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Stamford Art Space Continues To Percolate With Addition Of 'Hidden' Cafe

Franklin Street Works Creative Director Terri C. Smith, left, and Executive Director Bonnie Wattles, right.
Franklin Street Works Creative Director Terri C. Smith, left, and Executive Director Bonnie Wattles, right. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sophie Lyons Photography
Chef Erin Emmett of the Franklin Street Works Cafe.
Chef Erin Emmett of the Franklin Street Works Cafe. Photo Credit: Submitted

STAMFORD, Conn. -- A Stamford nonprofit that operates like a museum recently celebrated its one-year-anniversary of adding a farm-to-table inspired cafe to its mix.

Sound confusing? You won't be when you enter Franklin Street Works (FSW), a contemporary art space founded by longtime Stamford resident Kathryn Emmett and current city of Stamford corporation counsel.

Many area residents know the organization for its innovative art -- it's been around for five years. But the cafe, headed by Chef Erin Emmett of Sweet Pistachio Baking Co., has been getting the buzz of late ever since it opened last June.

"I like to think we're a hidden gem," said FSW Executive Director Bonnie Wattles of the community-minded eatery. Since its opening it has increased traffic to the museum by 66 percent.

The vibrant and seasonal menu -- influenced in part by Chef Emmett's time living (and cooking!) in San Francisco -- highlights locally sourced ingredients and even fresh vegetables and herbs from FSW’s backyard garden. Her goal? To bring a little bit of that California mentality and lifestyle to Stamford.

Along with daily baked scones, muffins, pies, cookies, and Chef Emmett's soon-to-be-famous house-made granola, guests will also find signature macaroons in varieties such as salted caramel, Earl Grey, and pistachio.

Fair trade coffee by Brooklyn Roasting Company is also on the menu as are handcrafted espresso drinks, a rotating daily drip coffee and a cold brew iced version. In addition, the café features wine and regionally brewed craft beer.

Something else residents may not know: The venue is available for private events, cocktail parties, and intimate dinner parties.

As for the art, expect museum-quality exhibitions that, said Wattles, "reflect the creative risk taking of innovative alternative art spaces." All of the exhibitions, she explained, are group, thematic shows that are accompanied by free educational programs that bring audiences, curators and artists together in an intimate, casual setting.

Going on now through December: "Danger Came Smiling: Feminist Art and Popular Music."

And coming up next (dates to be determined): a performance art piece by New York Based artist Xaviera Simmons; a talk by Simmons at UConn-Stamford; and an intimate evening of music and conversation with Actress and pioneering Visual and Musical Artist Ann Magnuson (known for her bands Vulcan Death Grip and Bongwater).

FSW also plans to host several vinyl record listening parties and is currently brainstorming with WPKN to create one to two radio events during the exhibition’s run.

The organization places special emphasis on supporting emerging artists early in their careers and exhibiting artists receive honoraria for commissioned works. To date, FSW has exhibited the work of more than 250 artists, curated 22 original exhibitions and organized approximately 120 programs, including talks, tours, and performances, explained Creative Director Terri C Smith.

All exhibitions are free to the public. The space is funded by individual donations, grant support, corporate sponsors and, of course, café revenue. So what are you waiting for? There's a macaroon with your name on it.

FSW is located at 41 Franklin Street, (203) 595-5211; www.franklinstreetworks.org/ .

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