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xperience the Connecticut Art Trail, a string of 18 world-class museums looped around the scenic hills and rivers, seaside communities and revitalized downtowns of Connecticut. First, uncover the historic sites that mark revolutionary milestones of New England’s cultural upbringing, then find inspiration within experimental contemporary art. At the next stop, surprise yourself with a carefully curated university collection, and move on to remarkable representations of early American Impressionism. Following the trail introduces a treasure trove of sites, campuses, facilities and centers at the forefront of Connecticut’s art and culture. With so much to see, using an Art Pass makes it easy to find and explore each institution at your leisure. Valid for a full year, the pass allows access to any stop along the way, any time you please. Swing along the shoreline during the summer months and return through River Valley for a classic New England fall foliage tour. Whatever season you choose to explore, with pass in hand, the Connecticut Art Trail is an independent journey. Voted the best museum in Fairfield County for the past five years, the Bruce Museum in Greenwich investigates facets of art and science through changing exhibitions and inventive programming. The science collection, with its displays of rocks and minerals, is considered the best collection of its kind between New York and New Haven. The museum’s first exhibition took place in 1912 and featured works by the Greenwich Society of Artists, whose legacy now accents the collection. The Greenwich Historical Society, headquartered at the BushHolley Historic Site in Cos Cob, tells the story of Greenwich’s culture, community and history. See fine art, artifacts, textiles, and other media practiced by artists who boarded at or visited the Bush-Holley House, the home of Connecticut’s first Impressionist art colony. The Connecticut Art Trail was originally launched in 1995 as the Connecticut “Impressionist” Art Trail, uniting ten institutions with ties to the birth of American Impressionism. At the turn of the 20th century, artists inspired by Connecticut’s quiet, bucolic countryside and rural villages flocked to the state to paint en plein air and form colonies. Boasting one of the foremost collections of Impressionism in America, the Florence Griswold Museum in Old Lyme


Art New England

May/June 2014

Above: The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield. Photo © Peter Aaron/Esto. Opposite top: Dale Chihuly, Blue and Beyond Blue, 2006, blown glass, 107 x 82 x 77". Photo: New Britain Museum of American Art. Opposite bottom: Map of the Connecticut Art Trail, highlighting Art Trail locations across the state. Courtesy of Connecticut Art Trail.

provides a remarkable experience. The famed boardinghouse is an historic centerpiece of the Lyme Art Colony, where some of America’s most beloved artists lived and worked. The collection includes impressionist paintings by Childe Hassam, Theodore Robinson, and William Chadwick, as well as 41 preserved panels painted on Miss. Florence’s dining room walls by thankful resident artists. The Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington is one of the nation’s few remaining representations of early 20th-century country place estates. Pioneering female architect Theodate Pope Riddle designed the home to showcase Impressionist masterpieces amassed by her father, a collection including works by Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt, among other major artists. A centerpiece of the property is the circa 1920 sunken garden, today the center of a summertime poetry festival. Weir Farm National Historic Site in Wilton is one of the nation’s finest remaining landscapes of American art and includes the Weir

House, Weir and Young Studios, barns, gardens, and Weir Pond. It was home to three generations of America artists, including painter Julian Alden Weir, a leading figure in early American Impressionism and member of the Cos Cob Art Colony. Ten minutes from Weir Farm, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield is the only museum in Connecticut exclusively devoted to contemporary art, and one of the few noncollecting contemporary art museums in the U.S. Now in its 50th year, the Aldrich is dedicated to showing the work of emerging and mid-career artists. The New Britain Museum of American Art is acknowledged as the first museum in the world dedicated solely to collecting American art. The award-winning Chase Family Building houses 15 spacious galleries showcasing the permanent collection that features Thomas Hart Benton’s outstanding 18-foot mural The Arts of Life in America. A more recent acquisition is Dale Chihuly’s Blue and Beyond Blue chandelier.




CONNECTICUT ART TRAIL In the heart of downtown Waterbury’s architectural district, the Mattatuck Museum collects, preserves, studies and exhibits American art and history with a focus on the roughly ten town region surrounding present-day Waterbury. The Button Gallery is a highlight of the museum’s holdings, paying homage to the region’s history in button manufacturing and featuring 3,000 decorative buttons from all over the world. The Center for Contemporary Printmaking in Norwalk is wholly committed to the art of print, from intaglio and silkscreen to woodblock printing and book arts. The Grace Ross Shanley Gallery features exciting exhibitions throughout the year, including an Annual Members’ Exhibition and important printmaking shows. Just north of Norwalk, the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan is the Connecticut Art Trail’s newest point on the map. Dedicated to cultivating the arts, the five-acre campus has contemporary art galleries, a school of art, and a sprawling sculpture walk. Sculpture has been an integral part of the center’s history since sculptor Solon Borgum founded the site in 1908, and one of his unfinished works starts the walk. In the capital city of Hartford, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art is the first public art institution in the United States, and is recognized for many subsequent distinctions. Its sheer quality and range of fine and decorative arts place it among the dozen greatest art museums in the country. Holdings encompass American,

European and contemporary art, as well as an impressive display of Colt firearms. Connecticut is home to many esteemed colleges and universities, thus no shortage of exhibitions and educational programs designed to enhance the understanding of art. The Housatonic Museum of Art at Bridgeport Community College has one of the most significant collections of any two-year college in the country. It boasts more than 4,000 objects, including works by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Ansel Adams. At Fairfield University, the Bellarmine Museum of Art is home to an encyclopedic collection ranging from medieval jewelry to Tang pottery to Renaissance paintings. Also on Fairfield’s campus, The Walsh Art Gallery mounts temporary exhibitions annually, each complemented by carefully designed programming, from lectures to contemporary dance. For more than 100 years, the Slater Memorial Museum at the Norwich Free Academy Campus represented a broad range of work from the Americas, Asia, Europe and Africa. The collection contains fine art and decorative paintings and sculpture that reveals Connecticut’s history as the home of a skilled and wide-ranging community of artists. The William Benton Museum of Art at the University of Connecticut in Storrs is on an academic mission to provide diversity and different perspectives, guiding students and the community toward their place as global citizens. More than 6,000 paintings, prints, watercolors,

photographs and sculptures encourage a broad cultural awareness of today’s world. The Art Gallery at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford offers a distinguished collection of fine art, with particular strength in American paintings. Six exhibition galleries, changing installations, a print study room and public programs provide access to St. Joseph’s rich art/cultural life. In a city adorned with world-class museums, theaters and galleries, Yale University is the crowning cultural gem of the New Haven community. The Yale University Art Gallery’s permanent collection was founded in 1832 when patriot-artist John Trumbull donated more than 100 of his paintings, including the Declaration of Independence. The collection as well as the new architectural expansion are, of course, tremendously important and well visited. The Société Anonyme is but one legendary collection among its extraordinary holdings. The Yale Center for British Art, located across Chapel Street, houses the largest and most comprehensive collection of British art outside the UK. Paintings, sculpture, prints, drawings, rare books and manuscripts chart the development of British art and life from the Elizabethan period onward. Note: An Art Trail Pass, priced at $25, is available at each of the participating museums, or via, where a printable brochure is accessible. —Samantha DiMauro

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