Learning galleries honor Burt Chernow’s vision for art in schools

Long known as a town treasure, the Westport Public Art Collections consist of over 2,000 works of art on display in schools and municipal buildings throughout Westport. Many are in hallways and offices, providing stimulating working and learning environments for students, staff and town officials.

Over the past few years, the WestPAC committee has installed learning galleries in each of the eight Westport public schools. Learning Galleries are dedicated spaces in each school for the display of focused thematic installations of WestPAC artworks to enhance education with original works of art. These installations are also enjoyed by the broader school community of students and staff, as well as parents, who attend performances and/or volunteer.


The learning galleries are an extension of Burt Chernow’s original vision for the collection in the schools.

Writing in the journal Art Education in 1966, Burt Chernow states: “Viewing high quality original works unhurriedly in the everyday setting of school life, seeing the actual size, true color, and texture of the work afford children the best possible opportunity to heighten their awareness and empathy for the visual arts.”

Most learning gallery installations consist of six to ten works of art with a common theme or genre. In curating the groups, the WestPAC education committee works with teachers to select works that can complement or support their teaching. For example, the Bedford Middle School art team teaches a printmaking unit in the spring, and the grouping “Persuasive Prints” in the photo, was installed for students to see examples of different kinds of print techniques, styles, and subject matter while they’re working on their own projects.

Other groupings — most of which are currently on display in schools — include “Landscapes,” “Still Life,” “Expressive Faces,” “Abstraction,” “Color and Collage,” “Pop Art” and “Matisse and Inspiration.”

WPS elementary art teacher Cameryn Robinson says, “This year, I taught first grade about Matisse, Fauvism, and his cut-out collages. I brought my classes to the gallery space and we observed and discussed his works. The students have so much to say and ask many insightful questions. As we made our collages, students drew inspiration from the display and at times would ask to pop out for a moment to take another look while we were creating.”

Beyond supporting the curriculum, the Learning Galleries bring pieces from the collection together in a focused way, sparking conversations and connections.

The Learning Galleries initiative has been generously funded since its inception by grants from the Drew Friedman Community Arts Center. To avoid hammering into walls and to ensure works hang securely, WestPAC installed a hanging rail system in each space.

WestPAC is expanding the idea of gallery walls for small thematic exhibitions beyond the schools. The Westport Town Hall lobby currently features an installation of prints by renowned sculptor Richard Hunt, and the Westport Center for Senior Activities will soon have a gallery wall as well. WestPAC’s recent exhibition at MoCA Westport included two of the Learning Gallery installations, making them accessible to the general public.

Many thanks to Ive Covaci of WestPAC for this month’s column.

Miggs Burroughs is a lifelong Westport resident and full-time graphic artist since 1972. He is co-founder of The Artists Collective of Westport and a member of the Westport Arts Advisory Committee, among other accomplishments.

Ann Chernow has been a Westport resident since 1968. Her artwork has been exhibited locally and worldwide. Chernow is an honorary member of the Artists Collective of Westport, member of the Westport Museum Committee and other arts organizations.

Anita Shire

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