Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Art Around Westport

By Kathy Bennewitz
Westport Town Curator

After seeing Art/Red in Rep, we hope that you will take a look at some of the local art around Westport & our area. These are just a few of the local pieces to consider, as recommended by Westport Town Curator Kathy Bennewitz. Take a moment to seek them out - what do you see?

1. Banana Republic, 44 Main Street

Treasure Behind the Wall: Banana Republic's renovation in 2004 reveals New Milford artist's mural. Quirky characters--patrons eating, drinking, singing, posing, picking a pocket and even giving someone a “hotfoot”-are the focus of a mural by artist Edmund Ashe, Jr. painted in the 1930s to decorate the wall behind a bar called Triangle Tavern, later Townly’s Restaurant. It suffered damage due to a fire in the 1950s and subsequently was covered with dry wall when Klein’s, a Main Street presence since 1937, expanded into the spot. In 1999, Klein’s leased the ground floor to Banana Republic. The mural was rediscovered during the Banana Republic renovation and restored.

2. Patagonia & Town Hall (open 8:30-4:30 M-F)
Lambdin murals

Patagonia-“Hotel Square” and “Shipping on the Saugatuck”

Town Hall-“Saugatuck in the 19th Century,”

Robert L. Lambdin was commissioned by the former Westport Bank & Trust to painte muarls for the bank’s lobbies in part because of his previous accomplishments creating murals for the Depression era Works Progress Administration,” His trio of WB&T canvases representing different aspects of Westport during the 1800s. The two murals at today’s Patagonia – “Hotel Square” and “Shipping on the Saugatuck” – show a street scene along Post Road East where the old YMCA building now stands and Jesup Wharf, site of the present Taylor parking lot. “Hotel Square” also shows the area of Post Road East where the WB&T/Patagonia building now stands. The bank commissioned the two murals to “modernize” the lobby of the bank’s austere neoclassical headquarters. The third mural, “Saugatuck in the 19th Century,” is a composite showing life on the river and in the village of Saugatuck throughout the 1800s. It was commissioned for the bank’s Saugatuck branch on Charles Street when it opened in 1970 and was “saved” in 2014 when the branch closed.

1. Parker Harding
Parking lot on river behind Main street 

STARfish Tank (2002) by Howard Munce
Collection of the Town of Westport

The sculpture was created for a fundraiser for STAR Inc., Norwalk, a not–for-profit organization serving individuals of all ages who have developmental disabilities, as well as providing support services to their families. For the 2002 "Galaxy of STARS," which was sponsored by local businesses and individuals on behalf of STAR, local artists uniquely decorated the five-foot star sculptures, which were on display throughout the summer months in Wilton, Norwalk, Westport, Weston, Darien and New Canaan. Westport artist Howard Munce, a longtime leader in the town's arts community, turned 100 in November 2015, and pass away this year.

2. The Post Road Bridge

1807 Westport was a prosperous shipping community with wharves, docks, and shipyards along both sides of the Saugatuck River. The first Post Road Bridge was owned and built by the Connecticut Turnpike Company, a public service corporation chartered in 1806 by the General Assembly to build a highway from Fairfield to Greenwich with four toll Gates. The Westport portion was called State Street. The bridge toll charge ranged from 25 cents for two-horse stages and pleasure carriages, to 2 cents for each animal crossing the wood-plank bridge. 
1857 The newly constructed railroad forced the Connecticut Turnpike Company out of business. Ownership of the bridge was turned over to the Town of Westport (incorporated 1835). The Town constructed a hoisting draw to allow for tall river traffic. Its design flaws and frequent repairs were the subject of great town controversy. 
1917 The Strauss Bascule Bridge Co. of Chicago redesigned the earlier bridge, and town controversy subsided. This engineer's 1915 drawings show the location of the bearings in the bridge, and the way the drawbridge opened to allow boats to pass. The bridge cost $185,586.
1930s Westport was no longer a shipping center, and the Post Road was part of the State road system. In 1954, when Parker-Harding Plaza and the Library addition were built, the drawbridge was eliminated, ornamental railings and light fixtures were added, and the trolley tracks were removed.
1990-1992 The Connecticut Department of Transportation widened the bridge, lengthened the spans, and made extensive improvements. Buried bearing housings from the 1817 drawbridge were removed. This sculpture, "A Bridge in Time, " by Bobbie Kletzsch Friedman, incorporates 3 of them.

3. Earthplace, 10 Woodside Lane
Huntington, Anna Hyatt

Anna Hyatt Huntington was an American sculptor and was once among New York City's most prominent sculptors. At a time when very few women were successful artists, she had a thriving career. She exhibited often, traveled widely, received critical acclaim at home and abroad, and won awards and commissions. During the first two decades of the 20th century, Hyatt Huntington became famous for her animal sculptures, which combine vivid emotional depth with skillful realism. In 1915, she created the first public monument in New York City, outside of Central Park, by a woman: Her Joan of Arc, located on Riverside Drive at 93rd Street, is also the city’s first monument dedicated to a historical woman.

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