TORRINGTON — Litchfield native and artist Jennifer Abbott-Tillou featured her newest kinetic sculptures during an opening reception at her art studio in downtown Torrington, across from the Warner Theatre. The studio is atop a wide and impressive staircase, in a vintage building with cathedral ceilings, skylights and chandeliers. A large and lively crowd milled about inside her gallery, spilling out into the hallway where drinks and appetizers were offered.
Concurrently, the Hummingbird Cafe, a short distance down the hall,
was staying open late that evening. The Cafe features wall-to-wall comfy seating, floor-to-ceiling book shelves with free books, and large works of art on the walls that are for sale. The Cafe’s owners, Mike and Chelsea Kaneb, are also on a mission to be environmentally friendly by offering fair trade and organic coffee, tea, juices and smoothies, made with locally grown produce such as blueberries, and served in glass mason jars. Customers are encouraged to bring their own cups and they will be using cloth napkins — no disposables. The Cafe, only two months in business, has big plans to add baked goods to the menu, live music and events.
The following evening, the wildly successful Five Points Gallery hosted a private cocktail party for the Northwest Connecticut Arts Council kick-off for the 2019 Open Your Eyes Studio Tour to be held Aug. 24 and 25. Torrington student Maggie Schnyer provided violin music for the crowd of art aesthetes and artists who will be opening their studios at Whiting Mills in Winsted and the Beekley Community Library in New Hartford. Craft cocktails by the Litchfield Distillery, beer by Two Roads Brewing Company and wine from Jerram Winery were offered with hors d’oeuvres from local restaurants Sasso’s Coal Fired Pizza, O’Connors Pub, Toothpick Co. and Rusty General Store.
Rufus de Rham, executive director of Northwest Connecticut Arts Council, said there will also be an Opening Night Party on Saturday, Aug. 24 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Brewery Legitimus in New Hartford that is free and open to the public. He said the aim of this 10th year of Open Your Eyes Studio Tours is to provide a greater understanding of the creative process, and the spaces that artists work in. The annual event has drawn visitors from 14 states.
Five Points Gallery Founder and Executive Director Judith McElhone and Board President Deborah Seidel were excited to share the news that the former UConn-Torrington campus on University Drive has passed the first hurdle to getting approval from Torrington Planning & Zoning for change-of-use for the campus property which encompasses 29,000 square feet of buildings and 90 acres of woodland. Coincidentally, both de Rham and Kaneb attended the Planning & Zoning meeting and were encouraged by lack of any opposition. Only one hurdle remains — a hearing on Aug. 28 by a Superior Court Judge, then the Gallery can proceed with their ambitious plans that include a creative laboratory with art forms of all types, a research center and artist studios.
Seidel said “Many people have contributed energy to this idea of environmental arts at the UConn property. The guest book at Five Points Gallery shows that visitors from every town in Connecticut (169), plus 27 states and 10 countries have been here. Art New England magazine has featured 18 articles about Five Points Gallery and included the Gallery in “Top New England Art Galleries Worth the Drive.” She said, “It is well documented the role that the arts play as a generator of revenue and population growth.”
There is also a Five Points Annex pop-up gallery just up the street and the Launchpad Artists from the University of Hartford graduates now number 17, who pay just $55/month for studio space. Deborah Seidel noted the most telling change is that Brooklyn, N.Y., artists are now considering a move to the more affordable Torrington housing.
Sculptor Jen Abbott-Tillou, a member of Northwest Connecticut Arts Council, is thrilled by the influx of visitors and tourists to the Five Points Gallery, which benefits her art studio, and once the newly re-imagined UConn campus and its 90 acres is complete, there will likely be a bus to take tourists from all that downtown Torrington offers to the new grand expansion on the hill.
Jen Abbott-Tillou can be contacted at www.jenabbott-tillou.com/
The Hummingbird Cafe at 79 Main Street in Torrington, is open for smoothies, juices, tea and coffee Tuesday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. It can be contacted at 203-560-2506 and www.humming
Five Points Gallery at the corner of Main and Water Streets in Torrington can be contacted at www.fivepointsgallery.org and 860-618-7222.