An American Odyssey: The Jewish Experience in Greenwich
Curated by Dr. Ann Meyerson
November 15, 2017 through April 15, 2018
This exhibition explores the history of the Jews of Greenwich within the broader context of the history of the town and the nation.
Beginning with the question of why Jews chose to settle in Greenwich and how they gained an economic foothold, the exhibition will explore the experience of Jewish families living and working in Greenwich for more than a century. It will examine how they, like other immigrants, struggled with the pull to integrate into American society and yet also remain distinct. And it will look at how they, as well as other minorities in Greenwich, have contributed to the larger community despite experiencing periods of discrimination and restrictions on worship, employment and housing opportunities.
Although the lion’s share of the growth of Greenwich’s Jewish community began in the 1960s (today about 11 percent of the population is Jewish), the tale really begins with the mass exodus of Jews from Eastern Europe to America between 1880 and 1920. The stories of those who sought to build new lives here–emblematic of larger historical themes–will be told through photographs, artifacts, archival documents, ephemera and first-person accounts. The exhibition will also explore the little-known fact that there were Jewish property owners in Greenwich as far back as Colonial times.
An American Odyssey: The Jewish Experience in Greenwich is curated by Dr. Ann Meyerson, a nationally recognized independent museum curator who most recently co-curated The First Jewish Americans: Freedom and Culture in the New World (October 28, 2016 to March 12, 2017) at the New-York Historical Society.
Watch a video of guest curator, Dr. Ann Meyerson discussing the exhibition.
Click here for the Exhibition Catalog.
Select Articles in the Press About this Exhibition
Exhibit pays tribute to Greenwich’s pioneering Jewish business community (Westfair Publications)
‘A treasure trove’ of Jewish history in town (Greenwich Time)
Jim and Jane Henson: Creative Work, Creative Play
April 5 – October 8, 2017
The Greenwich Historical Society will answer the question, “Who are the people in your neighborhood?” with a resounding: “The Hensons!” With the opening of Jim and Jane Henson: Creative Work, Creative Play at the Storehouse Gallery, the Historical Society sets out to explore the Hensons’ Greenwich years, during which the pair’s boundless creative energy set the backdrop for both work and family life as they laid the foundations for what would result in a global entertainment phenomenon.
Jim (1936–1990) and Jane (1934–2013) Henson, best known as creators of The Muppets, made Greenwich, CT, their home from 1964 until 1971. The family grew to include five children, six cats, a couple of dogs, various other animals (real) and more than a few monsters (imaginary). Life at their historic home on Round Hill Road was infused with imagination and artistic expression, reflecting the Hensons’ playful and inventive approach to parenting and their work as artists and performers.
Believing that art should be central to education, Jim and Jane were enthusiastic local participants in the founding of The Mead School in 1969, where art became a core part of the curriculum. More broadly, their intense interest in television’s educational possibilities led to their involvement in the iconic Sesame Street series, which premiered the same year. Drawing on their Muppet work and observations of their children at home, they made essential contributions to the show reflecting a deep understanding of the power of the medium as a tool for early childhood education.
The Hensons’ imagination and creativity, which they instilled in their five children, continue to inspire and educate new generations around the world. Through paintings, objects, puppets, photographs and film, Jim and Jane Henson: Creative Work, Creative Play celebrates the delightful overlap of the Hensons’ family life with their contributions as artists, performers, and parents. Pieces on display will include a 1963 Kermit the Frog puppet; a 1971 Robin puppet that appeared in The Frog Prince; original drawings, which became the basis for classic, Sesame Street-style, rapid-fire counting; a dollhouse built by Jim based on the design of their Round Hill Road home and numerous behind-the-scenes photos. Also on display will be vintage clips from Sesame Street and from early video experiments and collaborations, along with Jane’s paintings and sculptures and materials and projects documenting her involvement at The Mead School.
The show is curated by Karen Falk, Archives Director of The Jim Henson Company, and Karen Frederick, Curator of Collections at the Greenwich Historical Society, with contributing curator Cheryl Henson and the support of the Henson Family, The Mead School, The Jim Henson Company, The Jim Henson Legacy, Sesame Workshop and The Muppets Studio/Disney.
The exhibition and related public programs are funded in part by Connecticut Humanities and The Jane Henson Foundation.
In Their Footsteps – Deborah Pierce Bonnell Paints Weir Farm
February 1 – 28, 2017
Public Opening Reception, Wednesday, February 1, 6:00–8:00 pm
In a month-long exhibition at the Storehouse Gallery Museum Shop, In Their Footsteps – Deborah Pierce Bonnell Paints Weir Farm will feature works painted by Deborah Pierce Bonnell as a 2016 artist-in-residence at Weir Farm. All will be available for purchase.
Bonnell first became interested in American Impressionism as a docent at Bush-Holley Historic Site, where she studied and lectured on Cos Cob art colony history. Artist J. Alden Weir painted in Cos Cob and later settled with his family at Weir Farm, in Branchville (Wilton) CT, his home for thirty plus years. Now a National Historic Site, Weir Farm was a setting, like Cos Cob, that American Impressionists loved and painted frequently. Weir’s circle of friends, noted American artists John Twachtman, Childe Hassam, John Singer Sargent and Albert Pinkham Ryder, often visited and drew inspiration from the farm’s bucolic vistas, many of which remain intact today.
Bonnel, as artist-in-residence in September, 2016, was able to spend three weeks traversing the very same paths, meadows and woods that these prominent artists walked a century ago. Using oil on canvas, encaustic on panel, watercolor on paper and even iPad digital paintings, she captured her own impressions. Says Bonnell, “As a landscape painter, I was able to immerse myself, not only in the beauty of the place, but in being removed from our hectic, modern sense of time and to imagine what it must have been like there at the turn of the twentieth century. I have come full circle. By working on the same ground as these artists whom I have come to love, I have connected on even more levels.”
Deborah Pierce Bonnell holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design, has studied at the R&F Pigments Encaustic Workshop in Kingston, NY and has done various residencies at Vermont Studio Center in Johnson, VT. She is a former resident of Greenwich and currently resides in Norwalk. Her work has been exhibited at shows and galleries in Connecticut, New York and Texas since 1985.
The public is invited to attend an opening reception on Wednesday, February 1, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm, at the Greenwich Historical Society, Storehouse Gallery, 39 Strickland Road, Cos Cob, CT.
An Eye to the East: The Inspiration of Japan
October 12, 2016 through February 26, 2017
In 1854 Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry established a treaty that opened trade between the United States and Japan, a nation closed to the rest of the world until then. Perry could never have imagined the far-reaching effect that document would have. Within a year, French artist Félix Bracquemond “discovered” the woodblock prints of Hokusai and circulated them among his Paris art circle. Their influence was immediate, and visiting Cos Cob artists John Henry Twachtman, J. Alden Weir and Childe Hassam all took note. The introduction of Japanese art and culture made a splash at International Exhibitions in London (1862), Paris (1867) and Vienna (1873), and resulted in Europe’s captivation with all things Japanese.
The American Civil War delayed the introduction of Japanese art and culture in this country, but upon its introduction at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, the “exotic” Japanese aesthetic was enthusiastically embraced.
Through paintings, prints, photographs, carvings, ceramics and textiles, An Eye to the East looks at the influence of Japanese art and culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with a special emphasis on the Cos Cob art colony. The contribution of Genjiro Yeto, who studied under John Henry Twachtman at the Art Students League in New York and spent part of each year from 1895 to 1901 at the Holley House, is explored in a separate gallery and features a recent donation of his work to the Greenwich Historical Society by his granddaughter.
View the Japanese translation about this exhibit.
Learn more about Japanism.
Close to the Wind: Our Maritime History
March 30 – September 4, 2016
With 36 miles of coastline, the sea has always played a significant role in the history of Greenwich. Since the town’s founding in 1640, boats plying Long Island Sound were a regular and reliable means of commercial trade and passenger transport. Yet by June 1896, the last market sloop sailed from the Lower Landing in Cos Cob to New York, signaling the end of an era.
With the rise of pleasure yachting, new maritime pursuits appeared on the horizon. Yachting soon became both a sport and a leisure activity associated with the grand lifestyle of the wealthy tycoons who built the great estates. Over time, as boating became more affordable, Greenwich once again witnessed a proliferation of boats of every size and description that resulted in the establishment of many organizations dedicated to boating.
Through paintings, photographs, maps, charts and instruments this exhibition will explore the rich history of maritime Greenwich and share the myriad stories that link us to our coastal roots.
Greenwich Choices: 50 Objects That Illustrate Our History
September 30, 2015 – February 28, 2016
Every town has a story to tell, and Greenwich’s is 375 fascinating years old. Greenwich Choices: 50 Objects That Illustrate Our History explores defining moments in the town’s growth and development through objects drawn from the collections of the Greenwich Historical Society. A shirt worn by Obadiah Mead, shot by a loyalist “cowboy,” connects visitors with the American Revolution. A bill of sale for a three-year-old slave boy containing an emancipation clause speaks to changing attitudes toward slavery. Records from local manufacturing plants tell a tale of early entrepreneurs and opportunities for immigrant workers. A congresswoman’s scrapbooks on the construction of the Merritt Parkway reflect changes that altered both the landscape and the movements of town residents.
All 50 objects reflect transformational moments in Greenwich’s religious, social, economic, industrial, political or artistic lives and symbolize choices made by generations of residents that shaped today’s community. Curated by Karen Frederick and Anna Greco, the exhibition also features responses to the objects by local high school students.
Co-curated by Karen Frederick, Christopher Shields and Anna Greco
April 22 – August 30, 2015
In celebration of the town’s 375th anniversary, Greenwich Voices was designed as an audio time capsule of life in Greenwich in 2015. Over the course of four months, guest curators Karina Aguilera Skvirsky and Liselot van der Heijden ranged throughout town to record the voices of residents who, in response to questions about life in Greenwich, discussed what the town represents to them and what it’s like to live here. Through their varied observations, these myriad anonymous voices captured a rich portrait of the community that was unexpected, personal and resonates with larger social issues. Visitors to the exhibition were able to pick up a receiver and listen to the recordings that created a multi-layered portrait of Greenwich and its denizens.
Quotes taken from past publications along with images drawn from the Greenwich Historical Society’s collections complemented contemporary voices throughout the exhibition space. A recording space was also available to the public for those who wished to respond to some of the questions.
All recordings (including those not used in the exhibition) were saved in the Greenwich Historical Society Library and Archives, and the project will serve as a unique gift to future residents when the town celebrates its 400th birthday in 2040!
Guest Curators Liselot van der Heijden and Karina Aguilera Skvirsky
Curated by Karen Frederick
This exhibition was generously supported by a gift from Russ and Debbie Reynolds.
Greenwich Faces the Great War
October 1, 2014 to March 22, 2015
World War I marked the beginning of modern nation states, modern warfare technology and the emergence of the United States as an international power. Commemorating the centennial of the 1914 onset of that shattering event in Europe, the Greenwich Historical Society will launch a multi-faceted project beginning with an exhibition mounted in the Storehouse. Compelling images, artifacts and documents will illustrate the diverse experiences of military personnel, volunteers, and civilians alike. For the first time in the Storehouse Gallery, touch-screen technology will be used to enhance the visitor experience through supplementary shared audio and visual resources including personal remembrances, photographs, newspaper reports, wartime letters, popular songs and more.
The project will also include a special tour and temporary installation in Bush-Holley House demonstrating how Greenwich inhabitants supported the war effort at home, along with a World War I-period, patriotic home vegetable garden (on view during the 2014 growing season). Online resources for educators and students and a menu of public events featuring lectures, workshops, and performances will round out the program.
From the discourse preceding the war to the actions and influence of its citizens once engaged, Greenwich provides rich material and multiple perspectives on a conflict that to this day influences international politics and continues to shape history.
Learn more about Greenwich and The Great War In this series of essays featured in conjunction with the exhibition
- Sam Pryor Faces The Great War, by Volunteer Researcher Karin Crooks
- Greenwich Women Face The Great War, by Kathleen Eagen Johnson
- Col. J. Alden Twachtman: Artist as Soldier, by Volunteer Researcher Karin Crooks
- Artists Respond to World War I, by Karen Frederick
- A Forgotten Soldier in a Forgotten War, by Karen Frederick
This project was supported by planning and implementation grants from
and gifts to the Greenwich Historical Society’s annual fund, the Greenwich Historic Trust, including special underwriting by Regina and Mario Gabelli, Jessica and Drew Guff, Davidde and Ron Strackbein and Reba and Dave Williams. Additional financial support was provided by members’ gifts to the World War I Exhibition Patrons Council and by the Yale Alumni Association of Greenwich.
The Holley-MacRae War Garden
During World War I the strategic importance of food was reinforced over and over again. Both enemy and Allied forces sought to control the other’s food supply, and the entrance of the United States into the war in 1917 required securing even greater amounts of food for U.S. troops and Allied forces alike. President Woodrow Wilson established the United States Food Administration in 1917 and appointed Herbert Hoover to head the new agency. A national campaign–the first of its kind–was launched to promote home gardening, canning and food rationing. Emphasis was placed on growing crops that could be canned and stored, such as tomatoes. Crops not consumed at the local level would be preserved and shipped to Europe for both military consumption and humanitarian aid.
The residents of Greenwich took “doing their bit” for the war seriously. They established “war gardens” in backyards, on estates and even in public spaces and set up a Canning Kitchen where produce was processed for personal use, as well as for civilians in need and for troops. In 1917, canning centers were started in various sections of town to teach people how to put up their own produce. In fact, Holley Boarding House proprietress Constant MacRae, having gardened and canned what she grew for many years, taught canning classes at the Cos Cob School on “Thursdays at 2:00 p.m.”
This WWI war garden has been re-created using the 1918 diary of resident and Cos Cob art colony artist Elmer MacRae, preserved in the Historical Society’s William E. Finch, Jr. Library & Archives. The garden represents the kinds of crops the MacRaes would have grown during the war years from 1914–1919 to feed themselves and the patrons of their boarding house.