Helen Klisser During, the Westport Art Center's director of visual arts, arrived at Friday's arts discussion series with hot, home-made scones in hand.
The group of about 15 had been awaiting During, who has created a vivacious following of her weekly Art Café session that begins with a look at the New York Times Arts section and goes in a variety of directions.
The weekly talks invite the community to gather with coffee and scones for a discussion of the latest events in the art world.
Today's discussion included tonight's opening of the Westport Art Center Exhibit, titled "Summer," as well as current exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Jewish Museum and Neue Gallery.
Also, during sessi0n, poetry was read and separate magazine covers featuring Lady GaGa (Vanity Fair) and an 18-year-old Afghan woman whose nose and ears were cut off by the Taliban (Time) were addressed.
The artists who During focused on this week were David Goldblatt and Otto Dix. The group's conversation addressed art and artists, as well as went into other arenas, including the merits of black-and-white photographer versus color, the prospect of meeting at the Westpot Community Gardens and whether some residents of Westport appreciate what their community has to offer.
"Helen starts off with a New York Times art review and then the group goes off into tangents," explains Catherine Sippin, visual arts coordinator at Westport Arts Center. When the session ends, Sippin composes an e-mail blast that includes the topics covered and the links to the museums and gallery shows that were discussed.
"We also post this on our Facebook page," said Sippin. "People can use the information as a guide on things to do and see."
As preparation for the weekly meetings, During spends a portion of her Thursdays in New York City to view art shows and exhibits. "Yesterday I went to the Museum of Modern Art, the Jewish Museum, the Met, Paula Cooper Gallery and Marion Goodman Gallery," she said.
"One must go to New York City and think like a tourist," says During. "You need to behave as though you need to see things right away. Too often, you think you will get to a show but then it ends before you actually do it.
"These weekly trips help me to keep me on my toes," she adds.
Often during the Art Café talks, During makes use of exhibition catalogues, photographs and other media to give attendees a sense of what is available for viewing.
"This is a great way to discuss art as a community," states Peter Vanheerden, a performance artist from Capetown, South Africa, who has been attending the weekly meetings regularly ."This is an opportunity for people to meet and express themselves and share their views."
"Art Café is a great way to meet other artists and art enthusiasts in the area, and learn about exhibitions to visit in the area," notes During. "We hope people will join us. Bring your friends, or come by yourself and make new friends."
As an added bonus, this week's attendees were treated to a presentation by youngsters, ages 6-9, who showcased creations made during the "Architecture, Sculpture and 3D" summer camp program.
Art Café is free and takes place every Friday from 9:30-10:30 a.m. at the art center lounge, which overlooks the Saugatuck River.