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 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, 25 Avery Place, at 12:45 p.m. and will travel to four Westport public schools and the main fire station before returning at approximately 3:15 p.m.
Among the artworks to be viewed on the tour is John Steuart Curry's 1934 frescoes "Tragedy" and "Comedy" at Kings Highway School. 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 has on exhibit "Modern Masters" showcasing works by Alexander Calder, Robert Motherwell and Andy Warhol. It is also the site of Robert Garret Thew's "Fountain." Set in a stairwell, the 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.
At Bedford Middle School there are 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.
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 will be on view at Staples High School. Staples graduate Addario won a Pulitzer Prize in 2009 for her images from Afghanistan and Pakistan. The high school gallery also 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.
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 and $10 for students. Children 4 and under free. Call the Westport Historical Society 203-222-1424 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit the Westport Arts Awards website, http://www.westportartsawards.org or the Westport Historical Society website http://www.westporthistory.org