Dr. Robert H. Wharton Jr. fell in love with classical music as a child when his father brought records home to play for the family. He took piano lessons and found he had no rhythm but continued to love and eventually support classical music.
He has championed the Florida Orchestra by sitting on the council of advisers, sponsoring a musician, sponsoring a concert and hosting other events. The Florida Orchestra Guild presented Wharton with the annual Golden Baton Award at an elegant dinner and silent auction at the Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club.
As he accepted the award, Wharton threw out a trivia question about his favorite composer, Sergei Vasilievich Rachmaninoff. None of the other orchestra enthusiasts could name three movie theme songs written by the Russian pianist, composer and conductor, so Wharton provided the answers.
Seven Year Itch starring Marilyn Monroe, Shine starring Jeffrey Rush and Somewhere in Time starring Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour.
An orchestra supporter in the making, 9-year-old London Conzulo, attended the Golden Baton event eagerly bidding on a basket of dog accessories in the silent auction.
"I really like the orchestra," he said. "I like the piano and the trumpet."
Creativity was in full bloom at the Stuart Society's Flowers After Hours preview party for the annual Art in Bloom festival at the Museum of Fine Arts. Installations of flower arrangements by area floral designers complementing artwork included an oval arrangement with birds-of-paradise next to a similarly shaped ancient statue, beautiful pink buds popping from a bed of moss, several ikebana presentations and an intricate necklace made of tiny buds and petals like something out of a fairy tale.
But the creativity didn't stop there. Many of the 230 guests wore dresses accented with bold or subtle flowers, cocktails included edible orchids and much of the menu was derived from the MFA's recently published Food & Art cookbook. One guest in particular has creativity running through his veins.
Alexandre Renoir, great grandson of Pierre-Auguste Renoir displayed several of his paintings of flora and fauna and invited guests to come talk with him.
"If your last name is Renoir you have thrown a canvas and paint brush together at least once," he said. But while many family members have taken up various forms of art, he is one of the few to paint continuously.
Renoir, 42, was born in France, grew up in Canada and now lives in California. His grandfather, Jean Renoir, was an acclaimed film director and screenwriter. His films La Grande Illusion and the Rules of the Game are often cited as two of the greatest movies ever made.
The evening was orchestrated by Deann Coop and Sue Knipe and committee members Shona Holden, Mary Anna Murphy, Caryn Rightmyer, Diana Whittle and Colleen Young. Karen Banfield was the chairperson of the floral installation.
Several Stuart Society members with experience in design or flowers created installations. They are Jeanne Keiyo Houlton, Betty Jean Miller, Jan Stoffels, Priscilla Hobby, Mary Maloof, Elizabeth Walters-Alison, Dale Wybrow and Signe Oberhofer.
The MFA continued celebrating and fundraising with an Art in Bloom luncheon at the Vinoy. Models wearing fashions from Dillard's, a leading sponsor of the exhibit, strolled through the packed ballroom modeling clothes evoking flowers and spring.
Kimberly Schlegel Whitman, a lifestyle and entertaining expert and author from Dallas, was guest speaker for the crowd of 300. The frequent Today show guest and contributor to Southern Living discussed her love of monograms and her latest book, Monograms for the Home: The Art of Making your Mark.
Linda Dow, Marian Maguire and Rhonda Sanderford orchestrated the luncheon. Other Art in Bloom organizers included Liz Curry, Robin O'Dell and Allison Ahn.
The Rotary Club of St. Petersburg hosted Wine for the Arts at the Morean Center for Clay. Proceeds will fund summer camps and weekend art classes for disadvantaged children.
The evening started with a surprise Happy Birthday serenade from the decked-out group for Troy Willingham. Then Rotary member Brian Clark laid out the plan for the wine tasting. First he assured everyone that wine is a personal choice and there are no right or wrong wines to like or dislike.
Guests sampled 10 wines with tapas between tastes. Guests included Jim and Alice Thompson, Troy and Jean Willingham and Lucas Fleming. Fleming and Thompson, both attorneys, were discussing the St. Petersburg Bar Association's plan to venture to Cuba to meet with lawyers there and learn about their needs and ways of doing things.
• Welcome the weekend with a food truck rally with live music Friday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sponsored by the Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration Center and Aquarium at the port of St. Petersburg at 250 Eighth Ave. SE.
• American Stage's Gala Under the Stars featuring Monty Python's Spamalot is Friday at 6 p.m. at Demens Landing Park.
•The Women's Service League is hosting its Promenade and Spirit of Service Awards with a brunch and fashion show at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club Saturday from 10:15 a.m. to 2 p.m.