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Getting Ready for “A Community Collects:” What Do Our Neighbors Collect?

By Emily Laux

Contributing Editor
WestportNow.com

The homes in my quiet neighborhood are full of surprises. One of my neighbors, a banker with a lot of frequent flyer miles, collects sand from beaches and deserts around the world. elisemeyer072301260.jpg
Elise Meyer, curator of “A Community Collects,” with her collection of 1930s-era Chase Chromeware, which she says proves that once the collecting bug hits, itӒs hard to stop at just one. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Emily Laux for WestportNow.com

His collection is meticulously displayed—each sample of sand is sealed and neatly labeled in a glass laboratory vial.

Hundreds of the matching glass vials are perfectly lined up in rows in an enormous rosewood cabinet he had custom made in Hong Kong.

His wifeԒs collection of snow globes is equally impressive, but less rigorously displayed.

They sit in a friendly manner on open shelves suspended below her kitchen cabinets, inviting guests to pick them up and shake vigorously.

Another neighbor collects antique shoe forms. These wooden models are hung up and down the walls of her entry hall, where their simple raw-wood forms greet her visitors with a rustic-but-super-hip attitude.

And around the corner, yet another neighbor has a rather serious collection of contemporary sculpture and paintings, much of it acquired through barter with artist patients in the early years of his dentistry practice.

Knowing about these collections is part of what makes my life in Westport interesting. These neighbors of mine are idiosyncratic, even eccentric, in their interests and tastes, and I like to think I am too.

My own collections —Burmese wedding boxes, Cambodian silverwork, antique fabric, Madonna paintings—define some part of my character and differentiate me from my neighbors, my fellow soccer moms and all those other Westporters with whom I have so much in common.

What do our neighbors collect? What, why and how to they collect? For that matter, why does anyone collect anything? How does one start and maintain a collection? Is it possible to create a valuable collection on a shoestring budget?

The concept of collecting, and its interpretation by this community is the subject of an innovative and ambitious gallery show scheduled to open at the Westport Arts Center in April 2005.

“A Community Collects” is the brainchild of Elise Meyer, a 17-year Westport resident, art curator, and writer, who has long been fascinated by the collectors impulse and the process of collecting.

As curator of “A Community Collects,” Meyer is now seeking out collections to be part of the eight-week exhibition, much of which will displayed in the Westport Arts CenterҒs 2,000 square-foot gallery.

Meyer envisions an exhibition of approximately two dozen collections, which will express the scope and variety of collections in and around Westport.

She also hopes that the individual collectors will take an active role in the exhibition, participating in the process of the gallery display, and writing or speaking about the process of creating their collection.

I think this exhibition will be very much a dialogue between viewers and the collectors,Ӕ Meyer said in a recent interview.

I love the way collectors light up when they are showing me their collections. I want to bring that enthusiasm into the gallery, and especially to people who donӒt yet collect anything.

“My hope is that this exhibition will give people more confidence in themselves and conviction in their own taste, because collecting is a wonderful way to express your individuality.

Meyer invites collectors in and around Westport to contact her. She is in the early stages of the selection process for “A Community Collects,” and welcomes information on any type of collection, from the mundane to the esoteric, high and low taste.

Not every collection will be selected, but each will be given thorough and serious consideration.

Meyer is most enthusiastic about collectors and/or collections that will inspire others to collect. Contact Elise Meyer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or leave a message for her at the Westport Arts Center, 203-222-7070.

(Editor’s Note: Emily Laux, in addition to being a WestportNow Contributing Editor and photographer, is also publicity coordinator for the Westport Arts Center. The opinions and accuracy of information in this article are the responsibility of the contributor.)

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