Fine art lesson: pieces donated to schools' collection on exhibit
It is said that art can stimulate and inspire. If that's true, then Westport schoolchildren shouldn't be lacking in stimulation or inspiration.
Works of artists known locally and internationally decorate the walls of schools throughout the district. Students, teachers and administrars have the late Westport artist Burt Chernow to thank.
A teacher at Greens Farms Elementary School, he began assembling the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection in 1964. Chernow's intent was to help school children learn from an early age that art could be an integral part of their lives and that it is an important part of Westport's cultural heritage.
Chernow may have passed on, but what he started is ever growing and ever-evolving.
Beginning today, people who who rarely, if ever, step inside the local schools can view recent additions to the collection in an exhibit at the Westport Public Library.
The exhibits continue through June 30 in the library's Great Hall.
Many of the works have not yet hung in schools. About 30 pieces will be on view, including a silkscreen of black bean soup done by Andy Warhol in 1968, a circa 1970 collage by Chernow, a Roy Lichtenstein lithograph, a 1968 lithograph by Alexander Calder, a watercolor by Westport resident Tracy Sugarman titled "With Good Humor," and photos by Lynsey Addario, the Westport-bred New York Times staffer who was taken into custody by government forces in Libya last month and later released.
An opening reception for "Made You Look! Recent Gifts to the WSPAC" will be held on Friday, April 8 from 6 to 7 p.m.
Staples High School Principal John Dodig remembers when a couple of ladies visited the new Staples High School a few years back asking if they could install some art. He obliged, was invited to pick a few pieces for his office, and then let them loose. He said the art "really helped begin the transformation from a brand new austeer building into something which is much more inviting and friendly."
He said the donated pieces and student art on display is viewed often. Dodig noted he often observes individual students and sometimes small groups really examining pieces.
"Students appreciate the artwork on display," he said.
A school goal for the past several years has been to infuse critical and creative thinking into every course at the school, Dodig said, and "the backdrop for that is all of the artistic and creative pieces hanging on the walls."
He said the art "contributes to the environment that we've created, which is supportive, friendly, calm, and conducive to creative learning."
Katie Chase, a member of the art collection committee said Westport artists, such as Howard Munce and Ann Chernow, widow of Burt Chernow, often donate their own works or receive donations from other artists or their families.
She said the art is important not only for teachers and parents "but anybody who passes through the buildings who appreciates original artwork."
"They do enhance the ambiance of the buildings they're in," Chase said.
However, the schools' collection is not only on walls in schools. Some works, she said, are on display at such places as the Center for Senior Activities, the Parks & Recreation office at Longshore Club Park and Town Hall. The collection encompasses paintings, prints, illustrations, photographs, cartoons and also sculptures.
"We do try to emphasize Westport artists," she said. "We really want to showcase our local people, whether it's old pieces from a century ago or currnet pieces."
And while many pieces remain where they are, a student in high school for four years, for example, sometimes gets treated to a visual surprise.
"Occasionally we'll move things around," Chase said.
For more information on the library's "Made You Look!" exhibit, log onto www.westportlibrary.org or call 203-291-4800.