Framing the Past, Present and Future (Interactive Exhibit)

January 4th, 2013

12:00 am

Westport’s graceful old farmhouses, wooded landscapes and scenic beaches and inlets have long found favor with artists, and starting next month the town will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the awards it bestows as a special thank-you to these creative residents.  (View and hear each artist speak with Aurasma)

As part of the tribute, the Westport Historical Society is hosting “Framing the Past, Present and Future: 20 Years of The Westport Arts Awards,” which runs through January 4.  

Since their inception in 1994, the Westport Arts Awards have honored 49 visual artists, including painter and stamp designer Stevan Dohanos, painter Jak Kovatch, whose montage “Warriors Dream” is included in the exhibit, and photojournalist Lynsey Addario.

In all, the retrospective will feature more than 45 original works — paintings, drawings, illustrations, comics, etchings, photographs and sculptures on loan from regional museums, private collections, the Town of Westport, the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection and the artists themselves.

Dohanos, who received a Westport  Heritage Award, which is given posthumously, is remembered for his 1943 Saturday Evening Post cover of an elderly sign painter melancholically adding the names of Westport’s WW II veterans to the Honor Roll outside the former Town Hall. “He lettered in the name of every man in service. It had great impact,”  said fellow illustrator Howard Munce, himself a Westport Arts Award recipient.

Kovatch, the winner of a Westport  Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, is a faculty member at the Silvermine School of Art whose paintings and etchings have been exhibited at museums around the world.

Addario, a 1991 Staples graduate who received a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for her photographs from Afghanistan, won a Westport  Horizon Award given to artists under age 32 who grew up in Westport-Weston or still live here.

In addition to Dohanos, Kovatch and Addario, the artist lineup includes John Steuart Curry, James Daugherty, Arthur Dove, George Hand Wright, Kerr Eby, Robert Lambdin,  Hardie Gramatky, James and Laura Fraser, Stanley Bleifeld, John Held, Paul Cadmus, Jean Woodham, Jordan Wolfson, Leonard Everett Fisher and Howard Munce, among others.

Kathleen Motes Bennewitz, Town Curator and Westport Arts Awards committee member, is curator of the exhibit and puts it all in perspective.  “To understand Westport today, one must understand what its artists have meant to our nation, as well as our town,” she said.

From 1900 to the 1940s more than 150 of America’s finest representational artists moved to the Westport-Weston area, prompting LIFE Magazine to state in a 1949 cover story: “There are probably more professional artists within a 25-mile radius of Westport than in any other comparable spot in the U.S.”

Drawn by proximity to New York’s magazines and advertising agencies, these artists created illustrations, paintings and designs that shaped 20th century America’s self-image. Their work appeared on the covers of magazines, books and record albums, on consumer products, U.S. postage stamps and coins, on the walls of public buildings and in major museums.

And just as Westport provided small-town inspiration and support, the artists reciprocated generously, donating works and imbuing the community with a legacy of progressive, civic-minded creativity.

“Framing the Past” is being organized by the Westport Historical Society and the Westport Arts Advisory Committee (WAAC), which selects the annual award recipients.  The exhibit will be accompanied by lectures, films and video segments on Westport, interviews with the artists and their recollections of colleagues, institutions, events and traditions that shaped Westport’s artist community.

Westport’s arts organizations will join the WHS and WAAC in celebrating Westport’s artistic history with a series of events throughout the month. For further details about these events, and others yet to be announced, visit the Westport Arts Awards website (

Exciting New Viewing Experience:  WHS is the first arts organization of any kind, including museums, galleries or art centers, in the state of Connecticut, to employ the use of augmented reality technology in an exhibition setting.  The end goal is a much more dynamic and immersive participatory experience for the viewer where audience engagement is heightened and a muti-sensory perspective elicited.

Augmented Reality  incorporates image recognition technology with a virtual layering process to superimpose artificial information on a real world environment.  Utilizing a smart device of any sort, for example an iPad, iPhone (or any handheld computer that relies on an Android powered platform) and an AR app, in this instance it is Aurasma, an aura was created using a trigger image, which is simply a still shot of an artwork, and a video overlay.

The overlay came from the Years in the Making archives produced by filmmaker Martin West, Ann Chernow, Ada Lambert and Kristin Fox between 2007-2009.  From the hour-long biographical segment done on each artist,  Ms. Fox of Orf Art Technologies ( 120 seconds of footage that focused on Westport as a place to live and work.  There are thirteen Years in the Making artists featured with augmented reality auras.

The combined experience, from looking at the artwork to actually being able to view and hear the artist speak is deeply powerful, especially in the case of those that are deceased (Stanley Bleifeld, Bernie Fuchs, Tracy Sugarman, Tony Marino, Arlene Skutch and Victor Dowd).

We encourage our membership to download the Aurasma app and subscribe to the WHS Artists channel from home before heading to the WHS.   Enjoy!