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White Gloves Gang with Zinnia Willits, Part II

This is part II of an interview with Zinnia Willits, Director of Collections Administration at the Gibbes Museum and current President of the South Carolina Federation of Museums.

Where did the idea for the White Gloves Gang originate?

The first SCFM White Gloves Gang (named after the protective white gloves many collections professionals wear when handling fragile museum objects,) was held at the Georgetown County Museum as part of the 2012 SCFM Annual Meeting. While I had a general model of how the program should work (based on the Reinforcement Crew) in many ways I can admit now that I was flying by the seat of my pants! I was well aware that our first WGG project was bound to have a few hiccups, but we were not going to learn how to do it unless we tried!

white gloves gang

The WGG working on textiles

Planning the first WGG included finding a host institution and explaining what exactly we wanted to accomplish. This involved building a trusting relationship with the staff at the Georgetown County Museum (GCM) since I basically asked them if my group of volunteers could have carte blanche access to their collections and exhibitions for an entire day! Then Director, Jill Santopietro, could not have been more gracious or enthusiastic about being the first WGG “test case.” After making initial contacts, I completed several site visits to GCM and worked with Jill to identify potential collection and exhibition projects that could be completed in a day. Next I had to advertise the project and gather a volunteer force; I also solicited vendors to donate archival supplies…I don’t think I even had a real budget for the first WGG. My wonderful friends at Hollinger Metal Edge graciously donated supplies for the first WGG. The shipment of hundreds of dollars of donated materials meant so much to the GCM who did not have any budget for these types of essential preservation materials. Other tasks included setting the agenda for project day, communicating the plan to our group of ten collections volunteers, dividing the group into teams, laying out each project and making sure volunteers had the necessary tools and supplies. It was a long day, but I loved every second of it and those first WGG volunteers made incredible progress on exhibits and collections at the GCM. Teams “freshened” exhibits and added protective archival barriers between casework and historic artifacts, created padded hangers on which to store and display fragile textiles, vacuumed (with a special museum-quality vacuum) historic christening gowns to remove layers of dust gathered from being on constant display, created storage containers for objects that needed a “rest” from display, adjusted light levels to better protect light-sensitive, fragile objects and so much more!! After this first experience in 2012, it was evident that the SCFM White Gloves Gang was a viable program to be built and developed.

Tell us something you’ve learned about the challenges of small museums through your work with the White Gloves Gang.

I have learned that all museums, whether large or small, matter to the communities they serve. The collections that small museums maintain are exceedingly important to the people who donated them and the stories they tell are the historical fabric of the town, county or region the museum represents. However, many small museums do not have the appropriate staff or budget to adequately care for or exhibit the objects that are so important to people they serve. A museum’s sole staff member may be the Director, often an individual with excellent administrative experience and leadership skills but minimal (if any) training in collection and exhibition management. In many cases these sole employees spend the majority of their time devising programming and membership initiatives that will ensure the museum can keep the lights on and doors open to survive another day! They know instinctively that the collections and exhibitions need attention, but there is very little time, money or training to devote to the objects that are the very reason for a museums’ existence.

working with textile exhibit at The Museum in Greenwood 2013

The WGG working with textile exhibit at The Museum in Greenwood 2013

However, the SCFM White Gloves Gang program is an excellent resource for these small museum staffs that need collections help; I have seen the benefits and inspiration our projects provide first-hand. The WGG is a tangible manifestation of SCFM’s mission to serve, represent, advocate and promote the best interests of South Carolina museums; the program educates small museums in ways they can make simple, often inexpensive changes to better preserve, and promote the collections they house and the missions they endeavor to uphold. The staffs at all WGG host sites have been grateful for the support and have let us know that watching collections professionals devote an entire day to the display and storage of the museum’s objects was inspirational; in many cases our work resulted in the Director taking future steps to raise funds for a collections manager or to hire an exhibition designer to assist with the way stories are conveyed.  These small, devoted staffs are stretched thin in terms of resources and I view it as SCFM’s responsibility to reach out and help however we can. The WGG provides a statewide network of support and supplies for collections management as well as access to collections professionals that a host site can forever turn to for future advice!

What are the future plans for the White Gloves Gang and or how will this program grow?

SCFM announced this past month that the WGG will be hitting the road! I have wanted to expand the program beyond our annual meeting for some time and have finally moved forward with this endeavor. SCFM member institutions can now apply for a day of WGG services and we hope to send volunteer teams out to complete at least two WGG projects per year in addition to the project at the annual meeting. Our WGG volunteer corps currently numbers around thirty collections professionals from across the state and is growing daily. My goal is to provide any South Carolina museum that desires a day of white glove services the assistance they need! I now have a wonderful White Gloves Gang co-chair, Melissa Jolley, Curator at the Savannah River Site, who assists me with organization and management of each project and the WGG volunteers. What fun (and a relief) it has been to share the responsibility and excitement of connecting people and projects with one of my SCFM peers! I have also recently seen an influx of museum studies students and non-collections professionals joining the WGG volunteer group; I love this! We pair those that want to learn about collections management with the seasoned professionals and in this way, each WGG project becomes an opportunity to train others and learn from peers…its win, win!

Recently the SCFM Executive Committee voted unanimously to appropriate funds to the SCFM WGG thereby officially adding the program to the annual budget. I will continue to work with our generous partners in the archival supply industry to provide donations of necessary project supplies and hope to eventually secure a lead sponsor to ensure the program’s future (naming opportunity anyone???) I will continue to engage South Carolina museum professionals to volunteer and participate in the program and encourage all SCFM members to get involved and give back. I am so proud of the SCFM White Gloves initiative and all those who have participated and supported us over the years. I am hopeful that our program will continue to grow and will serve as a model program for other state museum associations. South Carolina museums matter! Their collections and stories are important and SCFM wants to support these museums in any way it can!

Amanda Breen, Rebecca Sailor, and Zinnia Willits

Amanda Breen, Rebecca Sailor, and Zinnia Willits at the South Carolina Federation of Museums (SCFM) conference.

Thank you Zinnia for taking the time to share this story with us! For more information about volunteering with the White Gloves Gang or in requesting a visit from the WGG, visit the SCFM website.

 

 

The White Gloves Gang with Zinnia Willits, part 1

How long have you been involved in SCFM?

Though originally from Chicago, Illinois, I have been part of the South Carolina Museum community since my grad school days in the Public History Program at the University of South Carolina almost 15 years ago! While life’s twists and turns took me out of South Carolina for a few years, I returned in 2001 and have been at the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston since 2003 where I manage the art collection and oversee logistics for the museum’s active exhibition and loan programs.  At the request of my friend Jill Koverman, a true force in South Carolina museums who sadly passed away several years ago, I joined the South Carolina Federation of Museum’s (SCFM) Professional Development Committee (PDC) in 2010 and have been involved with the organization ever since.

Can you describe why it’s important as a museum professional to have an active role in organizations like SCFM?

Professional development opportunities and responsibilities have played a pivotal role in my personal career growth since my entrée into the museum field so many years ago. Our profession is constantly changing. New standards for collections care, exhibition design, curatorial research, digitization of information, use of social media, educational programming, membership tracking, and every other aspect of museum work are being discussed daily on list-servs, blogs, and at various gatherings of museum professionals. Museum staff need high levels of knowledge and expertise to continue to add value to the communities they serve. Playing an active role in professional organizations, and attending conferences and relevant workshops provides opportunities for peer engagement, expansion of one’s knowledge base, and information that can be put into practice immediately. I am constantly beating the professional development drum about the importance of making time and finding funds to attend professional training opportunities that are essential to career development and remind us that our individual work contributes to something larger including the preservation and promotion of the humanities! As I say often (to anyone who will listen,) nobody will ever care about your professional growth as much as you do!

The White Gloves Gang at the Marion County Museum

The White Gloves Gang at the Marion County Museum

Where did the idea for the White Gloves Gang originate?

The Registrars Committee (RC) of the American Alliance of Museums has been operating a similar program called the Reinforcement Crew since 2007.  This annual event offers expertise, people-power and support to museums and organizations that need assistance with collections-based projects, and coincides with the AAM Annual Meeting. I have friends who were instrumental in developing the Reinforcement Crew and have always been an advocate of seasoned museum professionals “giving back” to the field. I was intrigued with the concept and as I became more involved in the South Carolina museum community, it became clear that a volunteer program similar to the Reinforcement Crew could provide real benefit to the many small museums and cultural centers that dot our state. Once I was in a leadership position and had an opportunity to move the idea for a White Gloves Gang program forward, I went for it! SCFM’s leadership has a long history of embracing program ideas suggested by the membership…even my crazy ideas. That being said, one lesson you learn early on is that if you want your program to have legs, you, the idea person, have to put in the work to get it off the ground!

Stay tuned for next week’s part two of the White Gloves Gang….

Art Educator of the Week, Barbie Kratovil

Barbie Kratovil, Eye Spy Art

Barbie Kratovil with Eye Spy Students at the City Gallery

Why is art an important part of learning?

Art is an essential component of the Humanities, and visually integrates the historical, political, religious and commercial morals and values of a culture. It is one of the highest forms of expression in any given period of civilization.

While art can be whimsical, its highest forms are the result of an intellectual process. It’s multi-faceted and an artist, in creating a work of art; employs through his/her technique: logic, spatial relationships, math, science-all of which are building blocks in one’s education.

How long have you been teaching, and why did you get involved in teaching?

I was an Art History major in college and art has always been my great interest. I was a docent at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for 18 years, before moving to Charleston; and have been a docent at the Gibbes for 5 years. The combination of being educated by the curators about their fabulous collections, and in turn, imparting this knowledge to school groups, is rewarding on so many levels.

What is a favorite memory of introducing a student to the arts?

The wonderful moments, which as a museum educator that one cherishes, are when a student looks at a work of art and becomes empowered to explain what they see, why they like or dislike it, and what it means to them.

education

Eye Spy students enjoy a tour of the Gibbes led by a museum docent

Museums are educational powerhouses. Did you know:

  • Museums spend more than $2 billion a year on education. The typical museum devotes three quarters of its education budget specifically to K–12 students.
  • Museums receive more than 55 million visits every year from students in school groups.
  • Museums create educational programs in math, science, art, literacy, language arts, history, civics and government, economics and financial literacy, geography and social studies, often tailored to the needs of state and local curriculum standards.
  • Each year, museums provide more than 18 million instructional hours for educational programs such as guided tours for students, staff visits to schools, school outreach through science vans and other traveling exhibits, and professional development for teachers.

Read the full report about museums and the future of education from the American Alliance for Museums.

To learn more about Gibbes Museum education programs, visit our Gibbes Educators Facebook page.

Why Do You Support the Gibbes Museum of Art?

Boomtown employees

BoomTown employees

By Elizabeth Allen and Nina Magnesson of Boomtown

We are fortunate to have so many wonderful donors and sponsors whose support helps us provide innovative programs, exciting events, and engaging educational opportunities. Over the next few months we will introduce these talented people to you through our blog. Nina Magnesson, Community Relationship Manager of the real estate web platform, Boomtown and Elizabeth Allen, wife of Boomtown founder Grier Allen, were gracious enough to launch this series.

Q: Why did you become involved with the Gibbes Museum, or, how did you first learn about the museum and what was the process that led to your involvement?

Nina: BoomTown became involved with the Gibbes in 2013 through participation in Society 1858. A couple of Boomers were invited to participate on the Winter Party Planning Committee. BoomTown’s CEO and Co-founder Grier and his wife, Elizabeth Allen were invited to participate on the Winter Party Planning Committee the following year. BoomTown was also a sponsor of the 2014 party and the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art.

Q: Tell me about your company and your philanthropic mission. How do you hope to engage your employees in this mission and how can nonprofits such as the Gibbes help in the process?

Elizabeth: Personally, I believe that philanthropy has always been a big part of BoomTown since its launch. The company was thankful for the people and other companies who gave them a helping hand as they were beginning, and it became a part of their core value to engage in the community as BoomTown grew. Also, Grier has taught me that part of running a successful company is creating a space where people are thankful, have gratitude and understanding for where they are and what they are doing. There is not a better way to show that appreciation than by giving back to the community where you live, work and that you love!

Nina: BoomTown’s Philanthropic Mission (BoomTownLOVE) is to improve lives through social innovation by helping to create amazing experiences for the BoomTown Greater Charleston and extended family community. The goal of our giving strategy centers around BoomTown’s group-sourced Core Values:

  • Create Amazing Experiences
  • Stay Humble
  • Go For It
  • Spread Some Laughter & Have Some Fun
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Communicate Openly & Honestly
  • Do More with Less
  • Seek & Share Knowledge

BoomTown also has an annually rotating volunteer board called the BoomBassadors who promote awareness and facilitate participation with community organizations as well as ultimately decide how to allocate our annual philanthropic budget. Non-profits can help by bridging the gap between businesses and organizations through clear communication of their goals and top priority needs. They may also offer a variety of ways that employees can engage with the organization through volunteerism to help foster a sense of ‘pride of ownership’ and deepen the sense of belonging for new members of our community.

Q: Why in your opinion is an art museum important to our community?

Nina: A fine arts museum serves as the cultural anchor for a city and its residents. It is an asset that “every city resident owns” in much the same way as Mayor Riley refers to our outdoor public spaces. It is a center for visual art that is open to all ages from every socio-economic background; individuals, can experience the world of art where they would not have the opportunity to otherwise, can learn about local and world history through art and artifacts, and can explore new expressions and movements in art and technical innovations. An art museum is an invaluable cornerstone to civic coherence and cultural identity.

Art museums are one of the best ways to share our culture, past and present, with visitors as well as locals.  Museums teach us about where we live and the people who have shaped the lowcountry. Art is an amazing form of expression that we must continue to expose younger generations,” adds Elizabeth.

Q: What do you look forward to most about the new Gibbes scheduled to reopen in 2016?

Elizabeth: We are thrilled for the reopening of the Gibbes and cannot wait to see the new building as well as the new exhibits you all will bring. Visiting the Gibbes will truly be an event for both patrons and visitors. We appreciate all of the hard work and energy everyone is putting in to the reopening. We look forward to being a part of it!

Nina: BoomTown is especially looking forward to being able to regularly visit an arts center where we may see and learn about the museum’s collections as well as visiting exhibitions in the new open, well-lighted galleries, seeing interesting films and performances, volunteering in the digital art labs, and gathering in the new open spaces available around the museum.

To learn more about supporting the Gibbes Museum of Art, please visit gibbesmuseum.org/support or call Director of Development, Jen Ross at 843.722.2706 x16

Art Educator of the Week, Elise Detterbeck

Did you know we currently have 15 active museum educators and teaching artists teaching and collaborating! These hard working educators have great insight into the value of arts education and we’ve decided to profile them here! Meet our Art Educator of the Week, Elise Detterbeck

Else with Eye Spy students

Else with Eye Spy students

Why is art an important part of learning?  

I view art as a window to the world. We all need to look beyond our little corner of the world to expand our experiences and grow. Art shows us how people live and think today and in the past in the United States and all over the world. It helps us understand ourselves and others. I see this every time I work with children either at the Gibbes or in the schools. It doesn’t matter if it’s a traditional painting or a very modernistic sculpture. They look, they think, and they respond.

How long have you been teaching and why did you get involved in teaching?

When I chose French as my major in college, I never really thought about what I’d do with it. I floated into teaching and loved it. A new language is also a window to another world, and I really thrived on leading students into that new world. Teaching children how to talk about art is similar, but easier. It’s more open-ended, more forgiving, and more expansive. With art you can teach almost any subject and students can respond in an increasing variety of ways after learning to look, think, and then respond.

What is a favorite memory of introducing a student to the arts?

I have a lot of great memories of students looking at art, but this may be my new favorite:

With my third grade Eye Spy students we were talking about genre scenes, which we call “pictures that tell a story.”  I showed them on the Smart Board a picture of 3 of my grandchildren (ages 20 months, 5, & 8) squished together on a sofa, all reading books in their pajamas. We talked about the elements of art in that photo, the medium used and then we got into the Who? What? When? Where? Why? game to figure out the “story.” They decided very quickly that these were (who?) 3 siblings (what?) reading their favorite books (where?) in their home (when) on a day off from school (why?) due to a snowstorm. Then all of a sudden, they said: “Wait a minute, are those YOUR grandchildren?” What thrilled me was that they could, from the picture, support every assumption they made, without any help from me.

For over 100 years, education has been central to the mission of the Gibbes. Serving more than 15,000 preK-12th grade students each year, the Gibbes interactive programs develop intellectual and aesthetic skills while addressing South Carolina Learning Standards. We are so grateful to have the support of educators like Elise who have been instrumental to the success of these programs.

To learn more about the value of art education, here are a few recent articles:

What to do if your Child’s First Love is Art?

Art Education Poised for a Comeback in Nation’s Largest School Districts

Bringing Back What Works in Education

The Art of Social Healing Through Sculpture and Public Art

In 2011, U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel and S.C. Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal held a symposium in Charleston to mark the 50th anniversary of the Briggs v. Elliott ruling. This ruling led to the creation of a committee that raised about $125,000 to commission a statue to honor U.S. District Judge J. Waties Waring; the man whose anti-segregation rulings made him a pariah in his hometown, but set the table for the Civil Rights Movement.

In “‘A liberating force,’ Waring returns to Charleston” Post and Courier journalist Robert Behre writes that a dozen sculptors sought to create the bronze likeness of Waring, and Rick Weaver, a sculptor from Charlottesville, Va., won the commission. Mr. Weaver was kind enough to take the time to answer questions about his work and to describe the process of creating this important sculpture. Mr. Weaver will join artist Jonathan Green and Dr. Jeb Hallett on March 10 for a panel discussion on The Art of Social Healing Through Sculpture and Public Art at the Charleston Federal Courthouse on Broad Street.

Judge Waites Waring sculpture

Final version of the Judge Waties Waring sculpture

How did you originally get interested and trained in sculpture?

I actually received my training not in sculpture, but in drawing and painting in New York, and then received my graduate degree in painting at UNC-Greensboro.  Whether you are working in charcoal, paint, clay, or any other medium, the underlying principles in art do not vary.  So when I became more interested in sculpture, I was able to essentially teach myself the procedure. I gradually moved my focus to sculpture in the last 10 years because the ideas I wanted to express seemed to have ultimately more to do with creating a shape in space, and depended less on creating an illusion on a 2 dimensional surface.

Describe the process of how you got to know Waties Waring in order to design your statue of him?

I first read the biography “A Passion for Justice” to get a feel for the man and his accomplishments.  It was also very helpful to speak with members of the sculpture committee, who had a familiarity with his judicial and social history in Charleston. Ultimately, I feel I can only really know myself – I never feel that I can truly understand another person in any comprehensive way, and I therefore never feel capable of “capturing” someone else in a sculpture. What I do is try to identify some vital aspect of someone’s character that I also recognize in myself, and then try to make the sculpture about that emotion or idea. With Judge Waring, I identified very closely with the idea that he was embattled, and pressured to do things he knew were wrong. Yet he persevered in his own beliefs of what was right and was true to his nature, despite the condemnation of his peers. (Not that I equate his courage with anything I possess, but I think there is some modest echo of what he displayed in all of us). Most good sculptures ultimately rise above the individual depicted, his or her gender, race, and personal history, and touch on themes that are universal and felt by all humanity. To what degree I was successful in this attempt is for others to judge, but that was my goal with the Judge Waring sculpture.

Just how does one make a statue of this magnitude? Briefly describe the manufacturing process.

On the manufacturing end, I will say that very early on, for the reasons given above, it was clear the statue should be in a standing position, to show Judge Waring’s resolute physical stance as a powerful metaphor for the intellectual stance he took in his judicial decisions. I worked on a life-size scale in my studio, beginning with a foam and aluminum armature, and progressing to a wax modeling of the actual figure.  I have included images which may illustrate the process better than my words. This final sculpture was then put in the capable hands of Carolina Bronze Foundry who completed all casting processes necessary to convert my wax sculpture into the final bronze.

Rick Weaver's sculpture of Judge Waites Waring

Beginning stage of the Judge Waites Waring sculpture

Did this project in any way impact your own personal feelings about the Civil Rights Movement and the sacrifice of champions like Judge Waring?

My knowledge of American History, let alone the Civil Rights Movement, is not what it should be.  So I am always very thankful for the excuse to research historical figures to fill in the gaps of my early education. I always feel that if my initial schooling had centered on integrating academic subjects with art I would have retained a lot more information. In reading about Civil Rights heroes like Judge Waring, John Chavis, or Maggie Walker, I am struck by their relentless courage in the face of opposition. The example of fortitude in mere mortals, however elevated by history, makes that kind of courage more accessible to me in some way that I may not have felt if I had not read their histories.

Related articles:

A liberating force,’ Waring returns to Charleston by Robert Behre, Post and Courier

Judge J. Waties Waring: Charleston’s Insider Agitator by Robert Rosen, Post and Courier

Judge Remembered For Landmark Role He Played In Desegregating Schools by Bruce Smith, Huffington Post

Rick Weaver received his formal training in New York at the National Academy of Design, the New York Academy, and the Art Students League. He earned his Master of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, where he was influenced by the sculptor Billy Lee.

Jonathan Green’s painting “Breath of Freedom,” depicts  a crowd of people outside the Charleston federal courthouse listening to the trial Briggs vs. Elliot. He donated a copy of this painting to every public high school in the Charleston County school district. Green’s painting was presented at the Hollings Judicial Center Garden on April 11, 2014, the same day as the Judge Waties Warning sculpture dedication.

This event is at full capacity but you can learn more about our Art of Healing series by signing up for our e-newsletter, following us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, and checking our online calendar.

Thank you to Dr. Jeb Hallett who formulated the questions for Mr. Weaver and who will be moderating Tuesday night’s panel discussion. The Art of Healing is sponsored by Roper St. Francis.

Art of Healing, Understanding the Five Elements

Q&A with Lisa Dunlevy

AOH_march

 

Please explain the psychology of the five elements.

The Five Elements are stages of transformation: Water (birth), Wood (growth), Fire (ripening), Earth (harvest), and Metal (decay). They are different aspects of nature, as are we, and are known as “Wu Xing.” There are numerous parallels to each element including a corresponding season, climate, emotion, sound, smell, archetype, and even an organ.

For example, the wood element corresponds to springtime and the experience of walking outside, seeing the buds in the trees, and feeling hopeful. Watching the green sprouting from the ground, the trees, and vines is a visual experience and the element wood connects with having a vision, a plan, and a sense of creativity. Maybe you know someone with a lot of creative rising energy, or someone who lacks vision and doesn’t have a plan. This would be examples of how we are either gifted, or deficient in this element. All five elements are found within the individual, but there is one element that stands out and determines how we relate to the world.

How do you determine someone’s element?

When a new client calls me I listen to her/his voice. Then I also take into account what is ailing them, what part of the body is involved, are they frustrated with their condition, are they overwhelmed, have they waited a long time to call, or do they want to get this resolved immediately? When they are come into the office, do they move quickly, or slowly, what do they do for a living? These are all pieces to observe who that person is and to determine their constitutional element. Then we can move onto the virtues of each element, which helps with healing and becoming aligned with our purpose. The virtues of each element are Wisdom, Listening (water), Benevolence (wood), Partnership, and Truth (fire), Thoughtfulness and Support (earth), and Respect (metal). We aspire to have all of these, but one is most important to us. This part can also become taxed or imbalanced, and becoming our best selves and recognizing our natural talents can be very healing.

Can you explain what participants can expect from this workshop?

The class will consist of an introduction into the five element theory. We will also take a short quiz to evaluate which element we align with. Then we will either have a few volunteers share about their element, or gather in groups of each element. We will also have time to address questions, and then we will practice the Dance of The Phoenix Qi Gong practice.

What are the benefits of Qi Gong Practice? What does this type of movement involve?

Qi gong is a beautiful practice of moving our bodies to open the various meridians and bring harmony back to our bodies and mind.  It is best described as a moving meditation that uses our breath and bodily movements to open blocked meridians and support the flow of qi or energy.  It is a practice that helps us become more vital and calm, which is a beautiful combination.

Finally, how do you describe the connection between art and healing?

Learning about the five elements allows for healing as we recognize that we all have a unique gift or genius, that our challenges can also be our strengths and when we are aligned with our ‘dao’ we can find our purpose.

Join us to discover your element in Understanding the Five Elements with Lisa Dunlevy on Tuesday, March 3 from 5:30-7:30pm.

Location: Hazel Parker Community Center, 70 East Bay Street

$35 Members, $45 Non-Members

Art of Healing Presents: Flower Power

Our December Art of Healing program presents Flower Power with floral design experts Gretchen Cuddy of Gretchen Cuddy Floral Designs, and Clara Varga-Gonzales of Tiger Lily Florists. Flowers have a powerful impact on the senses and can communicate a variety of sentiments. Gretchen and Clara were kind enough to answer questions about their philosophy of floral design in preparation for this event. Learn more from this talented duo on how horticulture enhances health and healing with moderator Dr. Jeb Hallett on December 10 at 6pm. The Thomas Bennett House will be decorated for the holidays—join us for this festive affair!

Thomas Bennett House

The Thomas Bennett House decorated for the holidays

Tell me about your background with floral design. When did you begin working with flowers and how has your work evolved over the years?

(Gretchen) My floral background started in college when I took a watercolor painting class, I would often create floral still life arrangements for the class to paint. Color combinations and the use of varied greenery and unique vases was a big part of the process. The use of texture and the contrast of natural elements in an arrangement have always interested me; it makes the final creation less expected to the viewer’s eye. Over the years, I have spent quite a bit of time working with florals for churches and sacred spaces. Presently, I create arrangements for numerous events in Charleston and love to use local plant materials to evoke a relationship with the beautiful Lowcountry.

(Clara) I started working with flowers 18 years ago. My husband and I bought Tiger Lily florist in 1996. Weddings are always evolving depending on what the style is at the time. Our goal has always been to have big bright flowers in arrangements. American send much fewer flowers than Europeans do. It’s just not our tradition as much as it is overseas to have flowers on a daily basis. Therefore it’s very important for us to carry flowers that have a long vase life so that the consumer feels like they received a good value.

Flowers by Tiger Lilly

Flowers by Tiger Lilly

What is it about working with flowers that is healing for you?

(Gretchen) I find that when I am working with flowers I can allow myself to be as creative as possible. It is almost like an out of body experience for me at times, and is better than any therapy. I can completely forget my troubles and transport myself into another world where the beauty of an arrangement gives me the greatest joy. It is self-healing in a way that is very personal.

(Clara) I think working with flowers in the flower shop is a different dynamic then working with flowers at home. When I work with flowers at home it’s more relaxing for me because there’s not the stress of getting it right for the client or making sure that the flowers are the correct shade or variety. There also isn’t the pressure of time constraints and delivery complications as far as transportation.

What are your favorite flowers to work with? Are there some types of flowers that are your least favorite?

(Gretchen) My favorite flowers to work with are sunflowers. I love the contrast of the yellow petals against the dark brown center. I almost always have a bouquet of them in my kitchen….they just make me smile. My least favorite flowers that I honestly cannot use are the ones that have been artificially dyed. It is simply a violation of nature and denies the flower its true color and beauty.

(Clara) My favorite flower to work with has always been tulips. I had tulips at my wedding and I enjoy them so much because they don’t need a lot of design and they continue to grow even after they are cut. Peonies remind me of my father, but they are not always available. My least favorite flowers have always been the more common ones such as statice and Alstromeria, although I do like daisies and carnations.

Describe your creative process. Do you begin with a color or type of flower in mind? Or is more about a client’s preference?

(Gretchen) My creative process to begin an arrangement consists of several variables, namely the season, the style of the event, the budget. From there, I select the vase or container to compliment the overall design, and then work to define the line and scale of the arrangement. I love going BIG with arrangements and I always remind myself to try and keep that in check as sometimes a smaller arrangement is really what is needed. In the end, I personally have to be satisfied with the final product before I can part with it.

(Clara) If the choice is up to me I prefer to work with 5 to 7 different types of flowers, each with different texture and shapes. I’ll lay them all out in front of me and then create the arrangement in my mind based on the shapes and sizes that I have to work with.

Gretchen Cuddy flowers

Flowers by Gretchen Cuddy Designs

Why do we give flowers to people for happy and sad occasions? Weddings and funerals?

(Gretchen) The gift of flowers to someone shows that you care. It also shows that you are not afraid to live in the moment, because as we all know, flowers do not last forever, so an arrangement of flowers allows one to stop if only for a moment to appreciate the beauty that flowers bring no matter what the occasion, happy or sad.

(Clara) Studies show that living with flowers strengthens our feelings of compassion and decreases our anxiety and worry. I think that especially for funerals it’s important for families to receive flowers in their home. They spend a lot of time in their homes after a loved one has passed, and it can have a positive impact on their mood. When we do flowers for a wedding it’s almost as if once the flowers have been delivered and the reception and churches are set, that’s when the festivities can begin. My brides have always realized the implication of what’s about to happen once the flowers have arrived. That’s when they start crying. There’s some sort positive energy that comes from flowers and live plants!

Art of Healing: Flower Power

Wednesday, December 10, 6pm

 $20 Members, $30 Non Members

Location: Thomas Bennett House, 69 Barre Street

To purchase tickets, please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events or call 843.722.2706 x21

Roper logoSponsored by Roper St. Francis Foundation

Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager

Art with a Twist presents, Unexpected Treasures

Reinterpreting the past for today’s home and garden. Architectural salvage, antique decor, iron work, garden elements, and much more than we can describe!

2014 Charleston Symphony Orchestra League's Annual Designer Showcase

2014 Charleston Symphony Orchestra League’s Annual Designer Showcase, Master Bedroom

Jeff McKinney and Randy Grussing embrace a ‘fearless use of color’ in their designs. This attribute was on display in the vibrant master bedroom in the 2014 Charleston Symphony Orchestra League’s Annual Designer Showcase. As first time participants in the event, the dynamic duo endeavored to create a spectacular room for guests. The palette of the bedroom was inspired by a lowcountry sunset. “We were driving over the James Island connector one evening and the horizon was saturated with violent streaks of plums and paprika,” Jeff explains. American Gothic Revival Philadelphia gate posts from the 1850’s were transformed into bedside lamps, and a pair of marble topped tables with wrought iron bases were such a hit that they sold the second day of the show. Their design, titled Charleston Indochiene, received the Viewer’s Choice Award. When asked why he thought the room was so successful Jeff explained that the color combinations are unexpected and inviting. It was a room that looked lived in with furniture that was built to last.

These color combinations and customized furniture creations are on display in the showroom Circe on Saint Andrews Boulevard in West Ashley. A visit to the showroom is a sensory delight filled with lush fabrics, one-of-a kind antiques, and 19, 20, and 21 century items for the home. Jeff and Randy also own Architectural Antiques and Design, which is just down the street from Circe and is more of a warehouse where clients can discover hidden treasures.  “People will find ideas at Circe and the raw product at the warehouse,” Jeff explains. Working one on one with clients, they customize pieces that reflect the client’s personal style and offer designer fabrics at affordable prices.

AWAT Unexpected Treasures

Antique lamps ‘repurposed’ by Jeff and Randy

A team of locally sourced, skilled blacksmiths, lamp smiths, and upholsterers repurpose and update the antiques. Randy explains that, “what you live with has to change as you change.” He adds that we just don’t have the quality craftsmanship anymore, which is part of the reason he and Jeff work to educate clients about the value of pieces and the potential for modification. They feel that many people today have a disposable cultural sensibility. This belief in the intrinsic value of products from the past is reflected in the delicate curves of a settee, the smooth texture of a wooden dresser, and the summer blue spot of turquoise on the lamps in the corner. These are unexpected treasures indeed!

Architectural Antiques Vignette

Architectural Antiques Vignette, designed by Jeff and Randy

Join Jeff and Randy at Circe and Architectural Antiques & Design on Thursday, November 13 at 6pm for Unexpected Treasures: Re-designing Artful Artifacts. They will lead guests on a tour through the showroom and warehouse and share their expert tips on reinterpreting the past for today’s home and garden. A reception will follow.

Location: 903-C and 1011-A Saint Andrews Boulevard, next to Hambys. Limited parking is available at both locations so carpooling is suggested.

$20 Members, $30 Non-Members

To purchase tickets please visit gibbesmuseum.org/events or call 843.722.2706 x21.

Photos by Holger Obenaus
Amy Mercer, Marketing and Communications Manager

Art of Healing through dance, architecture, and flowers

The Gibbes Museum takes pride in the community partnerships that we’ve established over the years. An example of this is our involvement with Roper St. Francis Healthcare through the Art of Healing program. Established in 2012 by Gibbes Board Member and Roper St. Francis surgeon, Dr. Jeb Hallett, the Art of Healing explores the connections between art, personal well-being, and healing through panel discussions, workshops, and an art lending collection for Roper St. Francis Rehabilitation Hospital patients. “Art can help transport a patient’s attention away from their pain or condition to produce more positive emotions” says Dr. Hallett. Now in its third year, the program continues to expand with more workshops, conversations, and artists. To learn more about the Art of Healing lending program, enjoy this youtube video created by Roper St. Francis staff, Shane Ellis.

The next Art of Healing conversation will take place on November 4 at 6pm at the Circular Congregational Church  at 150 Meeting Street. This panel discussion will focus on how architecture and the spaces we build and inhabit can lead to healing and well-being.  Expert panelists include the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation Senior Director of Properties, and Hay House Director, Jonathan Poston, and Ray Huff, Director of the Clemson Architecture Center who will join Dr. Hallett for this moderated conversation.

Hard Light in Trumbo Street, 1934

An example of Charleston architecture by artist Prentiss Taylor

 

Dr. Hallett will ask probing questions such as: why have certain elements of architecture remained critically important over time? Why is light important to well-being, and how does certain forms such as Palladian windows and columns persisted over time? (The original term for a Palladian window is a serliana (or a Serlian Motif).  It is an archway or window with three openings, the central one arched and wider than the flanking openings (which were rectangular and enclosed at the top by an architrave). The Italian Renaissance architect/master builder, Andrea Palladio, 1508-1580 popularized this architectural motif.) The panelists will discuss Charlestonian architectural styles such as the Single House to examine the ‘health benefits’ of this design. The Art of Healing discussions include interactive discussions with the audience, which are always engaged and intimate.

This is sure to be an interesting and lively discussion, and a cocktail reception will follow the discussion.

Art of Design 2014

Flowers by Gretchen Cuddy for the 2014 Art of Design luncheon

One December 10 at 6pm, the Art of Healing: Flower Power will be held at the Thomas Bennett House on 69 Barre Street. Dr. Hallett will be joined by floral design expert Gretchen Cuddy as well as Clara Varga-Gonzales of Tiger Lily Florist. Cuddy and Varga-Gonzales will discuss why flowers and horticulture appeal to our senses and discuss why implementing natural elements in the home and other buildings can promote well-being.
Amanda Breen, Membership Coordinator

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