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Philly Galleries Set The Scene For Picture-Perfect Gardens
Art Often Comes With A Side Of Floral Beauty In Philadelphia
Throughout the Philadelphia region, art spills out of galleries and into the great outdoors. Many of the region’s galleries and museums sit amid colorful gardens, quiet woodlands or serene meadows that accentuate the art found on the walls. Here’s a look at some of the Philadelphia region galleries that celebrate beauty inside and out:
- Abington Art Center – This vibrant cultural organization, known for its summer concert series, occupies part of the 27 acres of historic Alverthorpe Manor. Inside, three indoor galleries show as many as six regional and national art exhibitions each year. Outside, Katasura trees dot a meandering walkway through Sculpture Park, which is open and free to the public 365 days a year. 515 Meetinghouse Road, Jenkintown, (215) 887-4882, abingtonartcenter.org
- The Barnes Arboretum – The Merion campus of the acclaimed art collection continues the extensive arboretum and horticultural programs established more than 75 years ago by Laura Barnes, wife of Dr. Albert C. Barnes. Open to the public on weekends, the arboretum features more than 2,500 varieties of trees and woody plants—many of them rare—along with other fragrant plants and flowers. Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic and listen to the new 42-stop arboretum audio tour. The Barnes Foundation’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway location also preserves this horticultural legacy with four acres of landscaped lawns, trees, a public park, a fountain, contemplative walkways and ample seating. The Garden Restaurant’s outdoor courtyard invites patrons to dine alfresco, while internal gardens throughout the building encourage visitors to imagine they are strolling directly into the landscapes they’re admiring on the walls. Arboretum, 300 N. Latch’s Lane, Merion, (215) 278-7200; museum, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 278-7200, barnesfoundation.org
- Brandywine River Museum of Art – It takes just one glimpse of the Virginia bluebells, Cardinal flowers and holly and bayberry bushes that border this onetime gristmill to understand why this landscape has been the muse for many local artists. The museum is internationally known for its unparalleled collection of works by three generations of Wyeths and its fine collection of American illustration, still life and landscape painting. Outside, visitors can join guided walks through the wildflower and native plant gardens, which were dedicated by Lady Bird Johnson, and during the annual plant sale on Mother’s Day weekend, they can take home seeds cultivated right on the grounds, as well as lovely in-bloom plants. 1 Hoffman’s Mill Road, Chadds Ford, (610) 388-2700, brandywinemuseum.org
- James A. Michener Art Museum – This Bucks County destination is home to the Edgar N. Putman Event Pavilion, a 2,700-square-foot indoor-outdoor space designed by architecture firm Kieran Timberlake. The pavilion showcases museum programs—from jazz nights to lectures to lively family events—within an elegant, all-glass structure that extends into the Patricia Pfundt Sculpture Garden. The museum’s eight galleries accommodate special exhibitions and a 3,000-piece permanent collection, including many Pennsylvania impressionist paintings that capture the essence of the county’s rolling terrain. 138 S. Pine Street, (215) 340-9800, Doylestown, michenerartmuseum.org
- Penn Museum – After viewing the impressive collection of international art and artifacts inside this University of Pennsylvania museum, visitors can relax in two magnificent gardens. The Warden Garden, now wheelchair accessible, features a classic koi pool, expansive lawns and mosaics created by Louis Comfort Tiffany, while the Stoner Courtyard, built on the philosophy that places for nature are necessary in our built-up world, includes sculptural pieces by A.S. Calder, a cobblestone walkway and a beautiful marble fountain. Inside the museum, guests marvel at objects including a 15-ton Egyptian sphinx, African and Native American masks, Maya sculpture and Egyptian mummies. 3260 South Street, (215) 898-4000, penn.museum
- Philadelphia Museum of Art – Best known for its international exhibitions and world-renowned collections of more than 240,000 works, the crown jewel of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is more than a museum. It’s also the unofficial gateway to Fairmount Park. The museum’s bi-level sculpture garden, with its combination of terraces, lawns, flora and water features, showcases an ever-changing collection of sculptures that overlook Fairmount Park, the Schuylkill River, the four-acre Azalea Garden and the grand neo-classical Water Works building. Works on display include large-scale pieces by Claes Oldenburg Ellsworth Kelly and Sol LeWitt. 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 763-8100, philamuseum.org
- Rodin Museum – Movie-theater magnate, philanthropist and Rodin collector Jules Mastbaum, known for his eye for elegance, hired architects Paul Cret and Jacques Gréber to create this jewel box museum. The venue’s intimate settings are perfect for taking in the extensive Rodin collection, the largest outside Paris. Visitors seem to enjoy the front garden’s reflecting pool and tapestry of Japanese Ilex, shrubs and colorful flowers—some dating back to the 1920s—as much as they do The Thinker and Eternal Springtime. 2151 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, (215) 763-8100, rodinmuseum.org
- Second Bank of the United States – Inside this Parthenon-like structure is a first-rate collection of approximately 200 historic portraits of Founding Fathers, early leaders, explorers and others, many painted by Charles Willson Peale. Visitors can ponder the significance of the subjects’ accomplishments in several gardens located just steps away. Accented by native plants and trees, Signers’ Garden commemorates the early citizens who declared independence. The 18th-Century Garden replicates the formal English gardens of the day, with geometrically patterned raised flowerbeds, walking paths, a pergola and a fruit orchard. The Rose Garden and Magnolia Garden are secluded, colorful and fragrant refuges. Second Bank, 420 Chestnut Street; Signers’, 5th & Chestnut Streets; 18th-Century, Walnut Street between 3rd & 4th Streets; Rose and Magnolia, Locust Street between 4th & 5th Streets; (215) 965-2305, nps.gov/inde
- Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library – Textiles, paintings, prints, furniture and ceramics dating from 1640 to 1860 make the former home of Henry Francis du Pont a favorite for fans of Americana. Nature enthusiasts are drawn to the 60-acre garden nestled in the 1,000-acre country estate. Highlights of the garden include eight acres of azaleas, naturalized bulbs displays, peonies and primroses. Trails lead from the garden through rolling meadows, woodlands and waterways. If the kids get antsy, a short trip across the Troll Bridge leads to the Faerie Cottage in the Enchanted Woods. 5105 Kennett Pike, Winterthur, Delaware, (800) 448-3883, winterthur.org
- Woodmere Art Museum – At the top of the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, this gem of a venue tells stories of Philadelphia’s art and artists, including N.C. Wyeth, Benjamin West and Violet Oakley, as well as new and emerging contemporary artists. The 19th-century stone Victorian mansion sits on six acres dotted with sculptures by Dina Wind and other Philadelphia-area artists surrounding Harry Bertoia’s sinuous fountain sculpture, Free Interpretation of Plant Forms. 9201 Germantown Avenue, (215) 247-0476, woodmereartmuseum.org
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For decades, insiders have headed to South Philadelphia—particularly the neighborhoods east of Broad Street, for the red-gravy Italian restaurants. Today, the area around East Passyunk Avenue—a diagonal interruption to Philadelphia’s grid layout—has enjoyed much revitalization. This is especially so on the food front, with many new eateries earning enormous acclaim from Bon Appétit, The New York Times, Travel & Leisure and more.
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