Westport’s Treasure Trove of Public Art ~ Tour

October 27th, 2013

12:45 pm - 3:45 pm

No Need to Travel to NYC for a Day of Fine Arts, Take a Tour of our Westport Schools Art Collection!…

Befitting a town once renowned for its painters and illustrators, Westport has an unusually fine collection of public art.

And on Saturday, Oct. 26, the Westport Arts Advisory Committee and the Westport PTA Council will co-sponsor a rare guided tour of that collection. The treasure trove includes not only the larger than life WPA murals created by Westport artists during the Depression, but galleries of works by the likes of Alexander Calder and Roy Lichtenstein.  Tour participants will also hear how some of these Depression Era wall paintings would have been lost to posterity – destroyed by mold and mildew in the basement of a closed school – but for the efforts of a group of Westport art lovers.

The bus leaves the Westport Historical Society at 12:45 p.m. and will travel to four Westport public schools and the main firehouse before returning at approximately 3:15.  So come along – there’s a lot to see.

At Kings Highway School, there’s John Steuart Curry’s 1934 frescoes “Tragedy” and “Comedy.” They are full of images from popular and classical culture surrounding the proscenium of a stage – silent film clown Charlie Chaplin, Hamlet holding the head of “poor Yorick” and many others. Steuart, who is regarded as one of the nation’s most important regional artists, accepted no money for these WPA pieces – they were his gift to Westport.

Greens Farm School will have an exhibit of “Modern Masters” showcasing works by the likes of Alexander Calder, Robert Motherwell and Andy Warhol. It is also the site of Robert Garret Thew’s “Fountain.” Set in a stairwell, this remarkable installation features the bronze figure of a young girl (Thew’s daughter) seated beside a pool. Overhead is a ceiling painted with gulls against a blue sky. The stair railings are in the form of reeds.

Steuart, Boyer and Thew all lived and worked in Westport.

Bedford Middle School will be murals from Ralph Boyer’s “History of Fire” WPA series showing fire as a force of nature and as harnessed by man. These are usually on view at Westport’s Fire Headquarters.

At Staples High School are galleries with paintings, photos, etchings, watercolors and lithographs by Roy Lichtenstein, Leonard Fisher, Steven Dohanos, Kerr Eby, Howard Munce, Lynsey Addario, Miggs Burroughs and others. Staples graduate Addario won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for her images from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The high school gallery displays 40 student-curated works with recorded audio commentary downloadable to a Smartphone. The commentary was written by students in the 10th grade English honors program, and all the artworks were donated by the artists and collectors.

So, see what art restoration expert Christina Cunningham-Adams meant when she wrote: “Because of Westport’s unique history as an artist’s community, the town is unusually rich in wall paintings.” 

Seating for the tour is limited to 45 and reservations must be made by Oct. 18. Tickets are $15 for Westport Historical Society members, $20 for non-members, $10 students, children 4 and under free. Call the Westport Historical Society at (203) 222-1424 or email bbrauner@westporthistory.org.