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The Big 40 — Westport Arts Center celebrates a big anniversary as our vital arts organization

Have you been to the Westport Arts Center lately? Chances are, yes. Annually, more than 15,000 people participate in the slew of programs and exhibits—everything from live chamber music to photographs of jazz musicians to watercolors of serene seascapes to Brutalist architecture (including the Labyrinth House in Westport). With more than sixty programs annually, this local nonprofit has something for everyone who likes to explore.

The Center has been on Riverside Avenue for the past eight years. While filled with light and easily accessible, the little building is unable to accommodate programs the staff and board dream about. For example, WAC is developing its arts education and outreach programs for kindergartners through high school seniors and this year hopes to entertain, educate, and inspire nearly 4,000 emerging artists (or, at least, arts enthusiasts). KinderCreate and Art Factory are hands-on workshops for ages five to ten to experience the arts; plus, WAC hosts summer and school vacation programs and WACky Family Days during which families create projects and enjoy live music together.

Music, central to the mission, fosters collaboration with various community organizations, so don’t be surprised to find Frederic Chiu, Mavis Staples, Broadway Boys, Dar Williams, John Pizzarelli, and John Gorka at Pequot Library, Westport Library, Westport Country Playhouse, or even your child’s school.


The visual arts programs—including exhibits by local painters and sculptors Elisa Khachian, Janet Slom, Nina Bentley —are showcased at the gallery and online. Then there’s incredible photography. The most recent exhibit showcases musician Milt Hinton’s shots of jazz musicians in unguarded moments. These include some of the country’s most talented and legendary performers—Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, among others—from the 1930s to ’80s. He provides authentic glimpses of icons on stage, in rehearsal and at the recording studio as only a fellow jazz musician could.

Also, in its seven years, the Westport Youth Film Festival, run by high school students, has become one of the most respected venues for young filmmakers, with submissions coming in from around the world.

Artists from all disciplines introduce thought-provoking shows to contribute to cultural awareness and develop new talent. Forty years and the breadth of offerings reveal that the Westport Art Center’s roots are both deep and wide in or community.

1 How many entries has Westport Youth Film Festival received since 2004?
A 100 films from Fairfield County
B 750 films from the tristate region
C 1,000 films from 15 states and 3 countries
D 1,500 films from more than 30 states and 7 countries

2 About how many students participate in WAC youth education and outreach programs each year?
A Less than 100
B 100
C 250
D 500

3 Who was a founding member of the WAC?
A Helen Klisser During
B Enid Munroe
C Diane Farrell
D Howard Munce

4 Which musician has performed for WAC?
A Milt Hinton
B Barbara Cook 
C Jorma Kaukonen
D Kronos Quartet
E All of the above

5 How many hours per year do WAC educators spend with students?
A 300 hours
B 500 hours
C 850 hours 
D 1,500 hours

6 Which artist has had his/ her work exhibited at WAC?
A Wolf Kahn
B Vasily Kandinsky
C Jenny Holzer
D Pablo Picasso
E All of the above

7 Since WAC moved to 5 Riverside Ave. in 2002, how many art exhibitions have been presented?
A 28
B 106
C 72
D 206

8 What was the theme of WAC’s recent literary competition?
A “Letters Home”
B “Quiet”
C “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”
D “You’re So Dramatic”

9 How many visual artists in the area are members of WAC?
A 300
B 200
C 100
D 50

10 Which original cast members of the Tony Award-winning Jersey Boys will perform at WAC’s 40th Anniversary Gala on April 10?
A Christian Hoff
B Michael Longoria
C Daniel Reichard
D J. Robert Spencer
E All of the above