Future Treasure in Town

Originally published on 2/5/2015

Maurice Sendak’s priceless artwork and drawings, his unique, world-worthy, personal collection of books, art, curios and ephemera, and children’s theater sets all sit on tantalizingly on the horizon if the work, organization and funds needed to operate a Maurice Sendak Museum in the Philip Johnson building come together.   To be located on the former Schlumberger property owned by the town and to be operated by a separate 501C-3 (not the town), the prospect of a world-class museum and possible children’s theatre in the heart of Ridgefield is exciting.

The Board of Selectman (“BOS”) unanimously approved the formation of a task force to study and research every dimension—from site needs, impact and renovations, to budget, and fundraising. Their action followed conversations between the BOS and the Maurice Sendak Foundation.  It was the Foundation’s desire to bring the collection “home”.  A museum on the Schlumberger site would be the tangible bricks and mortar of that “home”.  The Foundation will support this effort (various ways) as well as sign an agreement to show the work here, but will not actually operate the museum. Operating the museum and its activities will be the responsibility of a separate entity.  The BOS has already agreed to provide a nominal lease to the future museum, as it does in the case of the Ridgefield Theatre Barn and the Ridgefield Playhouse.   

These conversations led First Selectman Marconi and members of the BOS to form a task force to study what is needed to bring the vision of a Sendak Museum to life.  This four-person team includes Alison Greeley from the Ridgefield Arts Council, Lloyd Taft, architect, Jen Mathy, owner of Watershed Gallery, and Gerri Lewis, writer. They are about to donate considerable time and talents to perform this evaluation and issue recommendations.

When Ridgefield’s residents purchased the Schlumberger property in 2012 in order to control its destiny, the latent potential in the Philip Johnson building on the site was discussed widely.  Initial positive public reaction to the Maurice Sendak Museum is broad-based.  While actually opening a museum is years away, it could ignite awareness of Ridgefield as a regional and potentially national destination for families, educators and artists.  The economic benefits to the Town from visitors who shop, eat and maybe stay in Ridgefield are many.  The cultural benefits to children, students, adults and artists are singular.

The work of the Board of Selectman, the task force, citizens and supporters of the Sendak Museum is to come.  There is a treasure in our future.

Susan D. Cocco is Chair of the Ridgefield Democratic Town Committee, which supplies this column.