Instead of hectic shopping, why not have fun learning to make your own original gifts this year. No experience is necessary for the holiday workshops coming up led by talented artisans in the Litchfield Hills of Western Connecticut. With these top professionals as teachers, it is surprisingly easy to create gifts such as hand-blown glass, small metal sculptures or a fanciful gingerbread house. Many of the workshops are ideal family activities.

Glass flowers, Paperweights, Ornaments

Noted glass artist Peter Greenwood, whose work has been shown in over 20 museums, welcomes students to his studio in a picturesque 1829 stone church in Riverton to learn the art of glass blowing. Greenwood’s students have ranged from age 8 to 85.


People are amazed, Greenwood says, to see how quickly they can learn to blow into a pipe and see the glass expand into a Christmas ornament. It takes only five minutes to create one of these very personal ornaments.


For an even more impressive gift, Greenwood offers students a hands-on experience learning to twist and pull molten glass and sculpt it into a lovely glass flower or a swirled paperweight.

Classes are offered at various times Tuesday through Saturday and all materials are provided. For more information, see www.petergreenwood.com.

Fanciful Metal Sculptures

Artist/designer Karen Rossi is well known for her whimsical original small metal sculptures known as Fanciful Flights. Karen shares her creativity with students in workshops at her studio on Main Street in Torrington. In December, her Saturday workshops have holiday themes.


Santa Claus Fanciful Flights on December 6 will feature Santa figures as well as fancy presents, snowflakes and toys, ideal decorations for a tree or a window. December 13 brings Wine Angel Lights, decorating festive bottles using some of Karen’s delightful laser-cut shapes plus bead, paints, sparkles and confetti. Students on December 20 will create an original mosaic tray, a welcome gift for any hostess. For more details see www.karenrossi.com

Gingerbread Creations

At The Silo, the award-winning cooking school at Hunt Hill Farm in New Milford, workshops to create take-home gingerbread houses are a favorite holiday tradition. Teams of two or three people learn to decorate wonderful houses using over 85 kinds of candy. Teams can include children age five and up, Traditional workshops start the baking from scratch. Those with less time or with younger children can choose sessions with houses already assembled and ready to decorate.

silo kids cooking 2

Classes are scheduled for December 7 and 13. They are limited in size and they fill fast so early reservations are advised. See www.hunthillfarmtrust.org for more information.

An even more unusual workshop assembling and decorating a nativity scene with gingerbread, and candies will take place on December 13 from 10 a.m. to noon as part of the Christmas Festival Weekend at the Lourdes in Litchfield Shrine. Spaces are limited so phone for reservations: 860-567-1041. More details can be found at www.shrinect.org

For more information about holiday activities and a free copy of Unwind, a full-color, 152-page booklet detailing what to do and see, and where to stay, shop and dine in the Litchfield Hills and Fairfield County in Western Connecticut, contact the Western Connecticut Visitors Bureau, PO Box 968, Litchfield, CT 06759, (860) 567-4506, or visit their web site at http://www.visitwesternct.com

A Time for Stories in Washington at the Institute for American Indian Studies

The Institute for American Indian Studies traditionally believes that autumn is the season for telling stories that begins with the first frost. The Institute has planned a very special story session on November 29 at 12:30 p.m.


It is a time of great excitement as the Storyteller travels from village to village, from home to home. It is a time when everyone gathers around to share in this wonderful time, to hear what it was like when the world was new. Storytelling was and still is an integral part of the Native American tradition.

Stories were an important method of teaching the young; of passing down culture from one generation to the next. They hold many lessons and teach us the values of our cultures and show us how to live in our worlds. They often describe unacceptable behavior and express, enhance and enforce the morals and norms of tribal society.

Visitors are invited to join and enjoy this the time honored tradition of Native American Stories that teach, intrigue and entertain people of all ages. During this special time of year, gather with storyteller Janis “Four Hearts Whispering” Us, Mohawk/Shinnecock descent to enjoy her delightful and heartwarming traditional Native American stories.

“We tell our stories to entertain, but they do much more than that. They teach life’s important lessons — to young and old alike. Stories can explain the natural world around us and connect us to our past” (Janis “Four Hearts Whispering”Us) Please call for reservations. $8 Adults; $10 Children.

Feed and Count the Birds in Dec. at Sharon Audubon

Do you enjoy watching the birds at your feeders but don’t know what types of birds they are? Do you like to feed the birds, but are not sure which types of seed to offer or what kind of bird feeder to fill? Harlan will help you to understand which types of seeds most birds prefer and why, which feeders work best for your bird feeding set up, and how to identify some of the common species visiting your feeder this winter. All bird seed and bird feeders will be on sale as part of the Mega-Nature Store Sale this day, so you can leave the Center knowledgeable, prepared and stocked up for the winter bird feeding season!


The Audubon Sharon Nature Store Sale takes place through December 13th. During the sale, you’ll find great discounts on various types of bird feeders, bird seed (including their very own Northwest Corner Blend,) t-shirts, toys, kids’ books, field guides, knick-knacks, coffee, ornaments, bird baths and so much more! Everything in our store will be on sale during the Mega-Sale on Dec. 6th and 7th!

On December 14, the Sharon Audubon is sponsoring an all day event called Trixie Strauss Christmas Bird Count that is free and open to the public. Audubon Sharon will once again be taking part in this count and they love to have people join them!


The count area is a 15 mile circle with its center at Hotchkiss School, and includes good birding areas in Sharon, Salisbury, Amenia and Northeast. Teams from all over the state and country take part in Christmas Bird Count. The numbers are compiled and reported to help better understand flock formation and migrations.

For more information and for store hours, contact the Audubon Center at (860) 364-0520 or www.sharon.audubon.org. For holiday event information www.litchfieldhills.com

Beauty and Ruin: Broken Landscapes, Lost Symbols at the Silvermine Arts Center

Beauty and Ruin: Broken Landscapes, Lost Symbols is the name of the show at the Silvermine Art Center located on 1037 Silvermine Road in New Cannan that runs through December 23. The focus of the show is the work of three artists that explore three themes in photography, sculpture, and a site-dependent work that includes video as a primary element.


“The Hand of Man,” J Henry Fair – J Henry Fair’s stunning abstract compositions are full of organic forms and graphic patterns: plumes, branches, rivulets, as well as grids and softened geometric forms. But in Fair’s large-scale photographs, beauty and horror coexist. Fair’s subject in “The Hand of Man” is a damaged environment: de-forested landscapes, polluted waterways, hydraulic fracturing sites, and waste from refinery operations and other industrial practices. His goal is to “produce beautiful images that stimulate an aesthetic response, then curiosity, then personal involvement.”

J Henry Fair       Plume of foam in bauxite waste from aluminum refinery       Darrow, Louisiana

J Henry Fair Plume of foam in bauxite waste from aluminum refinery Darrow, Louisiana

“Flying over these sites is the only way to see things,” Fair has said. “The aerial perspective is inherently intriguing to land-based animals.” It is the aerial view that is his particular angle of vision—the distant view, not of the peaceful blue planet, but of the compromised landscape of a world that even in the digital era is still predominantly industrial.

J Henry Fair’s photography has been the subject of solo exhibitions throughout the U.S. and in Norway, Germany, and the Netherlands. His work has been featured or reviewed in the New York Times, Vanity Fair, Smithsonian Magazine, New York Magazine, Harper’s, and National Geographic. He has served as an artist-in-residence at Swarthmore, Dartmouth, Colorado College, and the Cooper Union, and his work is in a number of permanent collections including the Cooper Union and Dartmouth’s Hood Museum. Fair has been a member of the SIlvermine Guild of Artists since 2011.

“Neo-Archaism,” Carlos Davila- Carlos Davila creates a visual landscape that abstracts the symbols and forms of ancient cultures and combines them with those of advanced technology and modern industry. He explores the relationship between the modern, highly mechanized age that we live in and a totemic, stylized symbolism of a variety of ancient cultures from Egypt, South America, and Africa.
Davila abstracts line, form, and color to create sculptures, three-dimensional wall pieces, and large-scale diptychs and triptychs. His mechanical and industrial elements coalesce into a layered, three-dimensional geometry that is textural and drenched in brilliant color. His is a figurative landscape at once familiar and alien.


After earning his MFA, Davila participated in the reconstruction of the ancient city of Chan Chan, Peru. His work at this Pre-Columbian archaeological dig led to a fascination with ancient and lost cultures, and the experience profoundly affected the course of his work.
Carlos Davila’s art has been the subject of solo exhibitions from Lima, Santiago, and Bogota to New York, Boston, and Miami. He has work in the permanent collections of Yale University’s Richard Brown Baker Collection, the National Arts Club in New York City, the Bibliotèque Nationale in Paris, and dozens of international corporations.

Born and educated in Lima, Peru, he lived for many years in New York City. He currently lives in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and maintains a studio in a loft in Bridgeport. He has been a member of the Silvermine Guild of Artists since 2012.

“What’s Left,” June Ahrens- In her recent work, June Ahrens has explored repurposed and broken glass as material and metaphor. “What’s Left” is a new turn for Ahrens—a unified environment made up of a video surrounded by blue walls that are layered with a combination of dried pigment mixed with salt. This site-dependent piece, created for the Hays Gallery at the Silvermine Arts Center, evokes loss and fragility while channeling light through a landscape of broken glass.

Still from Video

Still from Video

The video serves as the primary element in the composition and contains many of the materials used in her environment. The integration of materials and images (including images of a human face and hands) invites the viewer to explore and embrace the residue of lives. Salt and glass enhance the imperfections of the walls, which become a metaphor for the imperfections in each of us. The surface partially hides some of the scarring but salt and pigment reveal it in a new way. Repurposed broken glass (clear or blue) is also part of the installation—random patterns of fallen shards will pool and reflect danger, pain, and vulnerability.

June Ahrens’s work has been exhibited at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City; at the Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland; in “Strong Women Artists,” a group exhibit in Matera, Italy; and in many other exhibitions throughout the U.S. She was nominated for a 2012 Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant and was a recipient of a grant from the NEA. She was honored by the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism as a Distinguished Advocate for the Arts and as an Individual Artist. She lives in New Canaan, Connecticut, and has been a member of the Silvermine Guild since 1993.

Silvermine Arts Center is one of the oldest artist communities in the United States. Its five-­ acre campus in New Canaan, Connecticut, consists of a nationally renowned artist guild, an award-­winning school of art offering classes for all ages, an arts and fine crafts shop, and a gallery offering over twenty contemporary and historic exhibitions annually. Silvermine is a non-­profit organization that also offers an educational outreach program, Art Partners, and hosts lectures, performances, film screenings, and special events.

Gallery Hours: Silvermine Galleries are open Wednesday through Saturday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (203) 966-­9700 ext. 20 or visit the website: www.silvermineart.org.

Antarctic Photography Exhibition Opens at the Bruce Museum

A new exhibition is opening on October 28 at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich called Antarctic Photography: Selections from Gondwana: Images of an Ancient Land. This exhibition features a selection of large-format photographs by Diane Tuft, a New York-based mixed-media artist and photographer.

Wind Formation, Victoria Lower Glacier. Photograph by Diane Tuft

Wind Formation, Victoria Lower Glacier. Photograph by Diane Tuft

In 2012, Tuft traveled to Antarctica after receiving a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. Her images chronicle the extraordinary results of that expedition with stunning photographs that capture Antarctica’s raw, untouched splendor with colors, textures, and compositions that verge on the surreal.

The exhibition will also include a few specimens, on loan from Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History, representing some of the amazing life forms recently found in the Antarctic waters.

Snow Folds, Scott Base Pressure Ridges Photograph by Diane Tuft

Snow Folds, Scott Base Pressure Ridges
Photograph by Diane Tuft

The selected images are highlights of Tuft’s 2014 book Gondwana: Images of an Ancient Land,named for the mega continent that once contained what is now Antarctica, and present her vision of the continent as a living abstract reflection of hundreds of millions of years of Earth’s history. This exhibition runs through February 1, 2015. For more information about the Bruce Museum visit https://brucemuseum.org. The museum is open Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 5 pm. Doors close 1/2 hour before closing, Last admission 4:30 pm . For area information www.visitfairfieldcountyct.com

Diane Tuft

Diane Tuft is a New York-based mixed-media artist who has focused primarily on photography since 1998. She earned a degree in mathematics at the University of Connecticut before continuing her studies in art at Pratt Institute in New York. She has always been fascinated by the mystery of what exists beyond the visible; capturing this through her camera—often traveling to the world s most remote places to do so—has been a guiding principle of her work. Tuft has had solo exhibitions at Marlborough Gallery, Ameringer-Yohe Gallery, and Pace Gallery in New York City, as well as The Kimball Art Center in Park City, Utah. Tuft’s work can be found in the permanent collection of The Whitney Museum of American Art and The International Center of Photography in New York City, as well as numerous private collections and museums throughout the country.

American Chestnut Tree Planting with The Greenwich Land Trust

On Saturday, November 15th, The Greenwich Land Trust will plant hundreds of American chestnut seedlings in partnership with The American Chestnut Foundation and the Greenwich Tree Conservancy. The mighty chestnut, once a dominant tree of Eastern United States forests, was virtually eradicated by an Asian blight introduced over a century ago. Today, very few American chestnuts remain, and those that survive do not reach their former stature.


After several decades of research to overcome the blight pathogen, The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) has propagated trees with qualities of the American chestnut and with disease resistance genes found in their Asian “cousins.” TACF now works with conservation organizations and other large landowners to further this research and establish local populations of disease-resistant American chestnuts.

The Greenwich Land Trust will be planting these blight resistant seedlings at our new American Chestnut Tree Sanctuary, an area with ideal conditions for American chestnut trees. The seedlings will be protected from deer and voles with a perimeter fence and tree tubes.
The public is invited to join in an afternoon of tree planting which will be held at our Duck Pond Hill Preserve, opposite 18 Burning Tree Road Greenwich, CT. Tree planting and information sessions will take place at two times: 1PM and 2PM.

Tools and refreshments will be provided. All ages welcome. FREE.
Rain date: Sunday, November 16th 1PM-3PM

This project is possible thanks to the support of The Greenwich Tree Conservancy, Private Donors, and Emerald Tree & Shrub Care.

Music and Nature: Can you Hear It?

Nature has inspired many musical scores and the Aubudon Greenwich along with the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra is hosting a Curiosity Concert – Music and Nature on November 16 from 2 p.m. – 3 p.m.


Music and Nature: Can you Hear It? will feature principal players from the Greenwich Symphony Orchestra and includes Phillip Bashor on the clarinet, Andrew Gordon on the piano, Daniel Miller on the cello and Susan Rotholz on the flute.

A quintet of our own Symphony’s principal players will explore nature themes in music with selections from: Camille Saint-Saens * The Carnival of the Animals, Serge Prokofiev * Peter and the Wolf, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov * Flight of the Bumblebee, Claude Debussy * The Snow is Dancing, and Antonio Vivaldi * Four Seasons.

The concert will take place at the Audubon’s Kimberlin Nature Education Center located on 613 Riversville Rd. in Greenwich. For more information and reservations call 203-869-5272 ext. 349. or email greenwichcenter@audubon.org. For more information about Greenwich Audubon http://greenwich.audubon.org.

The Greenwich Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1958, and since 1975 has been led by Music Director and Conductor David Gilbert. Associate Conductor Tara Simoncic conducts GSO’s Young People’s Concerts – free concerts for 2nd through 7th graders from all Greenwich schools. For more information about GSO’s 2014/15 season, visit www.greenwichsymphony.org.