Art Town: A dream waits for a home with the Westport Artists Museum

This is part two, part one ran in last month’s Art Town column.

From 2017 to 2019 the museum steering committee met and planned an exhibition to embrace 25 of Westport’s illustrious, internationally known artists from the past who gave Westport its reputation as one of the most renowned art communities in America.

Chosen as committee head, artist Leonard Fisher, who had dreamed for 50 years about developing a Westport Artists Museum, was appointed to the then Westport Arts Center Board to represent the planned museum. When the Art Center changed its name and moved to Norwalk, Leonard continued as a board member and shared the following information with them:

“The Westport Artists Museum Steering Committee proposes to create a museum celebrating and promoting Westport’s artistic heritage as well as encouraging and inspiring existing and future Westport artists, art historians and art appreciators for generations to come. The mission of the Museum is to insitutionalize the work of Westport’s professional art community. We envision forming an accession Board to select exhibitions and to develop a permanent collection of work from artists who at any time lived or worked in Westport, or Weston, and who had a national reputation supported by recognition in publications, reviews, articles, national auctions, national museum and gallery shows.”

After three years of dedicating himself to obtain the board’s support, which did not materialize, a frustrated Leonard resigned. But the committee continued its work. During those three years, the museum committee developed a mission statement which included a proposal for an independent curator to organize exhibitions in accordance with the highest professional quality. There would be an ongoing effort to work towards obtaining museum accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums.

The committee worked diligently to locate the work by important, early artists, and by 2019 had chosen a group of 25 artists who would comprise the first museum show. Each committee member was assigned to locate a particular artist’s work. The members worked locally and nationally with galleries, museums and private collectors to gather the art.

Included in the list of noted artists for this first exhibition were: Stanley Bleifeld, John Steuart Curry, James Daugherty, Arthur Dove, Katherine Drier, Herzl Emanuel, James Earle Fraser, Hardie Gramatky, Victor Keppler, Ossip Linde. Howard Munce, Bertholdt Nebel, Guy Pene du Bois, J. Clinton Shepard,Everett Shinn, George Silk, Abastinia St Leger Eberle, Hilla Von Rebay and George Hand Wright.

Alas, the recently transplanted and renamed Arts Center did not honor its commitment to include space for the museum in their new facility, and the planned exhibition and related programming did not materialize.

We believe that the Westport Artists Museum would be welcomed by all Westport residents and would help preserve our rich history as a community that cherishes, nurtures and supports the arts and artists.

We are interested in hearing from any organization that might be a potential host for the exhibition. This is a great opportunity for a developer or landlord to host this wonderful destination for downtown Westport. If interested, please contact Miggs Burroughs at miggsb@optonline.net

(Thanks to Niki Ketchman for providing records from the museum committee meetings. )

(Photo of John Steuart Curry contributed by Kathie Bennewitz.)

Miggs Burroughs is a lifelong Westport resident and full-time graphic artist since 1972. He is co-founder of The Artists Collective of Westport and a member of the Westport Arts Advisory Committee, among other accomplishments.

Ann Chernow has been a Westport resident since 1968. Her artwork has been exhibited locally and worldwide. Chernow is an honorary member of the Artists Collective of Westport, member of the Westport Museum Committee and other arts organizations