CT Post, Friday, February 5, 2011

Soothing Sanctuaries

By Phyllis A.S. Boros Staff Writer

Few places are more wel­coming during the bleak gray days of winter than art mu­seums, where the light is al­ways gentle, the temperature always mild and the humidity just right.

And not only can a trip to a temple of culture soothe the soul and stimulate the brain cells, it can often be done at no cost.

Fortunately for area resi­dents, a few of the state’s most extraordinary art col­lections are nearby and open to the public free of charge.

And free lectures, tours, films and programs for chil­dren and families are frequently offered as well. So, no matter our budget, it’s nice to know that we can spend an entire day “on the town” without bringing along a wheelbar­row full of cash.

Here are some of our favorite free muse­ums and their free offerings: Housatonic Community College, at 900 Lafayette Blvd., in downtown Bridgeport, has one of the largest permanent art col­lections of any two-year institution in the nation. The Housatonic Museum of Art, founded in the late 1960s by art professor Burt Chernow, has a permanent collection that’s now valued at about $15 million, as­sembled through gifts and bequests. Among the fea­tured artists are such giants as Marc Chagall, Alberto Giacometti, Reginald Marsh, Auguste Rodin and Pierre Auguste Renoir. The collec­tion is on view throughout the campus. Although visitors are always welcome, the best way to experience this collec­tion is on guided tours, which are offered occasionally. Now scheduled are noon tours on March 9, March 16 and April 6.

In the museum’s Burt Chernow Galleries from Feb. 24 through March 25 will be “ ‘It’s For You’: Conceptual Art and the Telephone,” fo­cusing on the use of phones in modern society. This temporary original exhibition, the brainchild of Curator Terri C. Smith, will close on March 25 with a tour, talk and reception (also free) beginning at 5:30 p.m. Visit www.hcc.commnet.edu <http://www.hcc.commnet.edu>  or call museum director Robbin Zella at 203-332-5052 for more information.

Among the greatest arts-related trea­sures in the state are the Yale Center for Brit­ish Art and the Yale University Art Gallery, both on Chapel Street, in downtown New Haven. One can easily spend days at each museum — wandering through quiet, beauti­fully designed galleries — and marveling at their art and architec­ture.

Both museums were designed by renowned American architect Louis I. Kahn: The recently re­stored Yale Gallery was Kahn’s first major com­mission (1953), while the Center was his final work, completed after his death in 1974.

At the Yale University Art Gallery, America’s old­est university art museum, visitors will likely find one or more collections to their liking. Founded in 1832, when patriot-artist John Trumbull donated more than 100 of his paintings to Yale College, the mu­seum now boasts more than 185,000 objects from around the world, rang­ing from antiquity to pres­ent day. Among its most celebrated collections are American paintings and decorative arts, Greek and Roman art, early Italian paintings, Asian and Afri­can art and masterpieces from the French Impres­sionists.

At Yale Gallery, 1111 Chapel St., tours that focus on the permanent collec­tion take place on Wednes­days at 12:20 p.m., while the “masterpieces” get a closer look on Saturdays and Sundays at 1:30 p.m.

“Angles on Art” hour-long tours, led by undergradu­ates, are given on Thurs­days at 5 p.m. and Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. during the academic year.

And for those fascinated by American decorative arts and furniture, special­ized tours are offered Fri­days at noon. Among the more than 1,000 works, dating from the 17th cen­tury to modern times, are chests, tables, chairs, desks, clocks and cup­boards. No advanced reg­istration is required, but space is limited. (Visitors can sign up at the informa­tion desk.) Especially for families is a “Stories and Art” pro­gram, offered the second Sunday of each month at 1 p.m. Yale students and gallery staff explain how folktales and myths from around the world relate to various works of art in the collection. The museum says that all ages are wel­come, and drawing mate­rials will be provided for children.

Call 203-432-0600 or visit artgallery.yale.edu <http://artgallery.yale.edu> .

At the Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel St., visitors are treated to the largest and most comprehensive collection of British art outside the United Kingdom, much of it collected and subse­quently donated to Yale by philanthropist Paul Mel­lon (class of 1929). The museum also frequently mounts and hosts spe­cial exhibitions. “Into the Light of Things: Rebecca Salter, Works 1981-2010” focuses on this British ab­stract artist through May 1. From Feb. 24 through June 5, another special ex­hibition — produced by the Center and London’s Na­tional Portrait Gallery — will spotlight the work of Thomas Lawrence (1769-1830), one of the most pop­ular portraitists of his day.

At this museum, a wealth of tours, lectures and films are regularly of­fered — the YCBA’s Janu­ary- April quarterly bro­chure lists them all, avail­able at the museum’s infor­mation desk or by visiting yale.edu/ycba <http://yale.edu/ycba> . Of special note: Tours that focus on the center’s architecture will be offered at 11 a.m. on Feb. 19, March 19 and April 16. Call 203-432-2800.

Officials at both mu­seums suggest that visi­tors call ahead to confirm times and dates for all events.

Fairfield University’s Bellarmine Museum of Art, near the 200 Barlow Road entrance to Fairfield University, is a tiny gem in the former basement of a 1920s mansion. This mu­seum, which opened last October, features works that reference antiquity through the Renaissance and beyond. Highlights in­clude 10 paintings from the Samuel H. Kress Collec­tion, featuring minor mas­ters of the Italian Renais­sance and Baroque peri­ods, donated to the univer­sity in 2003 from Bridge­port’s Discovery Museum.

It’s open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on the second Saturday of the month, from noon to 5 p.m., when special activities are of­fered for children and their families.

At the small but de­lightful Bruce Museum in Greenwich, at One Mu­seum Drive, near exit 3 off Interstate 95, admission is free every Tuesday dur­ing regular museum hours, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Now on view is an exhibition of works by contemporary photographer Cindy Sher­man (through April 23).

Upcoming winter shows include “Human Con­nections,” with about 40 works from the museum’s own collection that focus on the human form, Feb.

12 to June 5; and a photog­raphy show by Jeff Jones that celebrates the 50th an­niversary of the establish­ment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, March 5 to May 29. Call the Bruce Museum at 203-869-0376 or check out www.bruce­museum. org.