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Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, Part I

April 4 @ 6:30 pm - 7:30 pm

Westport Museum for History and Culture, 25 Avery Place
Westport, 06880 United States

In conjunction with the Westport Museum’s exhibition “Playful Pastimes,” join Dr. Robin Jaffee Frank for a captivating look at Coney Island as the ultimate accessible leisure destination and its iconic place in the history of American art and culture. The curator and author of an acclaimed exhibition and book on Coney Island, Robin will explore the site’s enduring status as a subject for artists by exploring paintings, photographs, films, carousel animals, and fun ephemera ranging from postcards to sideshow banners.

Called “America’s Playground,” Coney Island is a world-famous resort and national cultural symbol that has inspired artists, musicians, writers, and filmmakers. They captured its inception as a watering hole for the wealthy, transformation into the world’s most famous mechanical amusement center, evolution into a mecca for the masses, decline into a disheveled dreamland, and recent revival. An extraordinary array of artists will be discussed—among them, William Merritt Chase, Joseph Stella, Walker Evans, Reginald Marsh, Paul Cadmus, Yasuo Kuniyoshi, George Tooker, Diane Arbus, Robert Frank, Patti Smith, Basquiat, Red Grooms, Daze, and Swoon.

“The best show is the people themselves.” –artist Reginald Marsh

Many artists perceived this iconic place as a prism through which to view the American experience. Their visions of Coney Island imagined the future and later recalled the past, conveying changing ideas about leisure, and exploring the mixing of people of different races, ethnicities, and classes, transcending social boundaries. How artists chose to portray America’s Playground—in tableaux of wonder and menace, hope and despair, dreams and nightmares—mirrored the aspirations and disappointments of the era. Their art brings to life the allure and excitement of Coney Island, which occupies not only a strip of sand in Brooklyn, but also a singular place in the American imagination.

Tickets are free for members and $5 for nonmembers.


April 4
6:30 pm - 7:30 pm
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Westport Museum for History and Culture


Westport Museum for History and Culture
25 Avery Place
Westport, 06880 United States
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