Westport’s public art collection expands with 135 new pieces

Westport has a vibrant artistic history and this summer marks the 110th anniversary of the first art exhibition held in Westport. Organized by the first generation of resident artists, it took place at Westport’s First Library in 1911.

In 1964, art educator Burt Chernow started the Westport Schools Collection, believing in the visual education of our students by presenting them with original examples of work by well-known artists in each school. This continues to be the mission and vision of Westport’s Public Art Collections (WestPAC, for short.)

Westport’s cultural past is represented by this extensive collection in four major categories: City, School, Bicentennial, and WPA Art. These collections are distributed to all schools, our municipal buildings, the Seniors Activity Center and parks and recreation offices. WestPAC has over 1,500 works of art. It is one of our city’s most valuable assets. These collections enrich the academic and daily life of students and residents of Westport.


Donated artwork is first submitted and then reviewed by the WestPAC committee and city curator Kathie Bennewitz (who kindly shared the information provided in this article) to determine if a proposed membership matches WestPAC’s mission / vision and criteria to be cared for and displayed properly, builds a collectable strength or helps fill a gap. A proposed work may also relate specifically to the history and artistic heritage of Westport. Then the offer is submitted to the Arts Advisory Committee for approval. Then, in accordance with the donation policy, the artwork is offered to the Board of Education or Selection Board for final membership.


New works of art have not been submitted for acceptance since 2016 due to pressing policy, procedural and district issues. But in May, after a long hiatus, the acceptance of 135 works of art was completed.


These works included pieces created by artists of color and other under-represented groups – a beginning diversification that fills a lack of minority artists in WestPAC. Thirty works by black artists were accepted, including Charles Joyner (North Carolina), Jerri Graham (Westport), Christa Forrest (Stamford), Richard Hunt (Chicago) and Adger Cowans (Bridgeport). These and other new additions to the collection will be discussed in our next Art Town column.

Over the decades, the collection’s growth has been fueled by phenomenal public and private donations to the nonprofit branch, Friends of WestPAC. WestPAC and Arts Advisory work together.

To increase Westport’s vitality in the arts, the committee is expanding “Learning Galleries,” supported by the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center, in each school to use art to complement the curriculum.

The shared intention is for students, city and school staff, and residents to be inspired by the diverse range of original works of art – “a museum without walls” – that can be easily accessed. Recently, they installed an exhibit in the lobby of Town Hall of drawings by Westport artist, Tracy Sugarman. You can see and learn more about his work in Mississippi during “Freedom Summer” of 1964.

Miggs Burroughs has been a resident of Westport and a full-time graphic designer 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 resided in Westport since 1968. Her work has been exhibited locally and around the world. Chernow is an honorary member of the Westport Artist Collective, a member of the Westport Museum committee and other arts organizations.

About Margaret L. Portillo

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