2009-02-19 / Features

Philadelphia Flower Show Celebrates "Bella Italia"

By Joann Loviglio ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - This year, the Philadelphia Flower Show is doing a little cross-pollination in these wilting economic times.

The upcoming show at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, with its "Bella Italia" theme, is adding retail space to the annual show-stopping floral displays and bustling horticultural marketplace, as well as promoting other Italy-related museum exhibitions currently or soon to be in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Franklin science museum, in turn, are advertising the flower show in their lobbies with banners and - you guessed it - flowers. They're also offering $2 discounts to one museum when a visitor presents a ticket stub from the other.

Arts and culture leaders hatched the partnership as a way to "bring visitors to Philadelphia and bring Philadelphia to the world's attention" at a time when people's budgets are increasingly tight, said Gail Harrity, interim CEO of the art museum.

During trying economic times, arts organizations often take a double hit of reduced foundation grants and slashed municipal and state funding. Joining forces allows the groups to "add up to more than the sum of their parts," Harrity said.

The eight-day flower show, organized by The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society and held in Philadelphia since 1829, bills itself as the largest indoor flower show in the world. Roughly 250,000 visitors annually attend the event, which stretches more than 10 acres inside the convention center.

Amid the recreated vistas and lush gardens of northern and central Italy, a replicated piazza will be stocked with Italian products from vino to Vespas and suits to Murano glass - a separate area from the yearly retailers of flowers, plants and floralthemed decor.

Actor Danny DeVito, who turned a comical appearance on ABC's "The View" into his own brand of limoncello, will be signing purchased bottles of the lemon liqueur on March 7.

The show also will cross-promote the art museum's current exhibition of Renaissance Italian printmakers and upcoming "Cezanne and Beyond," which includes a couple of Italian artists, as well as The Franklin's world-exclusive Galileo exhibit coming in April. One of only two known existing Galileo telescopes will be leaving Italy for the first time and Philadelphia is the only venue for the show.

Such partnerships, now somewhat novel, may become more common as arts groups look for economies of scale, said Gary Steuer, head of Philadelphia's new Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy.

"Nobody can do it by themselves anymore; linking up in a thoughtful way is extremely important," added Bill Mills, regional president of flower show sponsor PNC Bank. The show generates $30 million for local restaurants, hotels and other businesses annually, he said.

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