by William Valerio

It’s great to be inside a warm, colorful museum during the cold, gray months of February and March. At Woodmere, we are gearing up for an exciting winter season of exhibitions and programs, and so with this column today, I offer an overview.


Please join us for the exhibition “Frank Bramblett: No intention” (March 7 to June 21). This is a career retrospective of one of Philadelphia’s most admired contemporary artists. Bramblett has made a body of work that is dramatic and beautiful, and as much about an alchemy of surprising materials as about the processes and thought patterns through which evocative objects are made. The title, “No Intention,” conveys the degree to which Bramblett does not set out to make art with preconceived notions of appearances or characteristics. The art emerges from an evolution of thought and the process of physical transformations of matter.

“Keeping It Real: Recent Acquisitions of Narrative and Realist Art” is on view through June 7. It celebrates the growth of Woodmere’s collection over the last three years and showcases painting, sculpture, printmaking and photography that engage with Philadelphia’s tradition of realism in the arts. Through the centuries, the artists of our city have consciously explored the paradox of representational painting; on the one hand, all art is an illusion (a painting, for example, is a flat surface that offers a window into an invented realm), while at the same time, so many artists are motivated to create because they have something “real” to say about the textures, stories, emotions, and appearances of the world we share.

We always think of our exhibitions as a platform for activities, events and lecture. Please join me as I share my own reflections on the growth of Woodmere’s collection in a lecture: “Behind the Scenes: How A Museum Builds Its Collection” at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 28. Please also visit us for a lecture by conservator extraordinaire Steven Erisoty, who will offer “Maintaining and Clarifying the Artist’s Vision”: The Art of Conservation, at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 7.


Woodmere’s Friday-Night Jazz series kicks off a new seven-week series on Feb. 20 (6 to 8 p.m.) with a tribute to old blue eyes, Frank Sinatra. I’m especially looking forward to the return of Woodmere favorite Tonya Lynette on March 13 and her tribute to Lena Horne. Every Friday performance is alive with energy, and it always feels great to let down your hair and start your weekend with Warren Oree and the Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble and the many great musicians who join as their guests.

In brief: “Frank Sinatra: He Did it His Way” (Feb. 20); “B.B. King: The Thrill is Not Gone” (Feb. 27); “Wartime Harmonies: The Swing Era” (March 6); “Lena Horne: Sophisticated Lady of Song” (March 13); “Willie Nelson and Patsy Kline” (March 20); “The Coasters and the Drifters” (March 27), and as our season finale: “Bebop: Jazz Gets Hip” (April 10).


Woodmere’s Classic Saturdays continue on March 14 (5 to 7 p.m.) with Tempesta di Mare and the magic of its baroque period instrument sonatas and serenades. On March 28 (5 to 7 p.m.), Lyric Fest and the brilliant singers of the Academy of Vocal Arts offer a tribute to Vienna, City of Dreams.


In collaboration with the Chestnut Hill Film Group, Woodmere shows movies on Chestnut Hill’s largest screen, carefully selecting films that rise above the rest as true works of art. It is likely that you have never seen Disney’s Song of the South, with which we begin this ten-week series on February 17 at 7:30pm. Song of the South was taken out of circulation for its depiction of race relations on an antebellum southern plantation, but the technical achievement of integrating animation with live action was groundbreaking. Don’t miss this very rare chance to see the controversial cinematic landmark and formulate your own opinions.

In brief: “Song of the South” (Feb. 17); “The Prisoner of Zenda” (Feb. 24), a swashbuckling Hollywood adventure of the 1930s starring Ronald Colman; “Beat the Devil” (March 3), with Humphrey Bogart, Jennifer Jones and Gina Lollobrigida; “Double Indemnity” (March 10), the film-noir masterpiece with Barbara Stanwyck and Fred MacMurray; “Lost Horizon” (March 17), Frank Capra’s dramatic fantasy; “The Model and the Marriage Broker” (March 24), with Thelma Ritter in a rare starring role; “Gallipoli” (March 31), Peter Weir’s extraordinary antiwar film starring the young Mel Gibson; “Handful of Dust” (April 7), with Dame Judi Dench and Kristin Scott Thomas; “Army of Shadows” (April 14) a dark adventure set in Nazi-occupied Paris; and, finally, “The China Syndrome” (April 21), the white-knuckle thriller with Jack Lemmon, Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas offering unforgettable performances.

We hope to see you often, and please remember that detailed information about the above programs and many more is available on Woodmere’s website:

William Valerio, Ph. D., is The Patricia Van Burgh Allison Director and CEO at Woodmere Art Museum, 9201 Germantown Ave, in Chestnut Hill.