Antiques Show bursts into bloom

Like a precious spring bud, the Brandywine River Museum of Art’s annual Antiques Show develops from the parent organism, in this case, the Brandywine Conservancy & Museum of Art. During the months of the preceding year, layer upon layer of detailed planning forms an organism that duplicates its parent. On Friday morning of Memorial Day Weekend, the antiques show dealers and more than 100 volunteers descend upon the museum to begin carefully peeling back the layers of the bud to reveal the Antiques Show in full flower.

Peonies in an arrangement designed by Museum volunteers

Peter W. Chillingworth, associated with the Antiques Show for more than thirty years and the Show’s organizer since 2007, travels from his home in western Pennsylvania. “I am always struck by the beauty of the flowers as I reach the Brandywine Valley and approach Chadds Ford,” he said. Exquisite floral displays designed by museum volunteers, placed in and around dealers’ booths, drew oohs and ahs.

Lee Glatz, one of the coordinators of the floral arrangements, says, “Dealers may choose from a selection of flowers and containers, or the volunteers will fill a container belonging to the dealer.” Coordinator Diane Cannon chimes in, “Over the years, dealers have come to look forward to and rely on displays created by their favorite arrangers.” The stunning arrangements, created with flowers from commercial nurseries and prized blooms donated by local gardeners, are one of the elements that make this antiques show unique.

Carving station during Antiques Show Opening

Like a perennial garden, the Brandywine River Museum of Art Antiques Show blooms every year over Memorial Day weekend. This is its 46th year offering American country and formal furniture, decorative arts, folk art, needlework, Chinese export porcelain, glass, jewelry, rugs, clock cases and more from twenty-seven of the country’s finest antiques dealers.

New to the Show’s roster of dealers was Dover House of Louisville, Kentucky. Co-owner Clarence Smith remarked, “We go to about 15 shows a year, and we always enjoy shows that are run by organizations and committees,” he says. “They tend to be in unexpected places--like this museum--which makes it more interesting for the customers. The enthusiasm and the energy of the hard-working volunteers tend to flow over into the event,” he explains.

Steve White of White & White from Skaneateles, N.Y., is also participating in the Brandywine Antiques Show for the first time. White has been “in the business” for over 52 years, but this is the first time his schedule has meshed with the Brandywine Show. He is taking over a small booth made available by a dealer who has retired. “This is the first time I pulled out of my driveway with the truck half-full,” he chuckles. It was tricky for him to decide what to bring as he usually works in a larger space, but he quickly sold four chairs, so he chose wisely. “Hopefully, I will return home with a completely empty truck!” he said as he turned to wait on another customer.

The dealers were not the only ones to enjoy the opening night party. Old friends and new friends mingled in the courtyard and throughout the museum sampling carving stations, a seafood bar, desserts, passed hors d’oeuvres and a sushi bar catered by Blanch & Shock. Piano music subtly accentuated pockets of lively conversation and laughter. “I always love coming up here for the Antiques Show opening,” said Randy Baumgardner of Washington, D.C. “It is something that I look forward to every year. There’s nothing like having a glass of wine with friends, looking at Wyeth paintings and perusing fascinating antiques,” he continued. When asked if he usually buys something at the Antiques Show, Baumgardner laughed and said, “I put a chair in the trunk of my car earlier this evening!” Baumgartner is relocating to Tennessee next month, but he promises he will be here for next year’s Show.

“Gardeners” constantly rearrange and improve their garden layouts. In that vein, two years ago the Antiques Show organizers relocated the antiques dealers from the galleries into the museum’s atrium on the first, second and third floors. Party goers enjoyed this successful update, strolling in and out of the permanent galleries and the dealers’ booths with ease. It was a great party, and everyone looks forward to the blooms and bounty of Brandywine River Museum of Art’s Antiques Show 2018, which supports the Museum Volunteers’ Purchase Fund and art and education programming.

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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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