CT Post, Friday, February 5, 2011
By Phyllis A.S. Boros
Few places are more welcoming during the bleak gray days of winter than
art museums, where the light is always gentle, the temperature always
mild and the humidity just right.
And not only can a trip to a temple of culture soothe the soul and stimulate
the brain cells, it can often be done at no cost.
Fortunately for area residents, a few of the state’s most extraordinary
art collections are nearby and open to the public free of charge.
And free lectures, tours, films and programs for children and families are
frequently offered as well. So, no matter our budget, it’s nice to know
that we can spend an entire day “on the town” without bringing along
a wheelbarrow full of cash.
Here are some of our favorite free museums and their free offerings: Housatonic
Community College, at 900 Lafayette Blvd., in downtown Bridgeport, has one of
the largest permanent art collections of any two-year institution in the
nation. The Housatonic Museum of Art, founded in the late 1960s
by art professor Burt Chernow, has a permanent collection that’s now valued
at about $15 million, assembled through gifts and bequests. Among the featured
artists are such giants as Marc Chagall, Alberto Giacometti, Reginald Marsh,
Auguste Rodin and Pierre Auguste Renoir. The collection is on view throughout
the campus. Although visitors are always welcome, the best way to experience
this collection is on guided tours, which are offered occasionally. Now
scheduled are noon tours on March 9, March 16 and April 6.
In the museum’s Burt Chernow Galleries from Feb. 24 through March 25 will
be “ ‘It’s For You’: Conceptual Art and the Telephone,” focusing
on the use of phones in modern society. This temporary original exhibition, the
brainchild of Curator Terri C. Smith, will close on March 25 with a tour, talk
and reception (also free) beginning at 5:30 p.m. Visit www.hcc.commnet.edu <http://www.hcc.commnet.edu> or
call museum director Robbin Zella at 203-332-5052 for more information.
Among the greatest arts-related treasures in the state are the Yale Center
for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery, both on Chapel Street,
in downtown New Haven. One can easily spend days at each museum — wandering
through quiet, beautifully designed galleries — and marveling at their
art and architecture.
Both museums were designed by renowned American architect Louis I. Kahn: The
recently restored Yale Gallery was Kahn’s first major commission
(1953), while the Center was his final work, completed after his death in 1974.
At the Yale University Art Gallery, America’s oldest
university art museum, visitors will likely find one or more collections to their
liking. Founded in 1832, when patriot-artist John Trumbull donated more than
100 of his paintings to Yale College, the museum now boasts more than 185,000
objects from around the world, ranging from antiquity to present day.
Among its most celebrated collections are American paintings and decorative arts,
Greek and Roman art, early Italian paintings, Asian and African art and
masterpieces from the French Impressionists.
At Yale Gallery, 1111 Chapel St., tours that focus on the permanent collection
take place on Wednesdays at 12:20 p.m., while the “masterpieces” get
a closer look on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m.
“Angles on Art” hour-long tours, led by undergraduates, are
given on Thursdays at 5 p.m. and Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m.
during the academic year.
And for those fascinated by American decorative arts and furniture, specialized
tours are offered Fridays at noon. Among the more than 1,000 works, dating
from the 17th century to modern times, are chests, tables, chairs, desks,
clocks and cupboards. No advanced registration is required, but space
is limited. (Visitors can sign up at the information desk.) Especially for
families is a “Stories and Art” program, offered the second
Sunday of each month at 1 p.m. Yale students and gallery staff explain how folktales
and myths from around the world relate to various works of art in the collection.
The museum says that all ages are welcome, and drawing materials will
be provided for children.
Call 203-432-0600 or visit artgallery.yale.edu <http://artgallery.yale.edu> .
At the Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel St., visitors
are treated to the largest and most comprehensive collection of British art outside
the United Kingdom, much of it collected and subsequently donated to Yale
by philanthropist Paul Mellon (class of 1929). The museum also frequently
mounts and hosts special exhibitions. “Into the Light of Things: Rebecca
Salter, Works 1981-2010” focuses on this British abstract artist through
May 1. From Feb. 24 through June 5, another special exhibition — produced
by the Center and London’s National Portrait Gallery — will
spotlight the work of Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), one of the most popular
portraitists of his day.
At this museum, a wealth of tours, lectures and films are regularly offered — the
YCBA’s January- April quarterly brochure lists them all, available
at the museum’s information desk or by visiting yale.edu/ycba <http://yale.edu/ycba> .
Of special note: Tours that focus on the center’s architecture will be
offered at 11 a.m. on Feb. 19, March 19 and April 16. Call 203-432-2800.
Officials at both museums suggest that visitors call ahead to confirm
times and dates for all events.
Fairfield University’s Bellarmine Museum of Art, near
the 200 Barlow Road entrance to Fairfield University, is a tiny gem in the former
basement of a 1920s mansion. This museum, which opened last October, features
works that reference antiquity through the Renaissance and beyond. Highlights
include 10 paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collection, featuring
minor masters of the Italian Renaissance and Baroque periods,
donated to the university in 2003 from Bridgeport’s Discovery
It’s open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on the second
Saturday of the month, from noon to 5 p.m., when special activities are offered
for children and their families.
At the small but delightful Bruce Museum in Greenwich,
at One Museum Drive, near exit 3 off
Interstate 95, admission is free every Tuesday during regular museum hours,
10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Now on view is an exhibition of works by contemporary photographer
Cindy Sherman (through April 23).
Upcoming winter shows include “Human Connections,” with about
40 works from the museum’s own collection that focus on the human form,
12 to June 5; and a photography show by Jeff Jones that celebrates the 50th
anniversary of the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge,
March 5 to May 29. Call the Bruce Museum at 203-869-0376 or check out www.brucemuseum.