Tag Archives: Westport Public Art Collections

Westport Public Art Collection: Now Just A Click Away

By the fall of 1932, 25% of Connecticut’s workforce was unemployed.

As Governor Wilbur Cross accompanied presidential candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt to a campaign address in Bridgeport, both men knew that jobs creation was a key means to provide economic relief and hope.

Many New Deal projects — including the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration — depended on state and local government cooperation.

Between 1934 and 1937, 1st Selectman King W. Mansfield and the Westport Art Committee secured funding for 16 artists to produce works for 8 public buildings here.

“Westport Organized 1835-1935),” Howard Heath (1879-1969), oil on masonite, hangs at Town Hall.Created in 1936 — one year after Westport’s centennial — the mural is a decorative map showing the principal roads, brooks and historical points of interest circa 1835. The artist’s inscription reads, “Dedicated to the sturdy traders, farmers and builders who settled and developed the Town of Westport. May the pioneer spirit of courage, independence and resourcefulness be ever alive and vigorous.”

Westport’s WPA collections form a historically significant portion of the Westport Public Art Collections. But with schools and town buildings closed due to COVID-19, the great WestPAC works are also unavailable.

No problem! WestPAC is bringing the public art collections to the community virtually — and to art lovers everywhere, far beyond 06880.

Two new exhibits were just launched. The first highlights the WPA works. (Click here to view.)

“Battle of Compo Hill,” Eugene Hannan (1875-1945), plaster bas-relief, on view at Saugatuck Elementary School. The sculptor was commissioned to produce 2 low-relief panels to commemorate the patriots who stood against the British invasion of April 25-28, 1777, for what was then Staples High School on Riverside Avenue. This scene depicts Brigadier General Benedict Arnold as he leads the patriots to intercept the British at the foot of Compo Hill.

The pop art collection is also now online. (Click here to view.)

Not a lot of good things have come out of the pandemic. The chance to view the astonishing Westport Public Art Collections — perhaps unparalleled by any suburban town anywhere — from the comfort of your self-isolating home is one of them.

For more information on WestPAC — and to search the entire collection — click here.

“Eskimo Children at Play,” Colcord Heurlin (1895-1986), oil on masonite, on view at Saugatuck Elementary School. Throughout the early 20th century, technological advancements in transportation and communication brought the world closer together. Here, the artist brings the ways of life of children in Alaska to Westport.

Townwide Youth Concert Adds Chinese Art

Tonight is the townwide Youth Concert. The annual cross-cultural, collaborative event involves every school’s music department, plus teachers in departments like world language.

This year’s focus is on China. It’s part of the school district’s global initiative project.

Which means there is plenty of opportunity for visual arts too.

Beginning last year, Westport Public Art Collections’ exhibition — “Ties that Bind: Yangzhou and Westport” was displayed in every town elementary school.

The exhibit features ink landscape paintings by a pair of Chinese artists, donated to Westport in 2005 by our sister city. It also includes photos by famed local photographer Larry Silver, who first visited Yangzhou with a town delegation in 1996.

The Chinese government invited him back 3 years later. Both times, Silver took hundreds of black and white photos of the people and places he saw. A little more than 2 decades later, that way of life is very much changed.

Viewing, discussing and doing classroom projects with that artwork has been a great way for students to learn about China, before the youth concert.

Using WestPAC art to teach about China.

Dr. Ive Covaci, an Asian art scholar, adjunct professor at Fairfield University and WestPAC education chair, led professional development sessions with K-12 art teachers.

Then, elementary school students explored — via discussions and projects — the millenniums-old art of Chinese painting. They also compared the painters’ mountain landscapes to Silver’s photos of natural scenery.

Coleytown Elementary School students — who practiced writing Chinese characters, using an actual calligraphy brush — shared their activities on the school blog.

Practicing calligraphy in the Westport schools.

The public can see “The Ties That Bind” at tonight’s Youth Concert (7 p.m., Staples High School auditorium). Its tour ends at Town Hall, this spring.

(For more information on the Westport Public Art Collections, email westpac@westportps.org. The next open meeting is Friday, February 7, 9 9 a.m. in Town Hall Room 201.)

School Calendar Showcases Student Art

The 2019-20 school year is underway.

But it hasn’t really started unless you’ve gotten your Westport Public Schools calendar.

How else will you know every concert, play and meeting, at every school in town?

Not to mention — far more importantly — every vacation, day off, even half days?

This year’s Westport edition — published by Friends of Westport Public Art Collections — is on sale now. (Including at Back to School Nights. Even without the calendar, you know when those are — right? It’s in last year’s calendar. Every year’s calendar runs 13 months: September to September.)


The cover of the 2019-20 Westport School Calendar was designed by Coleytown Elementary School kindergartner Beatrice Anderson. Her colorful image shows the a variety of school mascots.

The calendar is as Westport as it gets. Works from young local artists and photographers — representing every school — fill the pages. They’re culled from a record 646 entries (up from 178 in 2018!). They show our water, sunsets, woods, wildlife and more.

In addition to Back to School Night, you can order the Westport Schools Calendar online (click here). It’s available too at ASF, Earthplace and the Westport Library.

All proceeds support the Westport Public Art Collections.

The back cover — showing National Hall — is courtesy of Saugatuck Elementary School 3rd grader Liam Harrison.