Sculpture gardens axes tree festival
The Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens is discontinuing its decade-old Festival of Trees to concentrate on less labor-intensive, attention-grabbing and revenue-generating events scheduled throughout the season.
The nearly two-week festival in early December drew about 4,300 visitors to view more than two dozen decorated trees positioned throughout the gardens in West Palm Beach. The festival, with its opening night and children’s galas, was the organization’s most profitable fundraiser.
“It’s been an event that’s engaged the community on a magical level for a decade,” board chairwoman Frances Fisher said. “But we want to offer substantive and high caliber exhibitions and events throughout the season that will enable us to be more community-serving and enhance revenues.”
The festival didn’t make enough money to justify the toll it took on the orga- nization’s small staff, she said.
Each year, the festival had a different theme.
Palm Beach interior designer Joseph Pubillones, who led the design committee for several years, recalls crafting a tree from furniture scraps in the style of sculptor Louise Nevelson for the 2010 festival, which had a famous artists theme.
“I’m going to miss it dearly,” he said of the festival. “It marked the holiday season in a festive way and was fun for both adults and kids.”
Board member Jennifer Garrigues, who succeeded Pubillones as head of the design committee, said “we’re all a little dispirited, but we want what’s best for the Ann Norton.”
Trees she’s designed include last year’s Flintstones tree for the Design through the Decades theme. She dressed up as Wilma for the opening.
She also created a New York tree in 2014 for the states theme that featured the state bird, flower and fish, Broadway marquees and taxicabs.
Initiatives such as a partnership begun last season with the Palm Beach Modern + Contemporary fair better serve the gardens’ goals to professionalize the organization and stick to founder Ann Norton’s vision, said Roger Ward, president and chief executive officer.
Last season’s Sophie Ryder exhibition, organized by fair exhibitor Waterhouse & Dodd, allowed the gardens to create a new fundraiser that drew a wider circle of collectors and supporters, Ward said. The show posted record attendance, attracted more out-of-county visitors and seasonal residents and produced an uptick in new memberships, he said.
The Ryder show, which ran from mid-January through April, increased January through April attendance by 62 percent over the same period last year. New memberships climbed by 250 percent.
The Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens’ Festival of Trees featured more than two dozen decorated trees. The organization is retiring the decade-old holiday tradition.