On Track

Master museum builder has big plans for North Adams



Training day Former governors William Weld (R) and Michael Dukakis (D) with Thomas Krens at Boston’s South Station.

Photos by Dominic Chavez and Renderings by Gluckman Tang Architects

Thomas Krens does not think small. As the former Guggenheim Foundation director, his ideas are big—especially when it comes to North Adams. When Krens looks at the city, he sees unfinished business, and that has been a motivator to organize a collaborative effort to transform North Adams into the hub of what he calls a “cultural corridor.”

At the center of Krens’s vision is an entirely revamped North Adams Heritage Park and Mohawk Theater in the downtown area, and a brand-new Global Contemporary Art Museum next to the Harriman-and-West Airport. 

The privately funded art museum will display 400 works within a 160,000-square-foot space, 40,000 of which will be used for art storage. Krens’s plan takes advantage of private collections that need a secure place for their holdings. It’s the classic Krens single solution to several challenges—the frustration of great contemporary works being shut off from public consumption, the need of private collectors for art storage, and the addition of another major art museum to help shape the north-county cultural corridor. 

Further plans include a “luxury art hotel” called the Wilsonian, in the spirit of the old Wilson House Hotel, lost to a fire in 1912, also on Main Street, and the transformation of an underused, expansive parking area into a town green featuring an outdoor skating rink, an amphitheater, a carousel, and community gardens.

(Photo: Artist rendering of the Global Contemporary Art Museum.)

Krens is also working to create a more traditional architecture museum on Route 2 to complement Heritage Park, and he’d like to extend the cultural corridor down Route 8 in the direction of Adams. The hope is that the Heritage Park project begins as early as the end of 2016.

“It wasn’t a messianic vision in the beginning,” Krens explains. “I wasn’t looking to do that. But then you look and start to add up the components.”

Krens made his mark—and established his legendary status—in North Adams 30 years ago when he created the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the renowned MASS MoCA, in collaboration with then-Governor Michael Dukakis and his successor, Governor William Weld (who is also the Libertarian Party nominee for vice president). Krens has since developed museums around the world through his company, Global Cultural Asset Management, and now he has reunited with the former governors to finish what they started in the 1980s in North Adams.

(Photo: Former Governor Dukakis (D) with Krens after announcing the MASS MoCA project in 1988. Behind them, former North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, left, and former state Representative Sherwood Guernsey.)

In his view, the expansions of MASS MoCA, the Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute, and the Williams College Museum of Art, as well as other substantial developments in North Adams, have merely primed the pump. “The conundrum has been, why hasn’t the economic impact of MASS MoCA been more substantial?” says Krens. “The reason is it turned out to be more of a daytrip than an overnight. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing. You have to have the hotel rooms, but you also have to have more attractions. For many people, the Clark and MASS MoCA can be fit into a daytrip.”

For now, that is. Krens’s plans for Heritage Park take full advantage of Michael Dukakis’s expertise and interests. Dukakis created the Heritage Park program in the 1970s to revitalize historical sites across the state that were underutilized, and to increase economic activity through tourism. But the North Adams park never reached its potential. Krens’s plan is to anchor the project with the Extreme Model Railroad & Contemporary Architecture Museum, designed by architect Richard Gluckman, who is also designing the Global Contemporary Art Museum. Added to that will be the Museum of Time, featuring industrial railroad clocks; the Mt. Greylock Distillery, designed by Jean Nouvel; a dining-car restaurant; and a chocolatier, along with other retail stores and the park’s mainstay Freight Yard Pub.

(Photo: Artist rendering of the Extreme Model Railroad & Contemporary Architecture Museum)

“The Heritage Park thing was really my baby,” Dukakis says. “Things were not moving in the direction we had hoped, so the idea of having this Extreme Model Railroad is going to be great. And, of course, I love trains.”

It was Weld’s idea that the two ex-governors team up with Krens, helping to create the project’s funding strategy. Weld leapt at the chance to finish the job in North Adams and collaborate with Krens again, having worked with him on Guggenheim projects in both New York City and Spain. “He is the premier visionary in the world of how to elevate the everyday to the level of art,” Weld says. 

Plus, Weld and Dukakis share a bond that goes far beyond political parties. “Mike and I are both railroad buffs,” says Weld, “and love the idea of bringing the history of American railroads to life.” 

As a former Republican governor, Weld was able to call on current Republican Governor Charlie Baker for help. By the end of 2015, the Baker administration showed that support when Lt. Governor Karyn Polito signed a Community Compact with North Adams that offers various local aid and technical assistance.

The Extreme Model Railroad & Contemporary Architecture Museum, the proposed “nerve center” of the park, will have an education center for kids. The 670-foot-long gallery with 41-foot-high ceilings will feature 100 trains running through nearly nine miles of track that includes reproductions of North Adams and the Hoosac Tunnel, several architectural landmarks, 125,000 human figures, and 40,000 trees. All of it will be controlled by what Krens describes as a NASA-like mission-control center of more than 20 computer screens that visitors can view.

For Krens, the curiosity in model trains began when he intended to sell a model-train set for his son years before. While doing some research, he fell down the rabbit hole of model railroading and became fascinated with high-end modelers and with the Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany. 

An enthralled Krens thought first of China for a model-railroad attraction, but soon shifted his focus to North Adams when he realized it was the perfect site for everything he envisioned. Krens credits Mayor Richard Alcombright and the city’s solicitor, John DeRosa, for showing him the light. Krens hadn’t seen Heritage Park in two decades and wasn’t interested, certain it wasn’t big enough for everything he wanted to include. That changed during a bike ride to the site, and the conception for what he calls a “cultural theme park.” 

What sets the model-train museum apart from its German inspiration is the O-gauge scale of its models, featuring 1:47-scale trains, larger than the traditional model trains most people are used to, which allows for more historical precision and detail.

“The precision of the O-scale modeling dwarfs anything I have ever seen,” Weld says.

The expanse of the tracks and the scale of the models inspired Krens to set up a laboratory in his own basement in order to work out all the possible problems. “I just knew enough to know that I knew I couldn’t do it,” says Krens. “There was nobody I could hire to do it, so we had to develop our own team to figure everything out.”

Krens has worked with others in his lab for three years, observing and developing on a smaller scale the complexity of the industrial-scale electronics required for the museum. With 25 trains running, as well as building a prototype of the Empire State Building model, Krens and company have been piecing together the project and attending to every detail, whether it involves the 105 track switches on a 100-foot prototype or creating three-inch windows on all four sides of the 288-square-foot Empire State Building. One of the current issues the technical team is solving: as more trains run, signals become tangled.

“We have to work with manufacturers, we have to do research daily to solve these technical problems,” Krens explains. “Then there’s the precision-scale modeling absolute reality, which you don’t see anywhere. And then there’s the negotiation with the architects. This is an enterprise of some bewildering complexity.”

Krens plans to invite the best railroad modelers in the country to work for the museum, and he believes North Adams will become a mecca where the best model craftspeople in the world will want to live. 

His team-building effort extends to the Mohawk Theater, bringing members of his Guggenheim Motorcycle Club like Jeremy Irons, Laurence Fish-burne, and Lauren Hutton into the consulting mix, as well as a number of partners pledging involvement in running the space—from expected institutions like MASS MoCA, the Berkshire International Film Festival, and the Williamstown Theatre Festival to new participants like the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts based in Holyoke.

“I have some credibility, because why would the state be interested in supporting all of this? It’s not just the ideas,” Krens says. “It’s the execution that they’re interested in. I spent five days thinking about it, two days organizing a meeting of all these people, and everybody’s on board. So now we’re working on the legislation to get the funding with the state to have a piece in it for the Mohawk Theater.”

Krens has managed to attract a number of local investors to his team, some of whom were also involved in bringing MASS MoCA to life, like Allan Fulkerson, Duncan Brown, and Jim Hunter, as well as new members like Dr. Gray Ellrodt. 

“The momentum thus far has been good,” Hunter says. “The interest has been good. Interest on the part of the state has been excellent.”

Dukakis and Weld envision tying the project to the larger future in Massachusetts, one with high-speed rail connecting the Berkshires to Boston. 

“The fact that we’re involved and one of us is a Republican and one of us is a Democrat, which just doesn’t happen very often these days, is an important statement,” Dukakis says. “And then you put the entire state-transportation picture together and link it to northern Berkshires.”

Adds Krens: “There will be nothing like this in the world, nothing like this anywhere."

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Westfield Trumbull
5065 Main Street
Trumbull, CT  06611
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Sponsor: CT Fund for the Environment
Telephone: (203) 502-8493
Contact Name: Denali
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Peter and the Starcatcher is a play based on the 2004 novel Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, adapted for the stage by Rick Elice. The play provides a backstory for the...

Cost: $20 admission; $15 for seniors; $10 for kids

Where:
Western CT State University
Visual Performing Arts Center
Danbury, CT  06811
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In recent years, Grammy-nominated songbird Jane Monheit has pursued her love of Ella Fitzgerald's music, as documented on the 2016 album Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald. Monheit finds nimble...

Cost: $42 Members Save:$5 /tckt

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company StageOne
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
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The big glitzy musical Sister Act fared better than the original movie. It received four Olivier Award nominations for its original stage production at London’s West End Theatre. It...

Cost: $59-$89

Where:
Westchester Broadway Theatre
One Broadway Plaza
Elmsford, NY
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See the majestic beauty of the Hudson River on this 2-hour narrated river adventure from Newburgh to West Point taking in the sights of Washington’s Headquarters, World’s End, Mt....

Cost: $22

Where:
Blu Pointe Landing
100 Front Street
Newburgh, NY
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Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Melissa Meyer: Hitting the Right Notes,” her first solo exhibition with the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception...

Cost: Free

Where:
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840


Sponsor: heathergaudiofineart.com
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
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EVERY THURSDAY | 7:30 PM - 10:00 pm Music | Spoken Word | Comedy | More Hosted by Don Lowe Hunt Hill Farm is excited to announce OpenMic night every Thursday night.  Please stop by to...

Cost: donation

Where:
Hunt Hill Farm
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
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Sponsor: Hunt Hill Farm
Telephone: 860.355.0300
Contact Name: John C. Maxwell III
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The Washington Art Association & Gallery is pleased to present State of Abstraction, an exhibition of contemporary abstract art by Connecticut artists from May 5 - June 16, 2018. Co-Curated...

Cost: Free and open to the public

Where:
Washington Art Association & Gallery
4 Bryan Hall Plaza
P.O. Box 173
Washington Depot, CT  06794
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Sponsor: Washington Art Association & Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-2878
Contact Name: Barbara von Schreiber
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Take a one-hour guided tour of the historic Lyndhurst mansion overlooking the Hudson River. The Gothic Revival mansion has been used as a movie set for six major motion pictures...

Cost: $18

Where:
Lyndhurst
635 S. Broadway
Tarrytown, NY  10591
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This hilltop paradise, now a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. Read our review of the guided...

Cost: $25

Where:
Kykuit
381 N. Broadway
Sleepy Hollow, NY  10591
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KMR Arts is proud to present MAYDAY, an exhibition of new photographs by Barbara Vaughn. Please join us for the opening reception with the artist on June 2, 2018, from 3-7pm, 2 Titus Road,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot , CT  06794
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Website »

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Architect and designer, Osvaldo Borsani (1911-1985), was a giant of Italian modern design and co-founder of Tecno. George Champion Modern Shop will celebrate...

Cost: free

Where:
George Champion Modern Shop
442 Main St. South
Woodbury, CT  06798
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Sponsor: George Champion Modern Shop
Telephone: 203-263-8442
Contact Name: George Champion
Website »

More information

SilverSource – the leading resource for older adults and their families– announced today that it is now accepting nominations for the 2018 SilverSource Awards.  The awards...

Cost: FREE

Where:
SilverSource, Inc.
2009 Summer Street, 3rd Floor
2949 Long Ridge Rd
Stamford, CT  06905
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Sponsor: SilverSource, Inc.
Telephone: 203-324-6584
Contact Name: Kathleen Bordelon
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Opening Reception: Apr 28 at 2:00 PM Date of Show : Apr 28 - May 27  See the artists website at www.erikacrofut.com Each month the Sandisfield Arts Center proudly...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sandisfield Arts Center
5 Hammertown Rd.
Sandisfield, MA  01255
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Sponsor: Sandisfield Arts Center
Telephone: 413-258-4100
Contact Name: Marcella Smith
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West Stockbridge Chamber Players’ Spring Benefit Concert   On Friday, May 25th at 6 p.m., Boston Symphony Orchestra members Sheila Fiekowsky, violin, Daniel Getz, viola, Oliver...

Cost: 35.00 per ticket

Where:
Old Town Hall
9 Main Street
West Stockbridge, MA  01266
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Sponsor: West Stockbridge Historical Society
Telephone: 413-232-5055
Contact Name: Carol Kuller
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Kick off your Memorial Day weekend with family fun under the stars with a FREE showing of the animated movie “Ferdinand” (rated PG) on Friday, May 25th at Jesse Lee Memorial United...

Cost: Free movie, food is for purchase

Where:
Jesse Lee Church
207 Main Street
Ridgefield, CT  06877
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Sponsor: Ridgefield Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 120-343-85992
Contact Name: Jen Mulhern
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The event, L.O.L. Love of Languages, will be a celebration of world languages and culture, and will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. in the Foran High School cafeteria and courtyard. Teachers Pam...

Cost: Free

Where:
Foran High School
80 Foran Rd
Milford, CT  06460
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Website »

More information

Peter and the Starcatcher is a play based on the 2004 novel Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, adapted for the stage by Rick Elice. The play provides a backstory for the...

Cost: $20 admission; $15 for seniors; $10 for kids

Where:
Western CT State University
Visual Performing Arts Center
Danbury, CT  06811
View map »


Website »

More information

With his unique blend of Blues and Americana, Keb Mo has garnered four Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Blues and Best Country/Acoustic Blues Albums plus five more nominations for Blues,...

Cost: $48-$88

Where:
Tarrytown Music Hall
13 Main Street
Tarrytown, NY  10591
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A community-based, family-oriented event with dance performances, professional dance instruction, bands, DJs, and social dancing for youths and adults.​ We are thrilled to continue our...

Where:
Hilton Stamford Hotel & Executive Meeting Center
1 First Stamford Place
Stamford, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

The big glitzy musical Sister Act fared better than the original movie. It received four Olivier Award nominations for its original stage production at London’s West End Theatre. It...

Cost: $59-$89

Where:
Westchester Broadway Theatre
One Broadway Plaza
Elmsford, NY
View map »


Website »

More information

The Pirelli World Challenge series serves up races from all 7 car classes from the Big Dogs (Cadillacs, Bentley’s, Lomborghinis & Porches) to the TC class of Mustangs and BMW 228is, and...

Cost: $60

Where:
Lime Rock Park
60 White Hollow Rd
Lakeville , CT
View map »


Website »

More information

See the majestic beauty of the Hudson River on this 2-hour narrated river adventure from Newburgh to West Point taking in the sights of Washington’s Headquarters, World’s End, Mt....

Cost: $22

Where:
Blu Pointe Landing
100 Front Street
Newburgh, NY
View map »


Website »

More information

Are you just dying to get some dirt under your fingernails this season? Come to Back 40 Farm for Friday Field Days and help us out with weeding, transplanting, hoeing, harvesting, and more! Who:...

Where:
Back 40 Farm
Washington Depot, CT


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Melissa Meyer: Hitting the Right Notes,” her first solo exhibition with the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception...

Cost: Free

Where:
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840


Sponsor: heathergaudiofineart.com
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

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Join the Litchfield Historical Society for a Saturday walking tour on May 26 at 10 a.m. Explore some of the sites related to the famous Beecher family, residents of Litchfield from 1810 to 1826....

Cost: Free for members; $5 non-members

Where:
Litchfield History Museum
7 South Street
Litchfield, CT  06759
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Sponsor: Litchfield Historical Society
Telephone: 860-567-4501
Contact Name: Litchfield Historical Society
Website »

More information

The Washington Art Association & Gallery is pleased to present State of Abstraction, an exhibition of contemporary abstract art by Connecticut artists from May 5 - June 16, 2018. Co-Curated...

Cost: Free and open to the public

Where:
Washington Art Association & Gallery
4 Bryan Hall Plaza
P.O. Box 173
Washington Depot, CT  06794
View map »


Sponsor: Washington Art Association & Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-2878
Contact Name: Barbara von Schreiber
Website »

More information

The US any Blue Angels headline the Jones Beach 15th Annual Memorial Day Weekend Air Show. Plus The Royal Canadian Air Force Snow Birds, the F22 Raptor the Air Force’s newest fighter...

Cost: Free

Where:
Jones Beach
895 Bay Pkwy
Wantagh, NY  11793
View map »


Website »

More information

Take a one-hour guided tour of the historic Lyndhurst mansion overlooking the Hudson River. The Gothic Revival mansion has been used as a movie set for six major motion pictures...

Cost: $18

Where:
Lyndhurst
635 S. Broadway
Tarrytown, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

This hilltop paradise, now a historic site of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, was home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. Read our review of the guided...

Cost: $25

Where:
Kykuit
381 N. Broadway
Sleepy Hollow, NY  10591
View map »


Website »

More information

KMR Arts is proud to present MAYDAY, an exhibition of new photographs by Barbara Vaughn. Please join us for the opening reception with the artist on June 2, 2018, from 3-7pm, 2 Titus Road,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
KMR Arts
2 Titus Road
Washington Depot , CT  06794
View map »


Website »

More information

The first Litchfield County Zine Fest (and the first zine fest in Connecticut) is coming to Kent, CT! The fest is a free, all-ages, public arts event where self-publishers of all stripes will...

Cost: Free

Where:
Kent Community House
93 North Main Street
Kent, CT  06757
View map »


Website »

More information

Architect and designer, Osvaldo Borsani (1911-1985), was a giant of Italian modern design and co-founder of Tecno. George Champion Modern Shop will celebrate...

Cost: free

Where:
George Champion Modern Shop
442 Main St. South
Woodbury, CT  06798
View map »


Sponsor: George Champion Modern Shop
Telephone: 203-263-8442
Contact Name: George Champion
Website »

More information

SilverSource – the leading resource for older adults and their families– announced today that it is now accepting nominations for the 2018 SilverSource Awards.  The awards...

Cost: FREE

Where:
SilverSource, Inc.
2009 Summer Street, 3rd Floor
2949 Long Ridge Rd
Stamford, CT  06905
View map »


Sponsor: SilverSource, Inc.
Telephone: 203-324-6584
Contact Name: Kathleen Bordelon
Website »

More information

Opening Reception: Apr 28 at 2:00 PM Date of Show : Apr 28 - May 27  See the artists website at www.erikacrofut.com Each month the Sandisfield Arts Center proudly...

Cost: Free

Where:
Sandisfield Arts Center
5 Hammertown Rd.
Sandisfield, MA  01255
View map »


Sponsor: Sandisfield Arts Center
Telephone: 413-258-4100
Contact Name: Marcella Smith
Website »

More information

Ridgefield Guild of Artists’ eighth annual Juried Member Show opens Saturday, May 26th, with a reception scheduled for Saturday, June 2nd from 4-6pm (due to the Memorial Day...

Cost: Free

Where:
Ridgefield Guild of Artists
34 Halpin Lane
Ridgefield, CT  06877
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Website »

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Oil paintings by Carol Brightman Johnson will be on display at the Smithy Store Loft Gallery from May 25 to July 7. Hours: daily from 10:00 to 5:30 Subjects include horses, dogs, orchids,...

Cost: Free

Where:
The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
10 Main St.
New Preston, CT  06777
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Sponsor: The Smithy Store Loft Gallery
Telephone: 860-868-9003
Contact Name: Susan Newbury
Website »

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A Benefit For Veterans Featuring exclusive footage of edisun on tour with US Armed Forces. 2005-2018 6PM doors 7PM Film and Musical Performance

Cost: $10.00

Where:
Wall Street Theater
71 Wall Street
Norwalk, CT  06850
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Sponsor: Wall Street Theater
Telephone: 203-283-5290
Contact Name: Jeanne Moore
Website »

More information

Peter and the Starcatcher is a play based on the 2004 novel Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, adapted for the stage by Rick Elice. The play provides a backstory for the...

Cost: $20 admission; $15 for seniors; $10 for kids

Where:
Western CT State University
Visual Performing Arts Center
Danbury, CT  06811
View map »


Website »

More information

Music: Boris Asafiev Choreography: Alexei Ratmansky, after Vasily Vainonen Cast The Bolshoi Principals, Soloists and Corps de Ballet In the era of the French Revolution, Jeanne and...

Cost: $25

Where:
The Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
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Website »

More information

An evening of ribald, one-man comedy with Wet Hot American Summer actor and stand-up sensation Michael Ian Black. Fans of sketch comedy might know Black’s work from such seminal television...

Cost: $29

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company StageOne
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Website »

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“Country Music’s Newest Star”, Jessica Lynn who has been called “Shania’s Successor” is coming to ChappPac. A Lakeland HS and Pace University grad, she...

Cost: $35

Where:
The Chappaqua Performing Arts Center
480 Bedford Road
Chappaqua, NY  10514
View map »


Website »

More information

A community-based, family-oriented event with dance performances, professional dance instruction, bands, DJs, and social dancing for youths and adults.​ We are thrilled to continue our...

Where:
Hilton Stamford Hotel & Executive Meeting Center
1 First Stamford Place
Stamford, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

The big glitzy musical Sister Act fared better than the original movie. It received four Olivier Award nominations for its original stage production at London’s West End Theatre. It...

Cost: $59-$89

Where:
Westchester Broadway Theatre
One Broadway Plaza
Elmsford, NY
View map »


Website »

More information

The Pirelli World Challenge series serves up races from all 7 car classes from the Big Dogs (Cadillacs, Bentley’s, Lomborghinis & Porches) to the TC class of Mustangs and BMW 228is, and...

Cost: $60

Where:
Lime Rock Park
60 White Hollow Rd
Lakeville , CT
View map »


Website »

More information

See the majestic beauty of the Hudson River on this 2-hour narrated river adventure from Newburgh to West Point taking in the sights of Washington’s Headquarters, World’s End, Mt....

Cost: $22

Where:
Blu Pointe Landing
100 Front Street
Newburgh, NY
View map »


Website »

More information

The Loft Gallery will open an exhibit of fine paintings by Carol Brightman Johnson. Ms. Johnson's show opens on Saturday, May 26 and run through Sunday, July 8, and will feature...

Cost: free

Where:
Loft Gallery at The Smithy
10 Main Street
New Preston, CT  06777
View map »


Sponsor: Loft Gallery at The Smithy
Telephone: (860)868-9003
Contact Name: Susan
Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to present “Melissa Meyer: Hitting the Right Notes,” her first solo exhibition with the gallery.  The show will open with a public reception...

Cost: Free

Where:
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840


Sponsor: heathergaudiofineart.com
Telephone: 203-801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Do you wish you could read great literature but fear you just can't fit it in? Do you join book clubs only to find yourself not having enough time to read through the entire book? Do you love a...

Cost: Free

Where:
Danbury Library- Lower Level Meeting Room
170 Main St
Danbury, CT  06810
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Website »

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