The parking lot of the Woodmere Art Museum will soon accommodate storm water with a new surface.

The parking lot of the Woodmere Art Museum will soon accommodate storm water with a new surface.

by William Valerio

Often in writing this column, my goal is to lift away our museum’s facade and give a view inside to all that is happening at Woodmere. At the moment, for example, we are in the midst of installing our 75th Woodmere Annual, this year juried by Odili Donald Odita.

Odili is an abstract painter of our city with an international reputation and career. This year’s Annual reflects its juror’s deep understanding of the expressive qualities of color, and his sense of funkiness.

As always, it represents the culmination of a year-long process of preparation and exploration, and we hope everyone will join us at our open-house celebration on Saturday, June 4, from 12 to 4 p.m.

It used to be that every museum in Philadelphia held a version of a juried show. Woodmere’s Annual is now the only such exhibition, and we are most proud because it represents a deep engagement with the emerging art scene of our city. If you want to know what’s going on in the art studios of Fishtown and North Philadelphia, then you should be coming to Chestnut Hill this summer!

This summer is unusual in the sense that a great deal of action at Woodmere will be taking place outdoors. Dina Wind’s monumental sculpture, “Spring & Triangle,” arrived at Woodmere at the end of April. We are currently working on finishing touches, such as up-lighting and seating, and at the same time we have installed an exhibition, “Springs,” that explored the series of work that informs the monumental sculpture. Please join us for our ribbon-cutting on June 11.

We also await the arrival in July of Harry Bertoia’s equally monumental fountain, “Free Interpretation of Plant Forms” (1967), a 99-year loan from the City of Philadelphia that is sure to reclaim its status as an important urban landmark (from 1967 to 1999 it was on view at the Civic Center in West Philadelphia).

Conservation will take place through the summer at Woodmere, and everyone is invited to observe the process and watch as Bertoia’s fantastic masterpiece is repaired, cleaned and restored to splendor.

Other changes will be taking place as well. On May 26 the Chestnut Hill Community Association voted unanimously to approve the museum’s plan to remove our current crumbling and impermeable parking surface and replace it with a new, permeable surface that manages water according to current standards.

This construction will commence in late summer and run through the fall. A very exciting, cutting-edge element of the plan is already installed: a fully-permeable, “reinforced grass” surface that will serve as Woodmere’s temporary main parking area during construction, and as our overflow parking area thereafter.

However, if you come looking to see what reinforced grass looks like, you will be puzzled, because it is mostly invisible. Reinforced grass is this: a grass lawn that has grown through a resin and wire mesh that sinks into the earth as the grass grows through. It is designed to distribute weight laterally, such that even a school bus will be able to drive on it in the rain and not get its wheels stuck in the mud. We couldn’t be more pleased that in little more than two weeks, the mesh is almost entirely covered, and our tests – driving big vehicles over the surface through the wet weeks of May – have yielded excellent results.

Woodmere hopes to inspire, and we invite you to please come and encounter the beauty inside and out!

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