Sunday’s Connecticut Post has a nice piece about the new Bridgeport Arts and Cultural Council. I’ve tried to explain their mission here, but no one really says it as well as their writer Phyllis A.S. Boros.
Here’s the story:
Championing the Arts
Moving in: New Bridgeport Arts and Cultural Council opens offices in historic Arcade
By Phyllis A.S. Boros
A dream to establish an umbrella organization to promote Bridgeport’s arts community becomes reality on Wednesday, Nov. 10, when the recently formed Bridgeport Arts and Cultural Council opens its headquarters in one of the city’s most magnificent commercial spaces.
The BACC offices, on the ground floor of the city’s historic Arcade Mall, will open with great fanfare as part of Bridgeport’s 2010 ArtTrail festivities, during which about 20 arts venues will host a variety of free events — such as receptions, exhibits, a book signing, lectures, walking tours and open studios — from Nov. 10 to 14.
“Can you believe this is actually happening, that we finally have an arts council with its own home?” asked a beaming Robbin Zella, director of the Housatonic Community College’s Housatonic Museum of Art and a community activist who spearheaded the drive for the council’s establishment.
“It’s such an amazing place,” noted Zella during a recent stroll through the Arcade, an 1889 Ornamental Gothic Revival iron-and-glass structure that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the oldest surviving retail arcades in the nation — and reportedly the only one of its kind in Connecticut — the restoration, renovation and management of the Arcade, at 1001 Main St., is one of several city projects by Urban Green Builders in conjunction with GDC Properties.
The opening of BACC’s offices will coincide with the debut of three art exhibits coordinated by the council, two of which will be on view at the Arcade. Another is being presented at a new exhibition space — The Vault Gallery at City Trust — in the atrium of the City Trust Apartments (also managed by GDC), at 955 Main Street. On Nov. 10 from 5 to 7 p.m., the BACC will host receptions at both venues, at which the public is invited to attend free of charge.
On hand for the openings will be the BACC’s Executive Director Kenneth R. Kahn, of Hartford, who was formally introduced to the community in June at a reception at Housatonic Community College, which provided a $9,000 in-kind donation in the form of temporary office space. His part-time position comes with a $30,000 salary; providing first-year funding for the council are the Fairfield County Community Foundation, $25,000; the Werth Family Foundation of Woodbridge, $15,000; the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, $5,000; and the city of Bridgeport, $2,000.
Kahn and Zella have noted that government officials and the general public have come to realize that arts/cultural offerings are key ingredients in the redevelopment and renaissance of Northeastern cities such as Bridgeport that have lost their industrial/manufacturing base and are searching for a new focus.
One of Kahn’s most important responsibilities will be marketing — “to help tie up the package in a fresh way,” he said.
During the next several months, Kahn said he plans to organize outdoor and indoor art exhibits featuring local artists and a series of noontime concerts of classical, jazz and world music — and to raise the funds to do so. He also would like to create a Bridgeport welcome center at the Arcade where brochures, maps and other information would be available for visitors and residents alike.
“Enlivening the city — creating a level of activity and sustaining it” — will make the urban experience “all the more richer,” Kahn said. It is a goal that will require “ingenious, creative collaborations among retailers, businesses and property owners. We need to take this thread and embroider with it . . . using vacant and passive spaces throughout the city to showcase the visual and performing arts. It is to everyone’s benefit to have a Bridgeport” that champions “its arts, heritage and history.” And, he said, locating the council offices in one of the city’s architectural gems reflects that spirit.
OPENING NIGHT EXHIBITS
On exhibit at The Arcade Gallery @ BACC will be “Urban Essence,” a show curated by area artists Janine Brown and Thomas Mezzanotte. The exhibition, sponsored by People’s United Bank, will feature photographs of contemporary Bridgeport by 11 noted artists, including Jesse Neider, Sean Corbett and Michelle Beaulieu. It will be on view through Jan. 13 at the council offices, which will be open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Also on view, near the Arcade’s entrance, will be “Downtown Memories,” an exhibit of “seldom seen” vintage photographs reflecting the city’s “storied past” from the Bridgeport Public Library’s History Center, in honor of the center’s 75th anniversary, said City Historian Mary Witkowki. Show sponsors are the History Center, the BACC and the Aquarion Water Co. of Bridgeport.
At The Vault Gallery at City Trust, a few doors down from the Arcade, will be a sculpture exhibition — organized by Zella and curated by Alvin Sher of Niantic — featuring a dozen free-standing works by 12 members of the New York Sculptors Guild, which also is celebrating its 75th anniversary. (Zella and the BACC are making use of this large open space since the HMA’s galleries are closed through Feb. 28 for upgrades to its heating and air conditioning systems.) In order to access this gallery space, visitors must walk through the Amici Miei Cafe, at 957 Main Street, which leads to the atrium. (The cafe is open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays to 10 p.m.)
Of special note: The Arcade’s glass roof is again transparent; for decades the roof was almost entirely painted over, a remnant from World War II to prevent light from attracting enemy aircraft in the event of attack. The building is entirely accessible to the handicapped. An elevator from the 1940s renovation was removed, and a new one installed in space adjoining the atrium. Stairs were constructed to match their original location. The restoration was under the direction of Cutsogeorge Tooman & Allen Architects of Manhattan.
Bridgeport’s arts and cultural scene will percolate during the five-day ArtTrail, featuring open-house artist studios at the old American Fabrics building on Connecticut Avenue and events at The Gallery at Black Rock, Frame Makers of Black Rock and gallery spaces at 51 Crescent Street and 305 Knowlton Street, among others.
Numerous venues are grouped together in the downtown area, making a walking tour a distinct possibility. Among the downtown sites are the Barnum Museum, Read’s ArtSpace Gallery (which will sponsor its own opening reception Nov. 10 from 6 to 9 p.m. and an Open Studios event Nov. 13 from noon to 4 p.m.), Rainy Faye Bookstore, Housatonic Community College, Gallery 999 at City Hall Annex, Bridgeport Public Library and the Center for Public Art and Design (which will have an opening reception for its “Be Our Neighbor” exhibit on Nov. 12 from 5 to 9 p.m.).
Also slated are “Family Fun” receptions for “ArtFul Gifts,” the holiday exhibition at the nonprofit City Lights Gallery, on Nov. 13-14, each day from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Visitors will learn how to make their own pop-up cards and wrapping paper.
Detailed maps and schedules may be obtained at participating venues and on several websites, including citylightsgallery.org, bportlibrary.org and barnum-museum.org. Among ArtTrail sponsors are the City of Bridgeport, the Downtown Special Services District and the Fairfield County Community Foundation.