Artists flock to Redding for annual art show

One of the region’s most unique libraries will temporarily be turned into an art gallery in early December.

The Mark Twain Library in Redding hosts its annual art show from Dec. 1-9. It was founded by the iconic writer a century ago in the Fairfield County town where he lived his final years.

Helping to organize the Mark Twain Library’s art show are, from left, standing, Katharine Dusenbury (left), Pamela Reese, Rochelle Williston, Eric Rubury, Michele Ramirez, Beth Dominianni (front) and Emily Eubanks.

The 46th annual show will feature the work of more than 125 artists from southwestern Connecticut and elsewhere.

“We attract a wide variety of artists — emerging and well-established, local and regional,” said Rochelle Williston, event chairman. “People can buy a beautiful piece of original art for $50 to $100, all the way up to $10,000. There’s someone for everyone.”

The juried show begins with a preview reception featuring live music, catered food and champagne bar from 7 to 10 p.m. on Nov. 30, which is Mark Twain’s birthday. Close to 400 people usually attend the opening gala.

Admission to the show in December is free, giving people a chance to view quality artwork as well as check out a library associated with one of America’s most celebrated authors.

Redding artists Pamela Reese and Kathy Anderson work with artists to secure artwork for the show, including paintings, drawings, etchings, graphic pieces and sculpture.

“It’s always a good and successful show,” said Reese, noting artists are eager to participate because so many of their works sell in the show.

Reese and Anderson use their contacts in the art world to recruit artists from Vermont to New York City, letting them know proceeds support an important Connecticut literary and cultural institution.

Williston said the show is an opportunity to expose more people to the Mark Twain Library, which features walls filled with some of Twain’s most famous quotes.

For the show, artwork is placed on panels, walls and surfaces throughout the library. ”We utilize the whole place,” Williston said.

Library Director Beth Dominianni said people “are pleasantly surprised with the library’s transformation into a gallery space. It’s a wonderful treat for our visitors and patrons, so warm and inviting.”

The library remains open and functioning during the art show, and the public is welcome to drop by during normal library hours to view the artwork and learn more about Twain and his local connections.

Emily Eubanks, who heads the show’s decor committee, said many preview reception attendees wear special period outfits, some wearing fashions from the late 1800s when Twain was at the height of his fame.

”The entire community gets excited about the theme and what colors are involved,” Eubanks said. “We want the event to be fun and fresh, and for the artists and guests to feel a lot of effort went into making it a special evening.”

Library board president Eric Rubury said the art show allows the library to promote Redding to people from other towns and enables local artists to show their work. “It’s far more than a fund-raising venture,” he said. “It’s a real community event.”

The juror for this year’s show is Judith Pond Kudlow, who decides what artwork is accepted. She’s a painter and the wife of well-known financial analyst Larry Kudlow, now the director of the National Economic Council. The juror of awards is Zufar Bikbov, a painter.

A wide variety of art is available, including paintings of local landscapes and seascapes, such as farms, reservoirs, churches and Long Island Sound.

The Mark Twain Library Association, the private, nonprofit organization that oversees the library, receives 35% of proceeds from all art show sales. There will also be a silent auction of donated artwork.

Twain spent the last few years of his life in Redding, where he died on April 21, 1910. He bought land in the town in 1906 and two years later moved into an Italianate Villa he had built, called Stormfield. He helped form the Mark Twain Library Association with his neighbors to create a place where people could gather in the rural community.

Books donated by Twain and his friends filled a temporary library location as the author worked to raise money for a permanent location. Some funds were generated when Twain sold part of his Redding property after his youngest daughter’s death.

A new library building opened in 1910 soon after Twain’s death at age 74. The library wasn’t just a collection of books but a community hub, hosting dances, concerts and quilting bees.

The library still contains an estimated 200 books originally donated by Twain. It’s the only library in the world founded by Twain, said to be the most famous writer and humorist of his era.

For more information, visit MarkTwainLibrary.org.

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