The summer months in Connecticut serve up a bounty of art, music and beautiful vistas that makes it easy to find a destination for all of these checkpoints within easy driving range. As a teaser for the summer, I set off in early June for the Mattatuck, Lyman Allyn and Florence Griswold museums, where I found each flourishing with imaginative exhibitions and plenty of enrichment activities.
The MATT, as it’s known, has long dipped into the industrial history of the Naugatuck Valley, a region known for its clocks, watches and rubber, as well as its waves of immigrants. While the downtown-based museum is undergoing a significant expansion, it has been using this time to display to the public the charms of Rose Hill, the Henry Austin — prominent 19th century Connecticut-based architect — designed estates once occupied by the Scovills, the Chases and the Weltons, leading 19th century Waterbury families.
Although the estate is literally just up the hill from the museum proper, it has not been open to the public before. For the next year, the MATT is exhibiting a sampling of paintings and objects from its permanent collections while also offering visitors a chance to experience what it might have been like to live in Waterbury’s Gilded Age. Rooms at Rose Hill have been transformed into galleries and studio space, and a garden has been created to accommodate the Mattatuck’s children’s art camp.
Kids will be donning naturalists’ hats in sessions that will call upon the expertise of naturalists from the nearby Flanders Nature Center and the National Audubon Society. Little tote bags of earth and flats of plants were set out for them in late June. All spring, even in its abbreviated form, the MATT has been hopping — with visitors turning out in droves for its local history lectures and architectural walking tours.