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Darien Arts Center Celebrates Four Decades Of Serving The Town

Front row: Nicholas Troilo, Roz Emmons, Anne Perlin; Second row: Dana Fead, Pam Heckel and Frank Kemp; Back row: Lisa Thoren, Deidre Hogan, Christine Bang; presidents not pictured: William Edgerton, Joanne Garraway, David Osherow, Lew Green.
Front row: Nicholas Troilo, Roz Emmons, Anne Perlin; Second row: Dana Fead, Pam Heckel and Frank Kemp; Back row: Lisa Thoren, Deidre Hogan, Christine Bang; presidents not pictured: William Edgerton, Joanne Garraway, David Osherow, Lew Green. Photo Credit: Contributed

DARIEN, Conn. – The Darien Arts Center is proudly celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2015 with a host of activities.

The recent production of “On Golden Pond” was the first of many special events planned for the celebratory year, with others including the Annual Darien Art Show and Sale this spring, a June cocktail fundraiser, a fall Birthday Bash with entertainment by DAC talent and a digital photo contest in the fall.

The DAC will also host several dance, music and theater performances throughout the year, including the original children’s ballet, “Fiona” this month, a fall production from DAC Stage and the holiday favorite, “Scenes from the Nutcracker.”

It was early in 1975 when Fred Scharmer, Luther Thompson, Roz Emmons, Anne Perlin, Dan Dolcetti, Jeanne Fuller and Bonnie Holt were determined to fan the flame of the town’s creativity. In a now-demolished building at Cherry Lawn Park, they scraped asphalt from floors, painted, scrounged together equipment for their modest beginnings and got permission from the town selectmen to become the Darien Arts Council.

During its first year, several hundred residents became charter members as it offered its first visual arts classes for kids and adults. The Darien Players, its community theater group, came into existence through the assistance of Joanne Garraway and her committee.

In its first decade, Anne Ernst Wright inaugurated the Darien Dance Center. Under the directorship of Val Pullman, classes were created for all ages. The Arts Council outgrew its Cherry Lawn quarters and moved to its current location in the lower level of Town Hall, where an art studio was developed and visual arts classes were expanded. The annual Darien Art Show came under the umbrella of the Arts Council, and was moved from the Goodwives parking lot to the Town Hall gymnasium.

Within the next few years, Bob and Cathie Lindsay began the Actors/Playwrights Workshop and the Connecticut Choraliers elected to join the Arts Council, giving birth to a new music center.

The Darien Arts Council received funds from Marion and Dennis Weatherstone in 1994 to renovate its space and create the DAC Weatherstone Studio, a large, professionally equipped mirrored room that doubles as a black box theater and dance studio. A name change seemed appropriate in 1997, when the board of directors decided that the Darien Arts Council should be called the Darien Arts Center to better define its role of encompassing programs in dance, visual arts, music and theater.

The DAC then received a grant in 2012 from the Darien Foundation for Technology and Community, which allowed the installation of a state-of-the-art audio-visual system in the theater.

Now in its fourth decade, the Darien Arts Center continues to expand its programs. Over 600 students benefit from their dance program, and the number of music students has recently doubled. Hundreds of local artists showcase their work at the Annual Art Show and Sale, now in its 57th year. The 15th Ginny Wright Scholarship will be awarded this year in honor of Virginia Wright, an artist, volunteer and benefactor, to a graduating Darien High School artist.

DAC Stage, its recently revamped community theater group, continues to gain recognition.

The following events are planned for the 40th anniversary year of the Darien Arts Center:

  • April 25-26: “Fiona,” an original ballet
  • May 16: Junior Dance Concert
  • May 19: Kids’ Theatre Performance
  • May 29: Opening Reception of Darien Art Show & Sale, and 15th Ginny Wright Scholarship Awarded
  • May 29-June 6: The 57th Annual Art Show & Sale
  • June 7: Senior Dance Concert
  • June 20: 40th Anniversary Cocktail Fundraiser
  • August: Open House
  • September: 40th Birthday Bash & Entertainment Revue
  • October: Digital Photo Contest
  • November: DAC Stage Production
  • December: “Scenes from the Nutcracker”

To learn more about the Darien Arts Center, click here or call 203-655-8683. The Darien Arts Center is located at 2 Renshaw Road, behind the Darien Town Hall. 

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