Art Town: Westport’s best kept visual art secrets
What’s the best kept visual art secret in town? That there is a treasure trove of public art throughout.
In fact, there so many accessible works of art that we will intersperse coming columns with information and locations for many of these — a treasure hunt for all our readers. We’ll begin with two: The first is of course, the Minuteman Monument.
Longtime residents will have passed it at the intersection of Compo Road South and Compo Beach Road hundreds of times on the way to Compo Beach, or seen its likeness on the town flag. For any old timers or newbies who may not have paid much attention to this noble work of art, here is a brief refresher of pertinent details about this handsome and significant public sculpture.
Designed by Westport artist H. Daniel Webster during 1909 and 1910, cast in bronze by Tiffany & Co., the dedication to the town was on June 17, 1910. A plaque on its base is inscribed: “To commemorate the heroism of the patriots who defended their country when the British invaded this state April 25th l777. General David Wooster, Colonel Abraham Gould and more than one hundred Continentals fell in the engagements commencing at Danbury and closing on Compo Hill.”
Kathie Motes Bennewitz, Westport’s art curator, says that the Minuteman Monument serves as our town’s symbol. It’s been restored twice, and cleaned and waxed several times.
Viewers may be surprised that during seasonal holidays the Minuteman may sprout bunny ears at Easter, and Santa hats at Christmas.
The second treasure hiding in plain sight is “Charities” the abstract, 40-foot, Cor-Ten steel sculpture on Jesup Green, gracing the grounds of the library.
In 1996, a prominent Westport resident who was a personal friend of sculptor Chuck Ginnever, donated “Charities” (created by Ginnever during 1976-1981) to Westport’s Public Art Collection; the date and the artist’s signature is welded on a lower panel.
When accepted by then-First Selectman Joe Arcudi for the town collection, “Charities” was initially located at the corner of Winslow Park and Post Road. The following year, it was decided that Jesup Green would serve as a more suitable setting, and that is where is now resides in all its beauty and grandeur.
It’s very fitting that we are including this information in today’s column because Charles Ginnever recently died on June 16 at age 87.
His sculptural legacy was discussed in the New York Times as well as in national art publications. Quoting from The New York Times obit: “Mr. Ginnever, working largely in steel, made massive geometric forms that often seemed to defy gravity. ... His works were deliberately made to be walked around; viewing them from multiple angles gave dramatically different experiences. He was among a group of sculptors ... who expanded the view of sculpture from something that sits on a pedestal to something that inhabits and interacts with space on a grand scale.”
Ginnever himself said that his works cannot be understood unless you circle them, and that the viewer has to do a little work in order to understand his vision.
Art Town is a monthly column about the visual arts in Westport. 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 a member of the Westport Arts Center, the Westport Museum Committee and other arts organizations.