The Jamie Gagarin Gallery is a welcoming and engaging space within the Oliver Wolcott Library that is dedicated to bringing high-quality art to the community. The Gallery space was made possible through a substantial legacy gift given to OWL in 2014 by Jamie Gagarin. As a result of this wonderful gift, improvements were made to the previous Community Room, and the new Gallery space was dedicated in Mrs. Gagarin’s honor in 2015. Improvements included updated audio-visual technology and the enhancement of the room to create a truly engaging gathering space and an appropriate, welcoming art gallery. It is fitting that the Community Room and Gallery be a lasting tribute to her spirit, her on-going generosity, commitment and philanthropy to OWL.
Jamie Porter Gagarin (1918-2016) had an indelible impact on the Oliver Wolcott Library. In the mid-1960’s Mrs. Gagarin was instrumental in the plan to relocate OWL from the corner of West and South streets (currently the site of the Litchfield Historical Society) to its current home in the Oliver Wolcott Jr. home on South Street. Additionally, she was interested in the arts of all kinds, especially theater and modern art, and this appreciation made her an advocate of working with American architect, Eliot Noyes, who proposed fusing a mid-century modern addition with the 1799 Oliver Wolcott home to create the noteworthy and special library that we know today. Read more about the notable architecture of OWL here.
Mrs. Gagarin was smart, independent and unfailingly generous. She graduated from Bennington College in 1939 and went on shortly after college to marry Andrew Gagarin, a member of Russian nobility. In 1946, after Andrew’s service as an officer in the U.S. Navy, Mr. and Mrs. Gagarin and their four children moved to Litchfield.
Mrs. Gagarin cared deeply about social justice and scholarship, and it was that commitment to social justice, intellectual pursuits and access to information for everyone that was the spirit of her giving to OWL. She served as president of the Board of Trustees and was a long-time, loyal OWL volunteer, often seen at the circulation desk, greeting and assisting patrons. Additionally, Mrs. Gagarin and her husband were instrumental in donating land to establish the Litchfield Land Trust, and were deeply committed to affordable housing initiatives in Litchfield, underscoring Mrs. Gagarin’s belief that society should take care of one another, and that this care provides great benefit for all.