A little red schoolhouse in the Rowayton section of Norwalk will get a fresh coat of paintings in early June when its halls, offices and classrooms become home for nearly a thousand works of art during an art show and sale.
The fundraiser for the Community Cooperative Nursery School, a parent-run cooperative, celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with a show that runs from June 7 to 10.
The educational facility, which first opened in 1953, will be transformed into a high-caliber art gallery showcasing the work of more than 100 artists, including familiar SoNo artists and others from around the world, like Dutch artist Eline de Jonge, who does contemporary oil paintings of New York, Paris and Rome.
"It takes place in a preschool, but it's a sophisticated show. It's curated," CCNS parent Moina Noor said.
Added Anne Hussey, "It's one of those special events that you don't expect."
Hussey and her husband, Christopher, have five children, all of whom attended CCNS. Christopher is also a CCNS alumnus and his father, Peter, helped start the art show when he was the president of CCNS in 1962 and the school needed money for operational costs.
Anne Hussey said some people expect to see children's art work and they are surprised to see the level of quality and professionalism in the paintings, sculptures and other creative works accepted into the show.
Every toy, desk and door is taken out of the school to accommodate the show.
"They absolutely transform the place from floor to ceiling with artwork and then there are tents outside," said Lori Glavin of Darien, a painter, printmaker and collage artist.
The art is hung parlor-style, said Samira Schmitz, co-chairwoman of the art show. "You see absolutely no wall space," she said.
Hubert "Hu" Lindsay said the artwork has multiple pricepoints--from a few hundred dollars to several thousand. Lindsay said the show provides "professional art for the budget collector."
Lindsay said he has purchased more than 50 pieces of art at the shows throughout the years.
Teachers and staff said the art show is a natural fit with the school.
"The school is about fostering creativity in children," Noor said.
"In the classroom there is so much focus on art and creativity and valuing it," said Lini Ecker, a teacher of 2-year-olds at CCNS, one of the only remaining cooperative pre-schools in Connecticut, where parents own and participate in the operation of the school. "By having the major fundraiser for the school be an art show, it validates the importance of art through our lifetime for the children and the viewer.
The school first opened in a private home in the Village Creek section of South Norwalk. The current school was built in the late 1960s.
"The art activities we do at the school are not cookie-cutter activities, but really look to tap into children's natural curiosity and creativity," Ecker said. "We love to get messy."
Generally, there is only one "featured artist" in the show, but in celebration of the 50th anniversary, the show will highlight the work of seven featured artists. Organizers brought back some of the featured artists from past years, among them Glavin, the co-founder of the Wilson Avenue Loft Artists in Norwalk, and Peter Balmer, a South African-born, New York-based artist renowned for his cityscapes.
"I build up layers of (oil paint) color and then I sand into it to bring previous colors forward," said Balmer, who participated in this show in 2002 and 2003. "I use an electric sander to get different colors coming through."
One person said those who were insightful enough to purchase Balmer's work at the show a decade ago made a very good investment because his work is now considerably more valuable.
Award-winning artist Andrea Bonfils creates mixed media work. In her painting "Blue Ice," Bonfils used various shades of blue oil paint onto which she dripped encaustic wax. She then uses an iron or blow torch to melt the wax to create unusual effects.
"I'm not done until I like what I see," she said.
Helen Cantrell, an artist from Old Lyme known for her landscapes and expressionist paintings and prints, described her work as a series of "slashes, drips, controlled accidents and spatters. It gives that misty light quality."
For the first time, the work of Duvian Montoya will be featured. Montoya, a Norwalk native, was recently commissioned by the State of Connecticut to paint a mural at the South Norwalk train station.
Claudia Mengel, of Westport, the featured artist from 2004, will return again as a featured artist. She brings canvases to life with nature-inspired paintings and prints.
"The show fosters creativity as well as friendships," Mengel said. "It's sweet that the community cares about the school and this tradition."
The sale of the art work raises money to support the school's operational expenses and special projects. Last year, organizers sold $175,000 of art at the show. Noor said 40 percent of the proceeds go to the school and are tax deductible.
The money raised helps maintain affordable tuition costs and boost scholarships, and this year, a portion of the proceeds will be earmarked for a natural playground for the students.
"It's a natural structure that lends itself to the environment and the philosophy of the teaching, which is emergent learning," Noor said.
School officials will work with the Audubon Society to create the playground.
For information or to view a sampling of artwork, visit www.ccnsartshow.org.