It was a beautiful al fresco spring evening when the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens’ loyal supporters came together to celebrate philanthropy, music, art and nature. An Evening of Music and Art in the Gardens — the annual Gardens Conservancy’s benefit, presented Palm Beach resident Audrey Gruss with the 7th Annual Ann Norton Award for Philanthropy, extended to an individual who advances the ideals set forth with Ann Norton’s vision for the Gardens as her legacy to the community.
Frances Fisher, Board Chairman for the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens and Founding Chair for the Gardens Conservancy, began the evening by thanking the event’s leadership and corporate sponsors for their endless support as the Gardens continued to thrive as an important cultural and educational resource for the community throughout an unprecedented year. Event leadership included Susan and Bob Wright, Chairmen; Christine and Bill Aylward and Sally and Bill Soter, Honorary Chairmen; and Sara and Jim McCann and David Miller and Ray Wakefield; Host Committee Chairmen. She continued by thanking the Presenting Sponsor of the 2020-2021 season Sentient Jet and Gardens Conservancy sponsor M&T Bank and Wilmington Trust and Gardens Conservancy longtime supporter Gunster.
“Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens is a place of wonder, serenity and joy,” said Fisher. “ This evening’s honoree, Audrey Gruss, knows better than anyone the inner knowledge that truly sustains us – feeling, loving and connecting with each other. Audrey is a visionary, preservationist and woman who wholeheartedly dedicates herself to making the world a better place. Most importantly, she possesses an intangible quality that so aligns with the experiences Ann Norton wanted to share with her legacy here – the ability to touch the human spirit. Audrey, we thank you for your continuing love and devotion to the Gardens, and for helping us build a strong prosperous future here.”
Event Chair Susan Wright then announced the evening’s Ann Norton Award for Philanthropy recipient.
“It is such an honor to accept this special award,” said Gruss. “Tonight, the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens is a recipient of your philanthropy. What a jewel to have in our Palm Beach area and how wonderful it is to appreciate the Garden on a special evening like this. Research shows that if you do what makes you happy or fulfilled — if you support the causes that move you — it gives meaning and purpose in life, a main ingredient of happiness. There is no one who knows this better than I and every one of you that is here tonight.”
During the benefit, Troy Anderson & The Wonderful World Band took the stage for a show-stopping set of crowd favorites from the legendary Louis Armstrong. The event also debuted the most recent conservation underwritten by Sally and Bill Soter of one of Ann Norton’s monumental sculptures commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts. It also celebrated the restoration of Ann Norton’s Artist Studio, thanks to a donation from The Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation and The Barker Welfare Foundation, which was the tip of the iceberg in preservation efforts for the Gardens.
Fisher announced exciting plans to fully restore the Norton House, which would be the first time in nearly a century that the home has been touched with an eye towards preserving such a unique historic structure. Trustees Harvey Oyer and David Miller will oversee the project which will begin this summer by securing the exterior of the Norton Home with plans for interior restoration to follow.
The evening also included access to the Norton House where Artists At Home: Photography of Historic Artists’ Homes & Studios Program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation was on display, which was made possible with support by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. The artwork, exhibited through May, provides a glimpse into the lives of artists across the country whose homes, studios and landscapes comprise the Historic Artists’ Homes and Studios (HAHS) program. Following Ann Norton’s induction into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame, ANSG was welcomed as a member of the HAHS program in 2019.
As guests strolled through the two-acre oasis, they also got a first-hand look at four large-scale bronze pieces of whimsical animals created by visiting artist Bjorn Skaarup. Each sculpture presents a whimsical story or allegory to decipher, with sources ranging from ancient fables and art history to music and modern animation.
Launched in 2014, the Gardens Conservancy is dedicated to preserving the historic beauty of the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens. It honors Ann Norton’s legacy by cultivating dynamic community partnerships that enhance educational programs and cultural awareness of the Gardens, and by implementing exciting horticultural projects to maintain the garden as a vibrant feature of the community.
For Conservancy membership information or general information at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, please visit www.ansg.org or call 561-832-5328.