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Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: A day in the country with SOTA Designer Showhouse

Private property once a working farm in rural Coopersburg will be accessed by the public in just a week's time, and it will look like no other in the area. That's because the site – complete with an elegant 1870's Victorian farmhouse – has been renovated over the last several months to debut as the 2012 Designer Showhouse & Gardens produced by the Society of the Arts (SOTA). Opening day is Saturday, April 28, with a daily run through May 20.

SOTA is a service-oriented women's volunteer organization that has supported the advancement of the Allentown Art Museum since 1964, through volunteer and fundraising activities. The Designer Showhouse is its major fundraiser held every other year and showcases the work of more than two dozen local designers and landscapers who visually transform one room or area of the home's interior or exterior. The first SOTA Designer Showhouse was held in Bethlehem in 1973. Since 1992, the organization has hosted 13 showhouses, with one held just about every other year.

Past showhouses have attracted up to 4,000 visitors, according to Nancy Odorski, co-chair of the 2012 Designer Showhouse along with Helene Thompson.

"It's a huge project, one that takes about a year in preparation," Odorski said. "We have approximately 15 to 20 committees and about 200 volunteers who will work in shifts during the three-week run."

This year's Designer Showhouse & Gardens is actually the family homestead of Bruce and Anne Lawrence of Bethlehem. The property, known as Three Chimneys Farm, is located at 1770 Pleasant View Rd., Coopersburg, and is within a 15-30 minute drive from much of the Lehigh Valley and Bucks County.

SOTA members Pat Hoffman, Mary Gedney and Sally MacGowan compiled history about the property which revealed that Three Chimneys Farm is a name given by the current owner's mother. The home was built by Zeno W. Weierbach in 1876, and was originally owned and farmed by several generations of the Weierbach family, beginning in the 1750's. His family was among the oldest settlers of Springfield Twp., Bucks Co. Today the property is about 75 acres.

Docent-led group tours by SOTA members are available by reservation before the showhouse opens to the general public. An original watercolor of the Victorian farmhouse at Three Chimneys Farm has been created by SOTA member and artist Bebe Traylor.

Odorski and Thompson put out the call to SOTA members back in the fall of 2010 for suggestions of possible showhouse locations. That's when Anne Lawrence, a new SOTA member, contacted them about a family property with an "in-the-country feel." It was a unanimous decision by SOTA's house search committee after a visit to the farm that the property would be "perfect." Odorski and Thompson then met with the Lawrences to discuss the project and come to an agreement on use.

The process of transformation began to unfold, with SOTA inviting local designers and landscapers to preview the property and submit design boards on various areas of the home to a juried committee for review.

Visitors to the three-story stone home will have the opportunity to see these beautifully refurbished and redesigned spaces by 14 top-notch area interior designers. They will be able to wander the extensive grounds to enjoy newly landscaped areas designed by eight local landscapers and artisans. There will be a Boutique and Café in the barn with 17 regional vendors and a light lunch or snack prepared by Sagra Catering of Hellertown, Northampton Co. SOTA's Attic will offer unique treasures and trinkets, new and gently used, donated by SOTA members and friends.

"It's been a wonderful experience working with the Lawrences," Odorski said. "We hope people who pass through the home will be inspired by the designing. They will see a gem of a home that was older, past its prime, be reinvented for today. Perhaps they will take away with them some design ideas for their own homes."

If the interior of the showhouse is inspiring, Odorski hopes people will hang around to enjoy even more wonderment in its picturesque landscape. One outdoor designer adding to the beauty is David Hughes of Weatherwood Designs in Doylestown, Bucks Co., who joins the showhouse for the first time. Visitors will find Hughes' work at a pond area on the property closest to the home, where he designed a native plant layout and outdoor rustic furniture.

"It's quite fun to see a lot of design styles in a compact space," said Hughes, who participated in an unrelated showhouse project in Doylestown last year. For the SOTA project, he said he designed Adirondack-style furniture that was "comfortable and engaging and adding to the sense of beauty already there." When asked if he sees any trend with homeowners customizing outdoor space, Hughes said people are requesting materials made locally in the region and in the states.

On April 14, SOTA was honored by the Allentown Art Museum for nearly five decades of "unparalleled contributions" in so many of its areas, said J. Brooks Joyner, museum president and CEO. He cited those areas to include "generous financial support, growing the museum's permanent collection through the SOTA Print Fund, volunteering in art education programs and serving as docents, producing a biannual showhouse event that brings funding and attention to the museum, and many other areas of volunteer service."

"It is the most efficient and well organized service organization that I have experienced in my art museum career," Joyner added. "The time, effort and expertise that goes into planning and executing the Showhouse is extraordinary. …We at the museum are very fortunate to have such a professional and dedicated service organization."

Hours: Monday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Advance tickets $20, $25 at the door.

For further info:  |  610-432-4333, ext. 145 | Images: Three Chimneys Farm

National Haiku Poetry Day is Friday, April 20, in celebration of spring. Local poets Marilyn Hazelton, Ann Burke and Ann Michael will read and discuss their poetry inspired by Japanese poetic forms (haiku, tanka, haibun, haiga) at 7 p.m., at the Blind Willow Book Shop, 412 Chestnut St., Emmaus, Lehigh Co.

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Broadway musical, "Anything Goes," with music and lyrics by Cole Porter, opens Wednesday, April 25 through May 6, at the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts at DeSales University in Center Valley. As part of Act 1's season, the show is directed by Dennis Razze. The show features such songs as "It's De-lovely," "I Get a Kick Out of You" and, of course, "Anything Goes."

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The 15th Congressional District High School Art Competition, "An Artistic Discovery," comes to a close May 4, but not before the young artists are recognized at an awards ceremony on Sunday, April 22 beginning at 2 p.m., at the David E. Rodale Gallery at The Baum School of Art in Allentown. The nationwide art competition and exhibition features the work of high school students from Pennsylvania's 15th Congressional District, which is made up of most of the Lehigh Valley and parts of Berks and Montgomery counties. The first-place winning entry from each district will be displayed in the Cannon Tunnel Gallery of the United States Capitol for one year.

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