites refuted the dads — strongly and eloquently. Their words made a tremendous impact on the adult audience.
Now, “Race to Nowhere” is coming to Westport.
The PTA Council is sponsoring a Feb. 15 viewing at Bedford Middle School. In 2 days — and with virtually no publicity — 600 free tickets sold out. It happened so quickly, the Staples student and parent communities had not even received details.
The screening cost has already put the PTA Council over their measly budget of $1000. They hope to recoup some of the money from audience donations that night.
A scene from "Race to Nowhere." A typical Westport scene too?
The Council plans a 2nd screening in March. They need someone to fund the $2500. In a high-achieving community like this, someone should write a check today.
In the meantime, Westporters can click here to find details on other local screenings — including January 28 at Town Hall. Tickets to that show cost $10 each; it’s sponsored by the Learning Community Day School.
Are Westport students engaged in a “race to nowhere” — or do we avoid many of the traps that snare youngsters in similar communities?
Those questions — and others like them — will be explored here this winter. Whatever the answers, it’s clear — by the race for tickets — that “Race to Nowhere” is important to run.
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