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Material Things

the art changes but the house remains the same



Photographs by Wendy Carlson

Some people move furniture around when they want to achieve a fresh look in their home. But Tom Grotta and Rhonda Brown have a more ingenious method; they simply change the artwork. Fiber art—both diminutive and massive—dictates the look of the couple’s renovated barn, and it is ever changing. In the light-filled entranceway that doubles as an installation space, a slinky, tubular sculpture constructed of discarded and deconstructed Encyclopedia Britannicas appears to have sprouted from the bluestone flooring. An antique band saw strung with colored thread into a geometric form protrudes from a wall. Nearby, a trio of life-size willow and bronze figures are posed as if secretly conversing. In a few months, this dynamic dialogue of artwork will be replaced by another set of pieces. “People who come here may have seen the house before, but it will look different because the artwork in it will be different,” says Grotta, a photographer and graphic artist. Together with his wife, Rhonda, a lawyer, they own browngrotta arts, an agency that represents contemporary fiber artists.

Operating out of their home, Grotta and Brown photograph artwork, publish catalogues, curate exhibits, organize trade shows and sell online the work of more than 100 fiber artists from around the world. At any given time, about 100 pieces are temporarily installed in the couple’s home, replaced by others when sold or when new pieces arrive to be photographed.

Rich in texture, color, and sculptural dimension, this contemporary art form ranges in size from tabletop pieces made with unconventional materials such as compressed newspaper and plastic, even safety pins and clothes pins, to wall-sized, mixed-media tapestries.

The couple’s passion for art began in the late 1980s when they purchased a small, 1920s farmhouse in Wilton. They moved in with only a few pieces of furniture from Grotta’s college days. “We had a lot of wire-spool stools, and a board set over saw horses for a dining-room table,” recalls Brown. But they placed a four-panel abstract painting by Claude Vermette on the wall above it, making the room instantly elegant. “The furniture was minimal, but we had so much great art, and we felt it was the art, not the furniture, that made the house feel more homey and more spacious,” adds Grotta.

So it was only fitting when the couple and their son, Carter (now 18 and college-bound), decided to move to a larger space. It was for the sake of the art. As business grew, the couple needed a structure with high ceilings and spacious, handsome rooms that could also double as a photo studio. They also wanted a space to showcase how fiber art can be part of everyday décor. “We were looking for a house with good bones, but we needed it to have an open, canvas flexibility,” Grotta says. A decade ago, they found the perfect fit with a two-story, 1895 former horse stable set on two acres, just north of Wilton center. New York architect David Ling designed the barn’s renovation and a new addition that mirrored the original stable.

From outside, the matching gambrel roof, white clapboard siding, and original stable doors make the new wing appear to have always been there. However, the addition is strikingly different: an airy, contemporary space that’s illuminated by a series of French doors and a glass window in one corner of the informal double-height family room and kitchen.

In the mezzanine, the master bedroom, with vaulted, beamed ceiling, is connected to the old barn by a carriage bridge. The original barn now functions as a formal living area and also houses offices, a den, a small kitchen, and guest bedrooms. With less window light, this space also protects artwork from damaging ultraviolet rays.

Throughout the house, reclaimed barn beams, hemlock-wood flooring, and salvaged barn doors work to recreate a natural barn look, connecting the old with the new. In many ways, the end result is a functional work of art itself—a rustic framework that houses exhibition space, living area, and workplace.

Above all, it’s a home that radiates the couple’s lifelong passion. “We felt it is important to show people how they live with art,” says Grotta. “But we also care very deeply about how the art looks within that space.”

This October, Grotta and Brown will open their house to the public for a special exhibit entitled “Stimulus: Art and Its Inception.” It includes work from several dozen international artists, each piece accompanied by an item that inspired the artist, giving viewers a glimpse inside the creative process. The exhibit runs October 22 through November 1, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, with an opening reception on October 22, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., 267 Wilton Rd.

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Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

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November 2017

Come create new memories in a magical setting of over 100 holiday trees, elves and pixie dust. Enjoy shopping, live entertainment, raffle prizes and more! Featuring special kids events:...

Cost: Admission: Adults: $10 • Children & Seniors: $5• Kids under 5: Free

Where:
Crowne Plaza Hotel
18 Old Ridgebury Road
EXIT 2, I-84
Danbury, CT  06810
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Sponsor: Ann's Place
Telephone: 1-866-907-2314
Contact Name: Jack Bouffard
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Exhibit on view November 4 – 26, 2017 A comprehensive exhibit showcasing the achievements, careers, designs and personal accomplishments of the architects at the center of New...

Cost: Free

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Carriage Barn Arts Center
681 South Ave.
Waveny Park
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Giant Helium Balloon Parade Spectacular presented by Stamford Advocate/Hearst Connecticut Media Group The parade is one of the largest helium balloon parades in the country, featuring...

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Summer to Broad to Atlantic Streets
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Robert Gregson will give a talk on the impact of New Canaan’s modern architects throughout Connecticut and beyond. FREE / reserved seating for exhibit patrons For more information visit...

Cost: FREE

Where:
New Canaan Historical Society
13 Oenoke Ridge Road
New Canaan , CT  06840
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How is Mark Twain connected to Norwalk? Join Norwalk historians Madeleine and Ed Eckert to discover the connection during their lively lecture: “Norwalk & Mark Twain: Being Some...

Cost: $5.00

Where:
Norwalk Historical Society Museum
141 East Ave.
Entrance and Parking at Norwalk City Hall Parking, City Hall Drive
Norwalk, CT  06851
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Sponsor: Norwalk Historical Society
Telephone: 203-846-0525
Contact Name: Samantha Kulish-Fargione
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Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce “Paradigm Shifts,” a group exhibition featuring paintings by Charles Arnoldi, Ricardo Mazal and Manuel Mérida.  The show opens...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
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Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
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Exhibit on view November 4 – 26, 2017 A comprehensive exhibit showcasing the achievements, careers, designs and personal accomplishments of the architects at the center of New...

Cost: Free

Where:
Carriage Barn Arts Center
681 South Ave.
Waveny Park
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce “Paradigm Shifts,” a group exhibition featuring paintings by Charles Arnoldi, Ricardo Mazal and Manuel Mérida.  The show opens...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Exhibit on view November 4 – 26, 2017 A comprehensive exhibit showcasing the achievements, careers, designs and personal accomplishments of the architects at the center of New...

Cost: Free

Where:
Carriage Barn Arts Center
681 South Ave.
Waveny Park
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce “Paradigm Shifts,” a group exhibition featuring paintings by Charles Arnoldi, Ricardo Mazal and Manuel Mérida.  The show opens...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Exhibit on view November 4 – 26, 2017 A comprehensive exhibit showcasing the achievements, careers, designs and personal accomplishments of the architects at the center of New...

Cost: Free

Where:
Carriage Barn Arts Center
681 South Ave.
Waveny Park
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce “Paradigm Shifts,” a group exhibition featuring paintings by Charles Arnoldi, Ricardo Mazal and Manuel Mérida.  The show opens...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Exhibit on view November 4 – 26, 2017 A comprehensive exhibit showcasing the achievements, careers, designs and personal accomplishments of the architects at the center of New...

Cost: Free

Where:
Carriage Barn Arts Center
681 South Ave.
Waveny Park
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce “Paradigm Shifts,” a group exhibition featuring paintings by Charles Arnoldi, Ricardo Mazal and Manuel Mérida.  The show opens...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Exhibit on view November 4 – 26, 2017 A comprehensive exhibit showcasing the achievements, careers, designs and personal accomplishments of the architects at the center of New...

Cost: Free

Where:
Carriage Barn Arts Center
681 South Ave.
Waveny Park
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

The much anticipated Great Trains Holiday Exhibit at the Wilton Historical Society opens the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, November 24, with Santa on December 9! Decorated for the holidays, the...

Cost: All kids free, non-member adults $10

Where:
Wilton Historical Society
224 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce “Paradigm Shifts,” a group exhibition featuring paintings by Charles Arnoldi, Ricardo Mazal and Manuel Mérida.  The show opens...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Exhibit on view November 4 – 26, 2017 A comprehensive exhibit showcasing the achievements, careers, designs and personal accomplishments of the architects at the center of New...

Cost: Free

Where:
Carriage Barn Arts Center
681 South Ave.
Waveny Park
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

Saturday, November 25 at 4-6pm at the Carriage Barn Arts Center Curator Alan Goldberg will give a guided tour of the New Canaan Modern Architects: 50 years of Achievement 1947-1997 exhibit. Set...

Cost: 0

Where:
Carriage Barn Arts Center
681 South Ave.
New Canaan , CT  06840
View map »


Website »

More information

The much anticipated Great Trains Holiday Exhibit at the Wilton Historical Society opens the day after Thanksgiving, Friday, November 24, with Santa on December 9! Decorated for the holidays, the...

Cost: All kids free, non-member adults $10

Where:
Wilton Historical Society
224 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT  06897
View map »


Website »

More information

Heather Gaudio Fine Art is pleased to announce “Paradigm Shifts,” a group exhibition featuring paintings by Charles Arnoldi, Ricardo Mazal and Manuel Mérida.  The show opens...

Cost: Free

Where:
Heather Gaudio Fine Art
66 Elm Street
New Canaan, CT  06840
View map »


Sponsor: Heather Gaudio Fine Art
Telephone: (203)801-9590
Contact Name: Rachael Palacios
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
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