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Special Reports

Friday, August 19, 2016

Westport Birders Are Devoted Flock

By Emily Weyrauch

Unlike the majority of visitors to Sherwood Island State Park this summer, Michele Sorensen isn’t there for the sun and the sea. Instead, her sights are set higher—in the sky and up in the trees, on the myriad bird species drawn to the park to breed or feed.

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Michele Sorensen keeps watch for birds on the beaches at Sherwood Island State Park. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Emily Weyrauch for WestportNow.com

Sorensen, the Sherwood Island Nature Center’s liaison, knows it’s more than just gulls when it comes to life on the beach, and is passionate about the park’s ecosystems and avian diversity.

“The longer you hang out,” she said, “the more you see.”

On a recent walk on the park’s East Beach, Sorensen pointed out the wrack line—a green and brown kelp fringe found when the tide recedes. It is where shorebirds pick for washed up crabs and clams. They have to move fast though, as park staff routinely remove the seaweed, grooming the beach for visitors.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

At 95, Ed Vebell Still Drawing on History

By James Lomuscio

The setting seemed cinematic, fictitious even—a worldly, wizened 95-year-old keeping two 18-year olds rapt and continually amazed, so much so that they would keep coming back to hear more.

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Ed Vebell: at 24, he drew Nazis at Nuremberg while thinking of his Paris girlfriend. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Phyllis Groner for WestportNow.com

But that was the scene last week at the Compo Beach area home of legendary illustrator-photographer Ed Vebell as he hosted the teens—Wellington Baumann, a 2016 Staples High School graduate, and Aren Heitmann, a recent Fairfield Ludlowe High School graduate.

Baumann and Heitmann, history buffs who will attend Gettysburg College in the fall, are interning with Vebell for the summer in his loft studio. They seemed a good fit.

After all, Vebell, a World War II Army sergeant, was the key artist in Europe and North Africa for Stars & Stripes, the American newspaper reporting on matters affecting the U.S. Armed Forces. He was also the only artist allowed to cover the 1945, post-war Nuremberg, Germany war trials, which prosecuted members of the Nazi leadership.

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Thursday, May 05, 2016

WN on the Scene: Frieze NY 2016 Art Fair


The Frieze New York 2016 Art Fair opens today at New York’s Randall’s Island. The fifth edition of the fair brings together more than 200 of the world’s leading contemporary galleries to the island’s festive surroundings. Helen Klisser During, artistic director emeritus of the Westport Arts Center and WestportNow contributing photographer, was among VIP guests Wednesday getting a preview. The show runs through Sunday. For ticket information, click here. Helen Klisser During for WestportNow.com

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Dale Call: ‘Leaving the Department in Good Hands’

By James Lomuscio

Behind Police Chief Dale Call’s desk is a photo of his late father in uniform and smiling, almost as if he’s watching over his son, proud of him making it to the top.

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Behind Chief Dale Call in his office is a picture of his late father, Inspector George Call. “He was the one I grew up watching,” said Call. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

The late George Call rose through the ranks to Inspector, an ascent the son has chronicled in a framed collection of his dad’s badges next to his photo.

“He was the one I grew up watching,” said Call, 53, who first joined the force as a special officer in 1981, just one year after graduating from Staples High School. “Actually, I grew up in this building.”

Today, after 35 years on the force, the last four as chief, Call heads into retirement, passing the baton, or badge, to Deputy Chief Foti Koskinas, who will be sworn into by First Selectman Jim Marpe. Capt. Samuel Arciola and Capt. Vincent Penna will each be sworn in as deputy chief.

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

WN on the Scene: NYC Easter Parade


New York City’s Easter parade really isn’t a parade, just a lot people walking up and down Fifth Avenue. But the long-running event is always fun to watch and WestportNow photographer Dave Matlow was there today to record the scene. Note the photographer in the first picture is famed New York Times society photographer Bill Cunningham. Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

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Friday, February 19, 2016

Heroin Scourge Affects Westport, Too

By James Lomuscio

Westport has not escaped the surge in heroin and other opiate overdoses in Connecticut.

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Heroin overdose deaths have soared in Connecticut and nationally. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed graphic

While no deaths have been reported in Westport, the state’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said this week the number of people in Connecticut dying from drug overdoses continued to skyrocket in 2015.

More than 720 people overdosed, with heroin-related deaths climbing at alarming rates, the office said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, of the nationwide 47,055 drug-overdose deaths in 2014 — an all-time high, and more people than died of liver disease or renal failure, of suicide, or in car accidents — heroin was responsible for over one-fifth.

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Friday, January 01, 2016

Our New Year’s Gift to Readers

WestportNow Year in Pictures 2015
As in years past, Westport in 2015—the 13th year of publication of WestportNow—saw many changes. Jim Lomuscio documented them in his year in review (see WestportNow Dec. 31, 2015).

WestportNow was there every day 24/7, documenting the big things and little things that make Westport special. You saw stories and photos here that you saw nowhere else, thanks to dozens of contributors to Westport’s only locally owned news source.

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A Westport Memorial Day parade picture by WestportNow contributing photographer Lynn U. Miller showing Little Leaguer Grant Mandel, 7, greeting Westport veteran Larry Aasen was the opening image on the “ABC World News Tonight With David Muir” story on Memorial Day celebrations around the country. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Lynn U. Miller for WestportNow.com

We are deeply grateful for an always-growing readership that has made us Westport’s No.1 place to go for news about our community and for news and features of special interest to Westporters. We urge you to support our advertisers who help make this all possible.

As is our tradition, our New Year’s gift to readers is a photo (and occasional news story) review of the past year. Entries include major events, and some not so major. But they were all part of life in Westport in 2015. To enjoy, CLICK HERE. Happy New Year!

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Westport 2015 Year in Review: A Year of Change

By James Lomuscio

As the New Year is ushered in on Friday, it seems that ringing out the old and ringing in the new in Westport could not have more relevance and bittersweet poignancy.

WestportNow Year in Review 2015

From the loss of beloved citizens to the moving on of equally beloved town employees and educators to last calls at landmark restaurants to the loss of a longtime, after school bus service and the shooting down of a seven-year planned senior housing complex, the town had more than its share of change.

At the same time, there were a number of new beginnings, including the reopening of the historic Saugatuck Congregational Church to the start of the Bedford Square project to the completion and initial undertaking of a Downtown Master Plan.

As always, change is inevitable, even in the land of steady habits; however, in Westport the changes always seem to be tempered with deference to the town’s historic character.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Part 5: Senior Housing Needs, Plans and Logjams


(Editor’s note: WestportNow’s special week-long series on seniors and housing concludes today with a look at efforts to add new senior housing to Westport and current options open to seniors.)

By James Lomuscio

The need for senior housing in Westport, whether affordable, market rate, and/or with an assisted living component, has confounded Westport officials for years.

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There is a waiting list of almost 300 for 21 remaining units under construction at the Westport Housing Authority’s Sasco Creek Village, 1655 Post Road East, according to Executive Director Carol Martin. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

It has become a flash point, however, for the current Planning and Zoning (P&Z) Commission.

Chairman Chip Stephens, 60, has said repeatedly that he is not against more senior housing in Westport. On the contrary, he says it is a need that has to be addressed, but by private developers and on private land, not town-owned land.

In fact, he says this need is behind formation of the P&Z Senior Housing Committee co-chaired by P&Z Vice Chairman Jack Whittle, 52, and member Catherine Walsh, 60. To date, the committee has had two meetings.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Part 4:  ‘Heart-Wrenching ’ Move to Darien


(Editor’s note: WestportNow’s special series on seniors and housing today focuses on longtime Westporters who moved to Darien in search of housing to meet their needs.)

By James Lomuscio

Richard Leonard, 85, moved with his parents to Westport in 1946. He was just 15 but commuted daily on the 6:30 a.m. train to New York, so he could finish up at St. John’s Prep in Astoria, Queens.

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Dick and Paula Leonard at their new home in Darien. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) James Lomuscio for WestportNow.com

Paula Leonard moved with her parents to Westport in 1952, graduating from Staples High School that year.

It wasn’t long before the two met and began dating.

In 1957, after four years as a Navy pilot during the Korean Conflict, he and Paula married, settling into their first home on Lone Pine Lane, then Ludlowe Road and eventually Orchard Lane.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Part 3: After 32 Years and Service, Priced Out of Westport


(Editor’s note: WestportNow’s special series on seniors and housing today focuses on a well known couple who had hoped to continue living in Westport but finally decided to move to Charleston, South Carolina.)

By James Lomuscio

Steve Rubin, 71, and his wife Toni, 69, moved to Westport 32 years ago. They lived at Hidden Brook, an affordable apartment community off Post Road East run by the Westport Housing Authority (WHA). They raised their only child, a daughter, there.

Steve and Toni Rubin
Steve and Toni Rubin in Charleston, South Carolina with their 5-year-old Havanese named Sam. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

Today, the Rubins are grandparents and live in Charleston, South Carolina where Steve says it’s much more affordable and winter weather is a breeze. He says they fell in love with Charleston’s charm after visiting on their way back from Florida a couple of years ago.

They kept visiting, each time for a longer stay and eventually moved down Columbus Day weekend 2014. They live in the West Ashley section of Charleston near the Ashley River.

“Since we moved here, three other Westport couples have called me, saying they’d love to move to Charleston,” Rubin said. “We all seem to agree it’s going to become a club of ex-Westporters.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Part 2: Seniors Who Have Reluctantly Left Westport


(Editor’s note: WestportNow’s special series on seniors and housing today focuses on seniors who have left Westport but wish they could have stayed.)

By James Lomuscio

Like many Westport residents, they came to town for the schools, but they stayed for the community and all it offered. And they wanted to spend the rest of their lives here surrounded by friends, familiarity, and a love of place.


Westport seniors have taken up new lives at The Watermark in Bridgeport and Meadow Ridge in Redding. (Click upper right corner arrows to enlarge) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

But now in their 70s through 90s, they live elsewhere—Redding, Bridgeport, Darien, even as far as Charleston, S.C.—to name a few.

They say they did not want to leave Westport, but the lack of adequate senior housing, whether affordable or not, was a driving force.

Some say they had hoped Westport would join the ranks of many other Fairfield County towns with its own senior housing complex, 60 percent of the units affordable, near the downtown on Baron’s South. Such a complex had been on the drawing boards for seven years, the subject of many meetings of town boards and commissions.

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Part 1: Seniors Feel ‘Pushed to the Side’


(Editor’s note: WestportNow today begins a special series on seniors and housing in Westport. Future installments will cover those who have left Westport and the current state of senior housing in town.)

By James Lomuscio

Nick Berardi, 83, and his wife Josephine, 84, have lived in Westport for 51 years. They raised their children here, made a number of longtime friends and enjoyed the community’s many offerings. They couldn’t think of a better place to spend the rest of their lives.

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Westport seniors in housing dilemma: (l-r)  Nick Berardi, 83, Neil Hardy, 86, and wife, Judy, 80. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Denise Puskas for WestportNow.com

But now, their home is on the market. And memories of relaxing days at Compo Beach and starlit evenings at the Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts will be just that, memories.

“It’s the cost,” said Berardi, a retired accountant. “The taxes, the utilities, the repairs, the maintenance. It’s the upkeep of your house.

“My wife especially wants to stay in Westport,” he added. “We figured we’d sell our house and look for rentals with two bedrooms, $1,500 a month, but you can’t find anything for $1,500. As a last resort, we’d move to Florida, but it’s too hot for 12 months of the year, and we like the amenities here.”

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Thursday, January 01, 2015

Our New Year’s Gift to Readers

WestportNow.co Year in Pictures 2014

Westport in 2014—the 12th year of publication of WestportNow—saw many changes, as documented in Jim Lomuscio’s comprehensive review of the year (see WestportNow Dec. 30, 2014).

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An Osprey swooped down into the Saugatuck River near Longshore Club Park in May 2014 and was rewarded with a Memorial Day holiday weekend takeout meal. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Mark Molesworth for WestportNow.com

And every day, 24/7, WestportNow was there, often exclusively, just as we have been since 2003. We are deeply grateful for a still growing readership that has made WestportNow Westport’s No.1 news source.

As the only locally owned daily news source, we are also deeply grateful for the local advertising support received and urge you to patronize our advertisers—and tell them you saw them on WestportNow.

As is our tradition, our New Year’s gift to readers is a photo review of the past year. Entries include major events, and some not so major. But they were all part of life in Westport in 2014. To enjoy, CLICK HERE. Happy New Year!

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Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Change—Current and Future—Consumed Westport in 2014

By James Lomuscio

Every year is marked by change, but in Westport, current and planned change came at fever pitch in 2014.

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The opening of the new Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts was one of Westport’s top stories of 2014. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

Several time-honored, mom and pop businesses integral the town’s identity either shut their doors or moved from their storied, if not legendary, locations.

Several prominent individuals whose service epitomized town spirit died, each one leaving heroic example, as well as a hole, behind.

New beginnings marked 2014, from Church Lane’s redevelopment to the new Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts and the finally relocated Westport Weston Family Y.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Remembering Richard C. Hottelet, CBS News

By Gordon Joseloff

Richard C. Hottelet, my personal link to the legendary group of CBS News correspondents who covered World War II under Edward R. Murrow, died today at his Wilton home. He was 97.

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Richard C. Hottelet: “consummate professional.”  (CLICK TO ENLARGE) CBS News photo

Hottelet was the last survivor of the group that became known as the “Murrow Boys. He joined CBS in London in 1944 and retired in 1985.

I first met him in the late 1970s. He was covering the United Nations for CBS but did an hourly network radio newscast daily before heading over to his U.N. office. I often wrote his hourly newscast for him.

I had joined CBS News a short time earlier after working for United Press International in outposts that included London and Moscow. Hottelet had worked for UPI’s predecessor, United Press, in London, Moscow, Berlin, and Washington.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

WN on the Scene: Havana, Cuba


WestportNow contributing photographer Phyllis Groner recently returned from a week-long visit to Cuba. She captured these images in and around Havana. Phyllis Groner for WestportNow.com

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Police Chief: Ensuring Police-Military Line Remains Clear

By James Lomuscio

In the wake of national concerns about the militarization of police departments, an issue brought to the forefront by the police response to rioting in Ferguson, Mo., Westport Police Chief Dale Call weighed in on his department’s receipt of military surplus over the years.

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One of two Humvees Westport Police received as military surplus. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

“Define militarized,” Call said in an interview. “Police departments have been organized in the paramilitary structure since the beginning of time, but at the end of the day, we’re don’t function as the military, nor should we ever.”

With Westport being an affluent community and not being strapped for equipment, “we don’t ask for what we don’t need,” from the Department of Defense (DOD) through its 1033 program, Call said. The program gives without charge military resources no longer used, from guns to Humvees.

The Washington Post reported last week that in 2013 the 1033 program gave about $500 million worth of equipment to local departments, mostly for natural disaster responses, items such as tents, generators, ATVs and pickup trucks. However, law enforcement agencies can also tap the program for more formidable items: aircraft, grenade launchers and tactical vehicles.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

WN Spotlight: Coffee ‘An

WestportNow.com Image

(Editor’s Note: This is another in our occasional series, WN Spotlight, featuring people and places that make our town special.)

By Larissa Lieberson

There’s nothing better than the smell of warm, freshly glazed donuts. Nothing, perhaps, besides the taste of them, especially when they are handmade each morning at Westport’s Coffee An’ Donut Shop.

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Elias Vlandis took over ownership of Coffee ‘An from his father, George, who bought the shop in 1991. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Larissa Lieberson for WestportNow.com

Located at 343 Main St. in a shopping strip that includes Ace Hardware and the Merritt Country Store, this old time donut shop has become a local legend. Daily, people from all walks of life seem to find their way to this rare sanctuary rich in unpretentiousness and a sweet sense of community.

From the moment one steps into the shop, one spies people reading newspapers, talking to each other across tables and the counter, and just letting their hair down.

Regulars credit George Vlandis and his family for the comfortable vibe. Vlandis took over the shop 22 years ago after selling his pizza restaurant in Fairfield. From pizza, Vlandis turned his focus on something sweeter – donuts, glazed, chocolate frosted, coconut, jelly, cinnamon and marble twists. Muffins, too.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2014

WN Spotlight: Poster Animal Hospital

WestportNow.com Image

(Editor’s Note: WestportNow today inaugurates a new occasional series, WN Spotlight, featuring people and places that make our town special.)

By Larissa Lieberson

From the moment your paws step into Poster Animal Hospital at 1677 Post Road East, you can sense the joy only animal lovers know. Dogs wag their tails excitedly, and employees and pet owners mingle like old friends.

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Joan Poster: “Saving a life is one of the best feelings out there.” (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

This kindred feeling of community is one of the main reasons this mom and pop practice has been in town so long. The animal hospital is currently celebrating 30 years in Westport.

“I wouldn’t go anywhere else,” says Bette Demartini, a client of 20 years.

Animal lover Joan Poster, who earned her veterinary degree from the University of Pennsylvania, first opened Poster Animal Hospital in 1984.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Now Max’s to Become Part of Westport’s Arts History

By James Lomuscio and Dave Matlow

Nina Royce lifted the trap door to the basement, opening up a flood of memories about Max’s Art Supplies where she’s worked since August 1969.

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Max’s Art Supplies on Post Road East, a Westport mainstay since 1956, will close Sept. 1. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Dave Matlow for WestportNow.com

There was a time years back, Royce recalled today, when a young Christopher Blossom, a stock boy who would go on to become a world renowned maritime artist, kept busy going up and down the timeworn, wooden steps.

He would regularly haul up new inventory to keep the main floor well stocked with drafting and drawing tables, easels, brushes, paints, canvases and frames, she said.

Those were the days when Max’s, which opened in 1956 at 68 Post Road Post Road East originally as Fine Arts Stationers next to the Fine Arts Theatre, eventually became Grand Central for the town’s legendary artists’ community. Max Kaplan, then 42, and his wife, Shirley, then 28, were the proprietors.

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

WN on the Scene: A Mix of Contemporary Art and Cultural Tourism


Frieze New York Art Fair opened this week in a grand tent on Randall’s Island. It is timed to coincide with the influx of global collectors heading to New York for the big contemporary art auctions and offers mix of contemporary art and cultural tourism. The exhibit runs until Monday. Click here for information.  Helen Klisser During, director of visual arts at the Westport Arts Center and contributing WestportNow photographer, provides this selection of views of the exhibit.  Helen Klisser During for WestportNow.com

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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Our New Year’s Gift to Readers

WestportNow Year in Pictures 2012

The year 2013 in Westport—the 11th year of publication of WestportNow—was another busy period with extremes of joy and deep sadness.

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A visitor to Westport’s Compo Beach in January found himself the object of much attention from the sea gulls. Maybe it was the old cracker he had in his hand. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

The Westport Little Leaguers magic ride to the Little League World Series created a wave of hometown pride while the tragic death of Marine Lance Cpl. Roger W. Muchnick Jr. in a training accident brought tears to many.

Day in and day out, WestportNow was there as we have been 24/7 since 2003. We are deeply grateful for contributions of news and photos from our readers and look forward to continuing to serve you in 2014 with the kind of knowledgable coverage only a hometown publication can produce. We are also deeply grateful for the advertising support received and urge you to patronize our advertisers.

As is our tradition, our New Year’s gift to readers is a photo review of the past year. Entries include major events, and some not so major. But they were all part of life in Westport in 2013. To enjoy, CLICK HERE. Happy New Year!

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Monday, October 28, 2013

One Year Ago: Storm Sandy Devastated Westport


Scenes from Storm Sandy as it devastated Westport a year ago. The storm destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes and left some Westporters in the dark for more than a week. WestportNow.com and contributed photos

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Friday, October 04, 2013

WN on the Scene: Fall Art Exhibits NYC to Massachusetts


The fall art season is under way from New York City to Massachusetts. Offerings range from Louise Bourgeois’s “Eyes” (above)  at Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Mass. and Anselm Kiefer’s sculpture and paintings at the MASS MoCA in North Adams, Mass., to Sol LeWitt’s monumental wall drawings at Paul Cooper’s Gallery in New York’s Chelsea district and Edmund de Waal’s display of tiny white porcelain vases at Gagosian Gallery on Madison Avenue. They are seen through the lens of Helen Klisser During, contributing WestportNow photographer and director of visual arts at the Westport Arts Center. Click here for information on each picture. Helen Klisser During for WestportNow.com

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Friday, June 07, 2013

WN on the Scene: Venice Biennale


The center of the art world in recent days has been Venice where the world’s oldest and most prestigious international art festival, the Venice Biennale, opened to the public. Helen Klisser During, director of visual arts at the Westport Arts Center and contributing WestportNow photographer, was among those getting a sneak peek ahead of the official opening. Here is a selection of her photos from Venice. Helen Klisser During for WestportNow.com

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Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Our New Year’s Gift to Readers

WestportNow.com Image

The year 2012 in Westport—the 10th year of publication of WestportNow—topped the previous year as the busiest news year since we began publishing.

From crime to natural disasters, moments of joy and to deep sadness, WestportNow was there every day 24/7, providing news and photos—many of them exclusive.

Many of the photos came from you, our readers. And for that we are very grateful.

As is our tradition, our New Year’s gift to readers is a photo review of the past year. Entries include major events, and some not so major. But they were all part of life in Westport in 2012. To enjoy, CLICK HERE. Happy New Year!

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Sunday, December 09, 2012

WN on the Scene: Africa Up Close


Helen Klisser During, director of visual arts at the Westport Arts Center (and contributing WestportNow photographer) visited Rwanda and Malawi last month on a photo assignment for the United Nations. She accompanied Helen Clark, United Nations Development Programme Administrator, who is a former prime minister of New Zealand. Klisser During, a New Zealand native, compiled this photo essay of her journey for WestportNow. Helen Klisser During for WestportNow.com

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sherwood Island 9/11 Anniversary


Scenes at Sherwood Island State Park today, site of the Connecticut 9/11 memorial, on the 11th anniversary of the 2001 attacks. Lynn U. Miller for WestportNow.com

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Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Dinner with the President

By James Lomuscio

UPDATE About 60 well heeled Democratic National Committee (DNC) supporters were waiting tonight when President Barack Obama’s motorcade arrived at 7:33 p.m. for dinner at movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s waterfront estate on Westport’s Beachside Avenue.

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President Obama addresses a Stamford fundraiser tonight. Cablevision News-12 photo

The supporters, most of them from New York City and Westchester, had been there since 6 p.m. and had their cars valet parked, according to a Westporter who attended. At the request of the Secret Service, they also had to relinquish their phones and cameras, placing them in baggies with their names on them to be returned after Obama left around 9 p.m.

In addition to Weinstein and his wife Georgina, the hosts included Westport’s Joanne Woodward, Clea Newman and her husband Kurt Sunderland, actress Anne Hathaway, “West Wing” producer Aaron Sorkin and Vogue editor Anna Wintour.

“It was terrific,” said Westporter Ann Sheffer, a longtime arts advocate and DNC donor who attended with her husband Bill Scheffler. “To be three feet from the president of the United States is thrilling.”

More "Dinner with the President"

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