Westport's art collection under new management

The Board of Selectmen at their meeting on Wednesday. Taken July 24, 2019 in Westport, CT.

The Board of Selectmen at their meeting on Wednesday. Taken July 24, 2019 in Westport, CT.

Lynandro Simmons/Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — The new managers for the town’s public art collection are a mix of familiar faces and those involved in the arts scene.

On Wednesday, the Board of Selectmen appointed the Westport Public Art Collections Committee as the official agent to maintain and manage the Westport public art collection for a five-year term. The Westport public art collection includes both the town and school’s art collections.

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“For almost four-and-a-half years we’ve been really trying to professionalize the way we come up with the art collections that are part of the Westport public arts collection,” said town curator Kathie Bennewitz.

The selectmen also approved the adoption of collection management guidelines for, as well as a Westport Art Collection Policy.

Bennewitz said the policy will be a driver’s manual for how the collection is used, noting it’s important to document the history of the art.

“The town of Westport’s art collection policy will give an overview of the history of what the collection is,” Bennewitz said. “It will provide a description of the composition of the collection, and the ownership of the collection.”

Stewardship of the collection will be through WestPAC. As a member of the committee, Bennewitz said she plans to play an oversight role for the collection.

“We purposely tailored this to be appropriate for here and now,” she said, noting the art collection is currently run by volunteers.

A Friends of WestPAC has also been created to help implement the policy. Bennewitz said the nonprofit organization has been supportive through fundraising and providing an operational budget for WestPAC.

First Selectman Jim Marpe noted Westport was unique in that the town and public school district operate as a museum.

“Most places that have art on display are museums and understand operating those spaces,” he said of other towns.

The new policy also marked an anniversary of sorts for the town — according to Bennewitz, the first work of art was given to the town of Westport 110 years ago

“It was intentionally given as a work of art by a Westport artist by the state of Connecticut to the town of Westport to be the caretaker of,” she said.