Harry Bertoia’s Free interpretation of Plant Forms.

by William Valerio

Until Philadelphia County moves into the “green phase” of Governor Wolf’s reopening plan for our state, Woodmere, like all museums, will remain closed. But our community is still welcome—and encouraged—to experience the wonderful outdoor sculptures on our grounds, while observing social distancing, of course.

Harry Bertoia’s magnificent Free interpretation of Plant Forms has been turned on, which is to say that the water is flowing! When the sculpture arrived on our grounds a few years ago, we quickly realized that it serves as a large-scale birdbath. So, we planted a pollinator garden for the birds and the bees nearby, not only creating a spatial barrier between the sculpture and our permeable parking surface, but also furthering our goal of creating an interactive relationship between art and nature at the Museum.

We worked with colleagues at Friends of the Wissahickon, the Morris Arboretum, the Schuylkill Center, and especially Greensgrow Farms to create a veritable encyclopedia of native plants that have coexisted and evolved together with local flora and fauna for centuries. Through the summer, different parts of the garden come into bloom. If you come this week, you’ll see one of my new favorite plants, calycanthus, with its magnificent red or white flowers; the white flower is especially fragrant, and for this reason, calycanthus is known colloquially as Carolina Allspice or Sweetshrub. 

As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, our curatorial and education staff have been busy creating opportunities to engage with the Museum and its collections and exhibitions online. This week a new arts workbook went live offering at-home activities to introduce children to our recent show, Africa in the Arts of Philadelphia. Twins Seven-Seven is one of the three artists showcased, and we’ve adapted his unique linear designs to offer projects that are coloring-book-like, but more creative.

We’ve also completed a new episode of our podcast, Diving Board, introducing an upcoming exhibition that we hope you will come see in person later this summer, Gilbert Lewis: Many Faces, Many Figures. Lewis is one of Philadelphia‘s leading figurative artists and Woodmere is collaborating with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the William Way Community Center, Kapp Kapp Gallery and Terenchin Gallery to present the major, multivenue experience that the artist and his work so richly deserve. You can learn more on our website and find the podcast here.

Until next week, be well!

William Valerio is the CEO and Director of Woodmere Art Museum