By Elisa Rodero
New York City looms large on the international arts scene, but visitors to the area don’t need to remain in the city to find thriving arts scenes. Serious art-lovers looking for visual and performing arts outside of the Big Apple will want to ensure these two Connecticut art powerhouses are on the itinerary.
Less than two hours from NYC, Ridgefield offers world-class culture in a small-town package. Whether you’re looking to enjoy the visual arts, a professional orchestra or shows that feature Broadway (and Broadway-level) talent, Ridgefield offers city quality art without all the bustle.
Attend classes or view art in a variety of media from regional makers at the Ridgefield Guild of Artists, or spend a day surrounded by thought-provoking pieces at Connecticut’s only contemporary art museum. Then head over to RPAC Gallery in the heart of downtown to purchase an oeuvre created by a local artist in residence.
If the visual arts drew you to town, the deep pool of talent in the performing arts will keep you there. From classical performances by the professional Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra to the casual outdoor musical frolics presented by CHIRP, the local music scene has something to offer everyone. The town is also home to a chorale and a 40-member choral ensemble, both of which provide musical selections from a wide variety of times and places.
Ridgefield’s proximity to New York is part of the secret behind its deep reservoir of talent. A theater scene that mixes local amateurs with seasoned Broadway professionals pushes performers to bring their very best to the stage and contributes a unique energy to all shows. Three theater companies churn out top-notch performances throughout the year. ACT of CT features professional Broadway actors alongside local performers, the Ridgefield Theater Barn is a volunteer-led community theater that presents four excellent shows per year, and Thrown Stone explores the unconventional to challenge and connect with audience and performers alike.
While perhaps not as well known among modern art fans, Old Lyme hosted a robust artist community in the early 1900s. Situated between the Connecticut River and the Long Island Sound, this coastal town boasts a lovely historic district and a community that remains serious about its artistic heritage.
Housed in a mansion along the Lieutenant River, the Florence Griswold Museum is a private family home-turned-boarding home for the Lyme Art Colony, founded and led by Henry Ward Ranger, prominent New York artist and pioneer of the American Impressionist movement, as a picturesque retreat from a rapidly industrializing nation. The museum’s permanent collections showcase works by the greatest artists emerging from this colony and highlight Connecticut art and culture from the 18th century to the present.
Drawing on the town’s tradition of fostering aspiring artists, the Lyme Academy of Fine Arts nurtures the development of painters and sculptors with a rigorous studio curriculum. The college’s galleries host exhibits and special events that feature emerging and renowned artists.
Just next door to the academy, you can take a stroll around the grounds of Gilbert V. Boro’s Studio 80 + Sculpture Grounds open-air fine arts showcase. Studio 80 is Boro’s working space, and the Sculpture Grounds feature 4.5 acres of natural landscape that serve as a backdrop for the artist’s remarkable abstract sculptures.
Local galleries and an annual arts festival round out Old Lyme’s artistic chops, a true haven for both art creators and art lovers alike.