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Jasper Johns' Connecticut Estate To Become Artists' Retreat

Left: Remy. Right: Charles Dharapak.
Left: Artist Jasper Johns works on lithographs in the Paris workshop of a friend in 1978. Right: Johns receives the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama at a ceremony at the White House in 2010.

The painter Jasper Johns wants to leave a gift to the town of Sharon, Connecticut – his estate – to be used as an artists' retreat.

Credit Lefteris Pitarakis / AP
An encaustic Stars and Stripes painting entitled 'Flag' (1960-1966) by Jasper Johns in London in 2010.

Johns is best known for his dramatic takes on American iconography, most famously the American flags he painted in the 1950s. He’s lived in Sharon since the 1990s, but First Selectman Brent Colley says the artist pretty much keeps to himself.

“He really doesn’t come into town all that much, but for what he’s done to his neighborhood, he’s really transformed it into something special.”

Colley says Johns has restored a lot of historic houses on his street – he owns six parcels of land in Sharon that add up to about 170 acres. Earlier this month Johns brought the town plans for a retreat where 18 to 24 artists at a time could live and work without distraction. Colley says that’ll be great for Sharon and other towns in northwest Connecticut.

“In our town and in our region, we have every type of artist you could possibly imagine. We have artists that do art through wood or iron, painting, drawing, music, you name it. I’ve watched our town change into a very active artists’ community, just in the past three or four years.”

The plan is to convert the estate after Johns’s death. He’s 87 now. Johns’s representatives say the retreat would employ 19 to 25 people.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.