History Lecture Series
The History Lecture Series is an annual collaboration between the Wilton Library and the Wilton Historical Society. Each year a theme is developed, and respected scholars are engaged to provide a lively, thought-provoking talk on their specialty subject. The lecture is followed by a question and answer period and reception. Generous sponsors make it all possible; each lecture is individually sponsored.
The 2021 History Lecture Series
‘Connecticut Creativity: Vision + Imagination + Inspiration’
In the fourteenth year of the collaboration between Wilton Library and the Wilton Historical Society, the scholarly lecture series will focus on the theme, “Connecticut Creativity: Vision + Imagination + Inspiration.” From influencing American music to American art, from creating imaginary children’s characters to inventing imaginative showmanship, this year’s series celebrates the arts – music, illustration, storytelling, performance art, and even the circus – homegrown in Connecticut. In light of the ongoing health concerns, the five-part series will be held virtually on Thursday evenings, beginning on Feb. 11, from 5 to 6:30 p.m., with every session requiring a separate registration.
Elaine Tai-Lauria, executive director of Wilton Library, said of the series, “Given the events of the past year, we are pleased to share an uplifting celebration of Connecticut’s ingenuity and creativity.”
Kim Mellin, co-director of the Wilton Historical Society agreed, “It’s a good time to shine a light on some of the great things in Connecticut’s past that have contributed to our arts and entertainment.”
Registration is required separately for each of the lectures. Zoom links will be sent to registrants in advance of the programs. There is no charge however a $10 suggested donation can be made to the hosting institution right from the individual registration pages.
The five lectures are as follows:
Thursday, February 11, 5 to 6:30 p.m.
Charles Ives and the American Music Identity – Dr. Gil Harel, Naugatuck Valley Community College
During this program, Dr. Gil Harel (PhD, Brandeis University) will discuss Danbury-born composer Charles Ives as a founder of a distinct American music idiom. Charles Ives may very well be considered one of the most important American composers of the modern period. His considerable wealth is cited as a factor in allowing the composer to write abstract and complex works without having to worry about ticket sales. Today, he is regarded as a seminal American composer whose pioneering work with polytonality, polyrhythm, tone clusters, aleatory elements and more has cemented his place in the canon.
Gil Harel is a musicologist and music theorist whose interests include styles ranging from the western classical repertoire to jazz. He is a popular guest lecturer in this scholarly series. At Naugatuck Valley Community College, Harel conducts the college chorale, a cappella ensemble, teaches music history and theory, and serves as musical director of theater productions.
The moderator is Max Gabrielson. The program is sponsored by Nancy and Bill Brautigam. This program is being hosted by Wilton Library. A $10 donation to the hosting institution is suggested.
Thursday, February 25, 5 to 6:30 p.m.
The Story of Famous Artists School and its Connecticut Roots – Stephanie Haboush Plunkett and Magdalen Livesey
In this presentation, Stephanie Haboush Plunkett and Magdalen Livesey will look at the lasting influence of the Famous Artists School and the artists who contributed to it on the world of illustration from the twentieth century until today. Famous Artists School – “the art school for everyone, everywhere” – began in 1948 in Westport, then home to a number of well-known artists and illustrators. Al Dorne, a prolific illustrator, had the idea to create an art instruction program for distance learning based on the techniques and experience of other successful artists. Eleven artists, including Norman Rockwell and Stevan Dohanos, contributed material for the comprehensive courses.
Stephanie Haboush Plunkett is the Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum. She leads the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, the first scholarly institute devoted to the study of illustration art. Magdalen Livesey is a writer and freelance editor, and the co-author, with Stephanie Plunkett, of Drawing Lessons from the Famous Artists School. She and her husband, Robert Livesey, owned Famous Artists School from 1982 to 2016.
The moderator is Steve Hudspeth. The program is sponsored by Dr. Mark and Linda Rubinstein. This program is being hosted by Wilton Library. A $10 donation to the hosting institution is suggested.
Thursday, March 11, 5 to 6:30 p.m.
The World of Maurice Sendak: A Virtual Tour of the Maurice Sendak House and Studio – Lynn Caponera and Dr. Jonathan Weinberg
In this presentation, Lynn Caponera and Dr. Jonathan Weinberg will discuss the world of the famous illustrator, author, and Ridgefield resident, Maurice Sendak. Many individuals have fond memories of the numerous works and illustrations of Maurice Sendak, but few know of his enduring artistic legacy and creative process. Lynn Caponera and Dr. Jonathan Weinberg will invite and guide us into the Sendak world, discuss the Sendak creative process, and his Ridgefield, CT home and studio where he lived and worked for forty years. The recipient of numerous coveted awards, Maurice Sendak remains the most honored and beloved children’s book author in history.
Lynn Caponera, Executive Director and President of the Board of The Maurice Sendak Foundation, had a 40-year history with the celebrated artist Maurice Sendak. Jonathan Weinberg, Ph.D., Curator of The Maurice Sendak Foundation, is an artist and art historian.
The moderator is Max Gabrielson. The program is sponsored by Allison and Rob Sanders. This program is being hosted by Wilton Historical Society. A $10 donation to the hosting institution is suggested.
Thursday, March 25, 5 to 6:30 p.m.
The Greatest Showman – Fiction vs Fact! The REAL Story Behind the REEL Story! – Kathleen Maher
In this lecture, Kathleen Maher will captivate guests with an engaging journey through key elements in the P.T. Barnum movie The Greatest Showman and will share numerous bits and pieces of history that will “set the record straight.” From the depiction of Barnum’s childhood in Connecticut to his final bow with the Greatest Show on Earth, Maher will expand on the tales set in the screenplay and reveal the truth to the remarkable stories of struggle and triumph that are even more fantastic.
A gifted speaker and noted authority on all things related to Phineas Taylor Barnum, Kathy has 33 years of experience working at museums and is celebrating 22 years at the historic Barnum Museum where she is Executive Director. She holds gubernatorial appointments to the Connecticut State Historic Preservation Council, the State Library, and the Museum of Connecticut History.
The moderator is Steve Hudspeth. The program is sponsored by Rebecca Lin. This program is being hosted by Wilton Historical Society. A $10 donation to the hosting institution is suggested.
Thursday, April 8, 5 to 6:30 p.m.
Gillette and Holmes: Theatrical Innovation from Connecticut to London and Back Again – Emily Gifford
In this final lecture of the series, Emily Gifford will explore William Gillette, a colorful Connecticuter whose contributions to global popular culture have persisted for over a century. Gillette, from a prominent family in Hartford’s Nook Farm, enjoyed early success in the theater as an actor, playwright and director. He also made advances in sound effects and pioneered the use of new lighting technologies to enhance storytelling, such as the dramatic use of lighting blackouts. It was “his” Sherlock Holmes, however, which brought him the most recognition, as well as financial rewards. Gillette used some of his income to create a wonderfully eccentric castle overlooking the Connecticut River, a residence as ingenious as any Holmes could have imagined.
Emily Gifford is an independent historian, educated in Connecticut at Trinity College (BA), Yale Divinity School (MA), and Central Connecticut State University (MA).
The moderator is Steve Hudspeth. The program is sponsored by Phil Lauria and Elaine Tai-Lauria. This program is being hosted by Wilton Historical Society. A $10 donation to the hosting institution is suggested.
Past History Lecture Series:
How the History Lecture Series Began
In 2008 Louise Herot, then President of the Wilton Library, Owen Williams and Dr. Greg Chann, Co-Presidents of the Wilton Historical Society – met up at the Kiwanis Roast Beef Dinner. There they hatched a plan to draw on the synergistic relationship and collaborative spirit that exists between the Society and the Library.
They characterized this project as one which:
Stimulates the minds of our fellow citizens,
Reminds us that history needs to be studied so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past,
Educates in a way that makes history come alive,
And one that brings new energy and facets to our organizations.
And thus began the History Lecture Series.