STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
One expects to see flowers budding and tree leaves returning in spring, but there’s also “Art in Bloom” this month. The annual fundraiser for the Cheltenham Center for the Arts blossoms on April 25. The event features art works from the 72nd Annual Juried Painting Show as well as floral displays by local florists inspired by the paintings.
The Art in Bloom event builds on the long history of the juried painting show. Chris Windle, a show participant for a couple of years, won a prize this year for his painting “New Orleans Alex.” It’s his daughter, the first born of his five children. The portrait is done in oil, which Windle works with almost exclusively.
“That’s what I like the most, though I’m still learning,” he said. “I know artists say that, but I really mean it. I hope to die with a brush in my hand.”
In addition to his prize winner, Windle has another painting, an urban landscape, in the exhibit. He’s happy to be included, since he used to live in the area (he now lives in Frankford in Philadelphia). He’s happy to be supporting the Center.
So is Barbara Straussberg, who has two pieces in the juried show and is the coordinator of the Art in Bloom event. Her exhibited work is abstract – a small work on paper and a larger painting on wood.
She’s eager to see which paintings the florists pick this year to inspire their flower creations. The florists attend the exhibition opening, select their top three choices for interpretation, then create the floral displays for the fundraiser.
In last year’s show, one of the florists picked Straussberg’s painting to interpret. She was excited to see the florist’s creative take on her work. Each florist brings their own uniqueness to the event.
“They’re really creative. Some do elaborate interpretations. Some look more like traditional flower arrangements,” she said.
This year’s fundraiser also features an in-person floral arrangement demonstration by Patrick Kelly of Stein Your Florist Co. He’ll be situated in front of a painting and will interpret it with flowers in real time for the guests in attendance.
The exhibit includes about 60 paintings, juried by Sharon Ewing, director of Gross McCleaf Gallery. More than 15 florists will participate in the fundraiser. The artists, the florists, and the local business sponsors are all happy to support the Center. For 75 years, the Center has been a venue for classes, exhibitions, and other programs to promote regional artists and to showcase the work of adults and children in the community.
“I really like the Center a lot,” Straussberg said. “I think they do some good work. It’s very community-based. All exhibitions feature local and emerging artists.”
For professional artists like Straussberg, too, it’s a great place to show her work.
“It’s an exceptional space,” she said.
Straussberg’s looking forward to seeing that space filled with the art work in the juried show as well as the floral creations at Art in Bloom.
“You never know what the florists’ choices will be,” she said. “It’s exciting.”
IF YOU GO
What: 72nd Juried Painting Show, April 12-May 10 (reception 2-4 p.m. April 12); Art in Bloom Benefit, Saturday April 25, 5-7 pm
Where: Cheltenham Center for the Arts, 439 Asbourne Road, Cheltenham.
Tickets: Art in Bloom is $25 in advance; $35 at the door.
Info.: Call 215-379-4660 or visit www.cheltenhamarts.org