Pic­ture PERFECTHOLIDAY

ARTIST TREE IS CEN­TER­PIECE AT FLORENCE GRIS­WOLD MU­SEUM

The Day - Sound & Country - - An Old-fashioned Christmas - By SU­SAN BAN­NING Day Staff Writer

TThe Magic of Christ­mas at Florence Gris­wold Mu­seum in Old Lyme is so charm­ing that you can pic­ture the events as­so­ci­ated with it be­com­ing a fam­ily tra­di­tion. In fact, for at least one fam­ily, it has. The Bal­lards of Madi­son have made it a must to pose their daugh­ter Jen­nifer in front of the Christ­mas trees on dis­play, send­ing the com­bi­na­tion of New Eng­land charm and child­hood won­der to Jen­nifer’s grand­par­ents in North Carolina.

And who can blame them, as the mu­seum is dressed up in its finest as the hol­i­days roll around. Miss Florence’s Artist Tree, with pal­ettes dec­o­rated by nearly 100 artists serv­ing as the or­na­ments, and the new Hand­made for the Hol­i­days trees will be enough to get you in the mood. Other high­lights of the Magic of Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tion (run­ning Nov. 22-Jan. 4) in­clude a Hol­i­day Tea Room and the chance to see the mu­seum decked out for a his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate 1910 Christ­mas.

“Peo­ple have made us part of their hol­i­day sea­son,” says Tammi Flynn, the mu­seum’s di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing. “They make a day of it by go­ing out to lunch, en­ter­tain­ing their out-of-town rel­a­tives.”

The Artist Tree is an evolv­ing fa­vorite, with artists of all styles con­tribut­ing to the 12-foot tree.

“It’s in the tra­di­tion of the Lyme Art Colony,” Flynn says. “They painted on the walls and the doors. So we have artists of all styles paint­ing on pal­ettes here.”

The con­tri­bu­tions are di­verse, in­clud­ing a ce­ramic work that is so heavy the branch needs ex­tra wiring, and a Swarovski crys­tal pal­ette that is both heavy and sparkling. The col­lec­tion spans the years since the con­cept was in­tro­duced, with Con­necti­cut-born artist Sol LeWitt con­tribut­ing a pal­ette, as well as most of the art pro­fes­sors at Con­necti­cut Col­lege.

Mu­seum di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion David Rau came up with the idea in 2004. The con­tri­bu­tions are now part of the per- ma­nent col­lec­tion on dis­play in the mu­seum’s gallery.

“Artists take it re­ally se­ri­ously,” Flynn says. “They are very happy to paint for us; they put their heart and soul into it.”

Of course, fit­ting all of the pal­ettes onto one 12-foot tree is a re­cur­ring chal­lenge.

“Now that we have al­most 100, we will have to ex­pand past the tree,” Flynn says. “Ev­ery year our de­signer says, ‘They’re not go­ing to fit,’ and they do, but this year it might be true.”

The new Hand­made for the Hol­i­days dis­play is four trees dec­o­rated by Con­necti­cut artists. Wood­worker Craig Nel­son, pa­per cut­ter Dot­tie Nether­ton, glass artist Jef­frey P’an and il­lus­tra­tor/ print­maker James Polisky will use hand­crafted or­na­ments to dec­o­rate their des­ig­nated tree. The four artists will show their works at a trunk show at the mu­seum gift shop from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m., on Nov. 28, which co­in­cides with Santa’s visit.

The main house, which is dec­o­rated in 1910 pe­riod fash­ion for Christ­mas, is

a trib­ute to Florence Gris­wold, who was born on Dec. 25. Flynn says the au­then­tic look of the dec­o­ra­tions, how­ever, can throw peo­ple who may come in ex­pect­ing Vic­to­rian vi­sions from Martha Ste­wart and see some­thing else al­to­gether. The dec­o­ra­tions don’t tend to­ward the or­nate; we’re talk­ing hand­made or­na­ments, construction pa­per chains, dried flow­ers, stringed pop­corn and cran­ber­ries for the tree.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing to watch peo­ple’s re­ac­tion,” Flynn says.

The mu­seum is also a great place for fam­i­lies with young chil­dren, as ev­ery Sun­day from Nov. 23 through Jan. 4 is time for Joy in the Mak­ing, a hands-on ac­tiv­ity. On those days, ad­mis­sion for the chil­dren is free and they can en­joy mak­ing dif­fer­ent cre­ations. There is also a Teddy Bear Tea for the kids on Dec. 15.

Speak­ing of tea, if you are in­ter­ested in at­tend­ing a hol­i­day tea, it is im­por­tant to make reser­va­tions early. The tea room is open Tues­day through Fri­day from Dec. 2-Dec.19, with seat­ings at 2 p.m. Ad­mis­sion is $30 per per­son, which also in­cludes en­try to the mu­seum and a dis­count at the shop.

“This is one of our busiest pe­ri­ods,” Flynn says.

The mu­seum is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Tues­days through Satur­days, and 1-5 p.m., Sun­days. Ad­mis­sion is $9 for adults, $8 for se­niors, $7 for stu­dents and free for chil­dren 12 and un­der.

JEN­NIFER BAL­LARD TAKES HER OWN SHOT PRIOR TO HER YEARLY POSE BE­FORE THE TREE. PHOTO TIM COOK / THE DAY

THE RANGE OF PAL­ETTES THAT DEC­O­RATE THE ARTISTS’ TREE IS AS BROAD AS THE MEDIUM IT­SELF.

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF FLORENCE

GRIS­WOLD MU­SEUM.

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