“Art is in the eye of the beholder,” a take on the time-honored saying, aptly describes the Florence Griswold Museum campus, home of American impressionism – and so much more – in picturesque Old Lyme, Connecticut. The always-fascinating year-round exhibits, events and programs make Flo Gris one of New England’s most popular destinations for all age groups.
This year’s dazzling summer exhibitions are on view through September 21. Featured are two major exhibits to double a visitor’s pleasure: “Art of the Everyman: American Folk Art from the Fenimore Art Museum” and “Thistles and Crowns: The Painted Chests of the Connecticut Shore.” This is a rare opportunity to see collections on loan from many sources of the priceless arts and crafts from early America to the 20th century’s beloved Grandma Moses. http://florencegriswoldmuseum.org/exhibitions/
The museum’s premiere art exhibitions are presented in the handsome Krieble Gallery and in the 1817 Greek-revival home of Florence Griswold with its period rooms and the renowned American Impressionist painting collection where the artists lived and worked more than a hundred years ago. The rustic studio of William Chadwick in the nearby crab-apple orchard that blends into the eleven acres of sweeping lawns, picnic areas and the restored flower and herb gardens, are each a work of art.
We took a lunch break at the museum’s Café Flo, located on a handsome, colonnaded veranda. It has an unobstructed view of the Lieutenant River and vast salt-water marshes in the background – a serene picture-perfect scene.
Chef Connie Hotz offers many outstanding hot and cold luncheon goodies using only the freshest ingredients available from many local sources. The Café Flo also has special monthly dinners catered by her nearby Gourmet Galley of Stonington, Conn. She also caters weddings and other group celebrations on the museum’s eleven park-like acres.
We loved the pan-seared ocean scallops with Israeli couscous and peas – and a spinach salad with goat cheese, walnuts, mushrooms, crisp bacon, hard-boiled eggs and warm cider vinaigrette, a serving ample enough to share. Desserts here are always irresistible. Chef Connie makes her version of chocolate bread pudding with crème Anglaise. This four-star cuisine is served by a wait staff of delightful and attentive young women. For the complete café menu and catering services at the museum, go to www.florencegriswoldmuseum.org/cafe_flo.php
The Café Flo is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11:30 a. m. to the last seating at 2:30 p. m., and on Sundays from 1 p. m. to the last seating at 3:30 p m. through November 2. Reservations are not necessary except for parties of six or more.
The café terrace is within view of a sculpture: ‘Anticipator,’ by New York-based artist Matthew Geller. This intriguing work combines a recycled tree trunk with three “bionic” limbs forged from steel. The perforated branches emit colored light and mist through fan-like blossoms.
The tree used for the installation, a Star Magnolia, died about two years ago, is a touching part of the museum’s history because it was planted by Miss Florence Griswold in the 1920s. “It would have been hard to find a better tree than this,” stated Geller. “Anticipator continues the bond between this landscape and the creation of art begun by the renowned impressionist artists of the Lyme Art Colony.”
To the left of the main entrance is the first-rate Flo Gris museum shop. The buyer prides himself on finding the highest quality art-related gifts in a broad range of prices. The choices reflect the high quality of the museum’s superb collection’s and popular art programs for all ages. Over the years it has become much more than the average museum shop: It is a popular gift shop with local and regional residents who want to find unique and one-of-kind gifts for all seasons and special occasions. They have learned there is a steady flow of new, locally made hand-crafted items and fine ‘museum quality’ gifts of glass, ceramic, metal, plus books and original wall art. The shop carries always-in-demand Flo Gris logo key-rings, refrigerator magnets, lip balms and other small items, and an array of fun toys and games to delight the young ones. But bottom line, the overall quality of gifts properly reflects the excellence of the museum itself.
Two recommended books available in the gift shop are: “Thistles and Crowns: The Painted Chests of the Connecticut.” A richly illustrated an in-depth look at a fascinating tradition in eighteenth-century Connecticut furniture. “Miss Florence and the Artists of Old Lyme” A witty and revealing story about daily life by Arthur Hemming, an artist who lived.in her boarding house, and delightfully illustrated by The New Yorker cartoonist James Stevenson.
The bucolic location inspired the great American Impressionists: no wonder they spent their summers at Miss Florence’s boarding house. For today’s visitors, a leisurely day in and around the museum buildings, lunch at the Café Flo, exploring the shop, strolling, picnicking, painting on your own on the grounds and enjoying Miss Florence’s restored flower and herb gardens is as refreshing as a month in the country.
Seeing is believing, so just click on the embedded links to see the extensive slideshow and the video.
The Florence Griswold Museum (Flo Gris), 96 Lyme Street, Old Lyme, CT 06371, is open Tuesday – Saturday 10 – 5; Sunday 1 – 5. Admission is $10. Seniors $9. Students $8. Visitors 12 and under are admitted free. 860-434-5542 www.flogris.org. Directions: The museum campus is halfway between New York and Boston. Take exit 70, either north or south bound, off 1-95.
Written by Don Church and Tony Schillaci, Out and Travelin’