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Spanning the Centuries: Bridgeport's Art Museum Celebrates Ancient and Modern Art

By Kelly Church

The Housatonic Museum of Art is a haven for history and art buffs alike. The Bridgeport, CT museum is a 300,000 square foot facility at Housatonic Community College that houses works of art that spans the centuries. Housatonic Museum of Art Director Robbin Zella says that the wide variety of art available for viewing is impressive and everyone should find something of interest.

"We have over 5,000 objects in the collection ranging from Greek vases to Moche vessels, to Egyptian carvings and Persian paintings, Japanese prints to Hindu Chola bronzes," Zella says. "We have Western Art, and contemporary art and large number prints by Latin American artists. We also have a large collection of African art and growing collection of Native American art!"

The Housatonic Museum of Art permanent collection is always on display throughout the Housatonic Community College campus. Portraits, landscapes, still-life paintings, folk art and sculptures can be seen around the property, many from world-renowned artists including Renoir, Matisse, Picasso and Rodin. The museum considers itself to have a "growing photography collection" that already includes Ansel Adams, Herb Ritts, Carlotta Corpron and Mark Seliger.

The museum also has rotating exhibits. Every six weeks, the exhibit in the Burt Chernow Galleries changes to feature something new and exciting from national, regional and local artists. The galleries also host annual art shows for the college, displaying faculty and student work.

Even with many notable artists on display at the museum, the facility celebrates smaller-named artists. According to Zella, artists such as Alex Katz, Mimmo Palladino and Michelangelo Pistoletto were seemingly unknown artists whose work was selected to be displayed at the museum and have had successful careers in art since then.

The museum places a large focus on fostering education, something that is apparent in the close relationship with the community college in addition to lectures, workshops and classes at the museum. The Werth Family Foundation Student Docent Program allows the museum to partner with schools in the area and pairs an art educator with a group of students to teach them about art and "encourage their peers to think about art as they view the collection." There is also an educational program that encourages writing about art, teaching creative writing and critical thinking skills in students.

To help support community art education, the museum brings the POEMobile to town every year for a "one-day event that features 10 poets performing their works before a live audience." For the last three years, the POEMobile has allowed Bridgeport Arts Fest participants to celebrate poetry in a live, engaging setting.

Through their many educational offerings and large exhibitions with a variety of art, the Housatonic Museum of Art staff is actively working towards their mission to enhance the culture of live in Bridgeport and all of southern New England through the "display, collection, interpretation and preservation of original works of art."

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