New Canaan honors the shapers of style

Emilee Geist

“French Bull’s” Jackie Shapiro will share her philosophy of “Live Vivid” during a luncheon October 1, which will be sent home in one of her designer bags. “French Bull’s” Jackie Shapiro will share her philosophy of “Live Vivid” during a luncheon October 1, which will be sent home in one […]


A monthlong celebration called October4design, with a spotlight on architecture, art, design and community, will kick off with a presentation by the colorful designer of “French Bull,” Jackie Shapiro, on Thursday October 1.

The October4design website features over 30 events and activities for adults and children, and more are still being added — all created to attract people to New Canaan.

There will be online architecture lectures; outdoor tours of The Glass House; a designer luncheon; New Canaan’s Community Canvas; and for children, a Builder’s Challenge and a “Where’s Philip?” scavenger hunt named for The Glass House architect Philip Johnson.

“The goal is to build this over time into something where people are planning on coming to New Canaan, if they don’t already live here, in October to participate. We see this as a way to drive tourism,” executive director of the New Canaan Museum and Historical Society, Nancy Geary, who is spearheading the program.



The monthlong event would be reminiscent to the week-long celebration of modernism that takes place in Palm Springs, Fla., annually, “with lectures, events and parties,” Geary said.


Prior to its launch, October4design had to be scaled back and adapted for safety reasons during the coronavirus pandemic.

For the kickoff luncheon, featuring renowned “French Bull” designer Shapiro, on Thursday, October 1, the meal will be taken at home by participants in a designer bag with wine, to safely enjoy the presentation on Zoom.


Shapiro, who was “one of the first designers to use computers to design her prints,” will share her “interesting story about how she branded and marketed herself,” Geary said. She will share her philosophy of “Live Vivid.”

People must sign up for the lunch by Monday, Sept. 28, by emailing [email protected]

Before designing the brilliantly colorful patterns for “French Bull,” Shapiro, who calls herself a vividist, was a stylist for Mattel’s Barbie and, on the local level, fashioned plates for The Glass House.

Geary, a member of the Tourism and Economic Development Advisory Committee, (TEDAC), started brainstorming in January about October4design and gained the organization’s support along with funds for the website.


Geary hopes October4design “gets on people’s radar, so that next year, when it is bigger and has the house tour and has more in-person events, that people think that this is something that they really want to support, that they want to participate in.”

Children can try their hands at architectural design by building a miniature structure with Legos, or other materials, with the help of “a little brochure on notable architecture in New Canaan” that they are provided with, Geary said.

“They can build whatever they want. It can be an actual building, or it can be whatever they create,” she added.

The fun is sponsored by the Rotary Club of New Canaan and the community will be able to see the works on display in the windows of local stores. People can find more information on the Museum and Historical Society’s website.

The Glass House is organizing a “Where’s Philip?” hunt for children. Philip Johnson’s glasses will be placed in various stores in New Canaan. When children spy them, they will ask to have their passport stamped. After the passport is filled, they will take it to The Glass House Design Center and receive a prize.

When October4design “was originally conceived, the linchpin event was going to be our mid-modern century house tour, because of COVID that has been put off a year,” Geary said. The house tour would include a handful of homes designed by the Harvard Five and gives homage to the nearly 80 mid-century modern homes in New Canaan.

This year there still will be architectural programming.

The Glass House will open for outdoor-only activities so visitors, who register beforehand, can have access to the grounds of the 49-acre property with sculptures and several structures designed by Philip Johnson. It is open Friday, through Monday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. For more information, see its website.

The Glass House will sponsor a program by Olson Kundig, a Seattle architect who will speak about how buildings can serve as a bridge linking nature, culture and people.

Kundig has received some of the world’s highest design honors, including a National Design Award from the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.

A well-known local landscape architect, Keith Simpson, will describe a groundbreaking postmodern project, that he oversaw, built on a steep four-acre wooded property in northern New Canaan.

Simpson, also a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, will talk about the project, which has prefabricated portions made by Bluhomes of California. Bluhomes boasts green prefabs with the slogan “letting the outdoors in.” More information will be found on the October4design website.

The Museum and Historical Society will unveil New Canaan’s Community Canvas Monday, Oct 5 from 4-5:30, with hundreds of photos the organization has received. The “diverse canvas celebrates what makes this town so vital – its community,” an announcement for the happenings says. It is funded by the New Canaan Community Foundation.

The Museum and Historical Society, along with NCTV79, Channel 79, will present “Women Leaders in New Canaan: Celebrating the Legacy of the 19th Amendment” in honor of the centennial of women’s right to vote. The recorded interviews will be aired on Channel 79 and the Museum and Historical Society’s YouTube channels.

Some of the women who will be recognized are: Barb Achenbaum, Staying Put; Dede Bartlett, New Canaan Domestic Abuse Prevention Partnership; Christa Carr, The Glass House, Amanda Martocchio, Architect; Tucker Murphy, Town Government; Fatou Niang, protest organizer; Sharon Prince, Grace Farms Foundation; Sheri West, LiveGirl and Bethany Zaro, Health and Human Services.

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