A century-old artist’s retreat, still inspiring

By Trust for Public Land
Published August 8, 2015

A century-old artist’s retreat, still inspiring

When J. Alden Weir traded one of his paintings and $10 for some land in Connecticut in the summer of 1882, he was just looking for a place to call home. He couldn’t have predicted how much the place would shape his legacy. Over the years, the farm’s peaceful fields and lush woods would inspire the work that made him famous. 

In the 1990s, The Trust for Public Land helped conserve Weir Farm and advocate for its designation as the state’s first National Historic Site. But today, the park is more than monument to the past: it’s an outdoor classroom inspiring the next generation of artists and conservationists.

This summer, the Green Team—a group of high-school interns from nearby nonprofit Groundwork Bridgeport—made Weir Farm their summer training ground.

The team took on a combination of art and landscaping projects: an unusual mix, but perfect for a place like Weir Farm. For many students, the internship was their first paid job—and visits by different National Park Service staff helped get them thinking about their next one, too.

“One of our goals was to teach the kids about different maintenance tasks such as fencing, transplanting plants, and removing invasive species,” says Groundwork Bridgeport Executive Director Shubhada Kambli. “We wanted to expose them to environmental career paths and teach them job skills like showing up on time and dealing respectfully with supervisors—skills that many of them might not have had a chance to practice before.”

But while the work experience is a practical plus, the opportunity to spend some time immersed in the natural world is special, too. In Bridgeport, many neighborhoods lack easily accessible green space—something The Trust for Public Land is working with the city to improve. In the meantime, Weir Farm provides the same retreat from city life for as it did for Weir himself, more than a hundred years ago.

“It’s great to be able to go to Weir Farm and to have this relationship with The Trust for Public Land,” says Kambli. “It’s such an inspirational place and the kids were just thrilled to be there.”

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