Bear sightings in Wilton have been plentiful this summer, and one place, in particular, will see a definite increase in 2022. Visitors to Weir Farm National Historical Park (NHP) one year from now will be sure to see a bear — albeit of the two-dimensional, painted kind.
The Friends of Weir Farm National Historical Park will be installing “Art Bears” in the landscape in the spring of 2022, featuring eight life-size, wooden cutouts of black bears, as well as a few cubs. These cutouts will be wrapped on one side with images of American Impressionism paintings of Weir Farm NHP, by several artists associated with the park, as well as art by contemporary artists.
The project has been funded by a grant from the Elizabeth Raymond Ambler Trust.
The Art Bears will be placed at various focal points throughout the park to encourage visitors of all ages to explore the gardens, grounds and woods and appreciate art set in nature. The Friends chose to place black bears in the landscape to highlight Weir Farm NHP as a National Park for Art and increase public awareness about the significant comeback of these large mammals in Connecticut. In recent years, black bears are increasingly interacting with people in their yards and neighborhoods in western Connecticut as the bears’ territory expands southward.
The project is based on the highly successful and fun National Park Service Centennial Art Bison installation at the park in 2016. Life-size bison cut out of plywood, featuring details of paintings of the Weir Farm site, were placed throughout the park so that visitors could simultaneously view the bison, and the building or landscape depicted in the detail of painting. The Centennial Art Bison were a great success with visitors to the park. The Art Bears will be similar in execution, but the Friends also expect to offer programming and educational tie-ins to art, the local environment, bear facts, and wildlife management.
Liz Castagna, vice president of the Friends of Weir Farm, expressed her gratitude for the support from the Elizabeth Raymond Ambler Trust.
“It will allow us to bring the Art Bears to the park for the public to enjoy art outside in nature beginning in the spring of 2022, and to fund a number of fun events for all ages, as well as black bear-related educational and environmental awareness projects,” she said.
First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice sees the project as a draw for visitors around the region.
“Wilton is fortunate to be the home to both The Elizabeth Raymond Ambler Trust and Weir Farm National Historical Park. The Friends of Weir Farm Art Bear project will be a fun and interesting reason for residents and visitors outside of Wilton to revisit the park or visit for the first time. Weir Farm National Historical Park is a local treasure for art and recreation located in both Wilton and Ridgefield.”
Weir Farm National Historical Park was the home and studio of America’s most beloved Impressionist, J. Alden Weir. Set against a rural Connecticut landscape that has been painted by thousands of artists from 1882 to the present, Weir Farm is a national legacy of American Impressionism, the creative spirit, and historic preservation.
Friends of Weir Farm is an all-volunteer, not-for-profit partner of Weir Farm National Historical Park that works to engage the community in a deeper appreciation of Weir Farm NHP, raise funds to enhance the visitor experience, and foster the next generation of park stewards. Members also advocate for Weir Farm NHP and support meaningful projects and programs that promote the natural, recreational, and cultural resources that make it unique.