Discover the Brahmins and Bohemians of Litchfield County
Litchfield Antiques Show & Open Your Eyes Studio Tours June 23 & 24
The northwestern corner of Connecticut can seem highfalutin’ to the untrained eye with so many power players from the art and design worlds (Anne Bass, Diane von Furstenburg, Agnes Gund, Michael Leva, Oscar de la Renta, Carolyne Roehm, Bunny Williams) calling it home. But it also has a bohemian side with hundreds of committed and talented artists (such as Clifton Jaeger of Falls Village, left) who find inspiration living and working in relative obscurity in quaint villages nestled among state parks, working farms, and land preserves.
This weekend, you can explore the diversity of the county’s cultural community at two events that can be combined for a wonderful road trip: The 15th annual Litchfield County Antiques and Mid-Century Show in Kent and the Open Your Eyes Studio Tours in Canaan, Falls Village, Lakeville, Salisbury and Sharon, where 32 artists’ work spaces will be open to the public for free.
You should probably begin your tour on Saturday or Sunday morning at the antiques show ($10 admission) on the riverfront campus of the preppy Kent School, where all 40 dealers have been vetted by the not-for-profit Antiques Council. The school’s hockey rink is transformed into a grand, air-conditioned exhibition hall (right) that show chairman Tom Sebring says is “as elegant as the shows at the Armory in New York City.” The dealers range from Jeff R. Bridgman (who says he’s “the nation’s largest seller of early American Stars & Stripes”) and Robert Llyod (who specializes in 16th - 19th century silver) to mid-century dealers Scott & Bowne. If you want to attend Friday night’s opening benefit for the Greenwoods Counseling Service, a mental health program for underserved populations, you’ll be able to meet the show’s honorary chairs: Lillian Vernon (the catalogue pioneer who has a house in New Milford), Polly Allen Mellen (the legendary fashion editor who lives in South Kent), and Matthew Patrick Smyth (the gentlemanly decorator who lives in Sharon.)
After visiting the antiques show (and perhaps a quick lunch at Smoked), take Route 7 (aka the Ethan Allen Highway) from Kent to Canaan, a 30-minute ride on a state-designated scenic road that follows the Housatonic River. You can pick up a map for the Open Your Eyes Tour at Geer Village in Canaan or download it here. “Most of the people on the tour make a living from making art, and they are excited to talk about what they do,” says Amy Wynn, executive director of the Northwest Connecticut Arts Council. “One of the goals of the tour is to show the role artists play in our towns just like doctors, teachers and firemen.” It’s also an opportunity to snoop around some wonderful houses and gardens such as the deconsecrated Catholic church (above) in Falls Village, where Clifton Jaeger paints murals for clients like Bunny Williams as well as scenery for the Falls Village Children’s Theatre. You can visit sculptor Sergei Fedorjaczenko‘s meticulous barn/workshop nearby, with its views of cornfields along the Housatonic, and talk to the industrial designer about his creative process. “We have such a diverse group of artists and artisans on the tour,” says Wynn. “We have two blacksmiths, a basket-maker, a boat builder as well as ceramists, photographers, and painters.”
While most of the artists on the tour will have small works for sale—though shopping is not the point of the open studios—you won’t be able to buy what Ellen Griesedieck (right) is working on at her large studio in Sharon. The founder of the American Mural Project—a three-dimensional painting so large that a special building is being created for it in Winsted, CT—you can see portions of the mural which is being painted by more than 10,000 people in all 50 states. “There are sections on three walls of my studio, including a three-dimensional portion that was worked on by 350 students in Washington, DC.,” says Griesedeick, who is not sure when the mural will ever be completed. “But when it is finished, it will be the size of the Parthenon.”
Litchfield Antique & Mid-Century Show
June 22 6:30 - 9 p.m. preview party ($125)
June 23 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
June 24 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Open Your Eyes Studio Tour
June 23 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
June 24 10 a.m. - 4 p.m
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