Gala caps 50th anniversary celebration weekend

The more than 600 guests who came to the Brandywine Conservancy & River Museum’s “Frolic in the Garden” Gala Saturday evening might have thought they had somehow stepped into another dimension and arrived at the Philadelphia Flower Show. Stoney Bank Nurseries transformed the Museum courtyard into a floral delight with displays throughout. A billboard-sized image of Weymouth’s home, “The Big Bend,” graced one end of the tented space while a stream replicating the Brandywine flowed past.

The gala capped off two days of celebrating the Conservancy’s fifty years of cultivating friendships. It was also a chance to toast “fifty years of blooming successes,” per the promotional literature. Garces Events and Blanch & Shock Catering provided delicious, mouth-watering temptations, including yummy bites of scrapple drizzled with huckleberry sauce.

One of the area’s best musical groups, “Chatterband,” entertained all evening long. The nine-piece group began the evening with soft, swinging music. Gradually the band turned up the energy and the party was in full swing. No one danced harder or with more fervor and agility than Morris Stroud, Weymouth’s successor as the Conservancy’s board chairman.

Sarah Alderman and Sean Bramley donated their photo booth services. Guests enjoyed choosing funny hats and other props provided by their company “Clique Bait” before posing for their keepsake photo. Partygoers strolled through the galleries and enjoyed more than just the artwork on display. Upgrades in the building’s lighting were evident in the elevators, the galleries and the Museum’s core. Thomas Padon, museum director, said, “We’re making improvements little by little to enhance the visitor experience.” Frolic oversaw the installation of a new floor in the Museum’s Millstone Café and the repainting of the circular cement stairs in the building’s core before he died. “Right up until the end, he was involved in choosing just the right shade of grey,” explained Amanda Burdan, associate curator.

Jamie Wyeth (n. 1947), Frolic (detail), 2017, enamel, acrylic and oil on canvas

Everyone made sure to visit the second-floor Jamie Wyeth Gallery to see the artist’s recently completed portrait of Frolic. Frolic, 2017, an enamel, acrylic and oil on canvas, depicts Frolic engaged in one of his passions, four-in-hand carriage driving. The wall text reads, “Together with the vigorous, animated brushwork of the background—in vibrant green and yellow hues denoting the first signs of spring—Wyeth not only creates an impression of the carriage’s swift movement through the landscape, but draws attention to Weymouth’s richly hued face and steely concentration.” This brilliant portrait, hanging next to Wyeth’s iconic Draft Age, captures Frolic’s “full steam ahead” vitality. The painting is a gift of Trustee Herbert V. Kohler, Jr. and his wife, Natalie.

“It’s a little bittersweet,” sighed trustee Laurie McBride of Colorado. “It’s a wonderful celebration, but I miss Frolic and wish he were here,” she continued. Brandywine Conservancy founder and chair of the board, George A. “Frolic” Weymouth died a year ago this month. Everyone agreed he would have loved this party. The invitation featured the Conservancy’s mascot—a river rat—smiling and holding a Bombay Gin martini, Frolic’s favorite drink. The adorable rat (an oxymoron?) pen and ink sketch was the work of local artist and Conservancy supporter, Mark Dance. “Frolic would not want us to be sad,” explained Dance. Dance had made a similar pen and ink drawing for a Young Friends All Hallows Eve Costume Ball event years ago, that Frolic liked very much and purchased.

River Rat drawing by Mark Dance

Many friends shared their favorite stories of Frolic. Trustee McBride recounted the first time she laid eyes on Frolic in the 1960s. He was driving a four-in-hand coach and was wearing an Afro wig. She said to herself, “I’ve got to meet that person!” She did, and they were friends from that day on. Mark Dance is grateful for the nurturing and encouragement he received from Frolic. “He encouraged and allowed me to use my creativity for the good of the Brandywine Conservancy,” explains Dance. “He gave me great confidence when he looked at my work. He offered kind criticism when warranted and took great joy in pointing out how I was doing something different from other Brandywine artists. ‘Keep doing that! The texture you've built up is giving you something on which to hang your paint,’ Frolic would say. Dance confides, “I have learned so much from Frolic; we all have.” Trustee Jack Hines explained his admiration for Weymouth this way, “He stepped up to preserve American art and the environment for all of us.”

A year of celebrations for the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art continues with a major retrospective art exhibition of the work of Andrew Wyeth—the largest ever organized by the Museum—plus a variety of special programs and activities reflecting the organization’s commitment to art and the natural environment.

 

 

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About Lora B. Englehart

Lora has a passion for art, gardening, yoga, music and dancing. She continues to research the life of locally born abolitionist and 1998 National Women's Hall of Fame inductee Mary Ann Shadd Cary. She is a dedicated community volunteer, working with the American Association of University Women, Wilmington, DE branch (programs chair), Chadds Ford Historical Society (former board member) and Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art. Lora lives in Birmingham Township with her husband Bill and son Brad. Daughter Erika lives in Pittsburgh with husband Bob and baby Wilhelmina. She is a former French, Spanish and ESL teacher, bilingual life insurance underwriter and public relations coordinator for Delaware Art Museum and Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art.

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