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Vero Beach Museum of Art celebrates Silver Anniversary

VERO BEACH — Created by the community for the community, a group of cultural arts lovers, led by Jean and George Armstrong, were able to raise enough money to open the doors to the Vero Beach Museum of Art (then known as the Center for the Arts) debt-free on February 1, 1986.  To celebrate the occasion, the Museum went all out Saturday night, hosting a crowd of more than 600 guests for a 25th Anniversary Gala. Vero’s elite was out in full, extraordinarily fashionable force for the occasion, adorned with enough spectacular diamonds and jewels to rival the lights on Broadway.

The evening began with cocktails in the lovely new Laura and Bill Buck Atrium, which now encloses the Wahlstrom Sculpture Garden, festooned for the party with floating candles and beautiful flowers.  Newer residents, drawn to Vero Beach in part because of its support of the arts, rubbed elbows with its cultural visionaries, such as Jean Armstrong, Eleonora Wahlstrom McCabe, Leonor Gonzales and Barbara and Dick Stark.

“It is such a beautiful achievement,” said Dick Stark.  He then sweetly reminded me, “Your mother was the one responsible for my getting involved with the Museum in the first place. It’s a privilege to have been in on it since the beginning.  It’s been nothing but a pleasure.”

Co-chairs Debbie Weise and Anne Blatherwick, backed by a committee of more than 100 volunteers, have developed a close friendship over the years, working together on several events.

“This is our fourth one together,” said Blatherwick.  “We did one for John’s Island Service League and two for Riverside Theatre.”

“The event is going to be fabulous, but this is our swan song,” added Weise.

The ladies were so in sync they had both, unbeknownst to the other, decided to enhance their beautiful gowns with exquisite emerald necklaces.  Excited about the performance, their families had come to enjoy it with them. 

“Evita played in California where we lived before it opened in New York,” said Blatherwick. “We took the girls so many times, they knew the words to all the songs.”

Guests were ushered into a large tent set up along the western end of the Museum for the show, which reunited award-winning Evita co-stars Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin for a sensational musical production.

Following the entertainment, an elegant repast, prepared by Elizabeth Kennedy Catering, featured  a trio of lobster medalions with citrus aioli, ginger soy filet of beef, and current glazed duck confit, topped off with a lush Grand Marnier Mousse for dessert.

William Bainbridge Steele had worked his magic with the dining décor, creating a crystal palace of white and silver elegance at tables set up all throughout the Museum.  Wispy verdant leaves leant a touch of color to the white lily and hydrangea filled glass pillar centerpieces, with floating candles and mirrors bathing the rooms in a warm glow.

The delightful evening concluded as guests enjoyed some fancy footwork of their own, dancing in the Holmes Great Hall to the Michael Carney Orchestra.

“It is spectacular what’s happened here,” said Ralph Evans longtime legal counsel to the Museum of its continued growth.  “They’ve always had excellent leadership and directors, and the community commitment is what makes it work.  At times things were pretty tight, but it’s never missed a beat.”

“It certainly is a wonderful part of our community,” added Sandy Rolf. {igallery 334}

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