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On the town: Celebrity floral designer headlines Art in Bloom

Chris Giftos demonstrates floral design at Art in Bloom at the Vinoy Renaissance.


Chris Giftos demonstrates floral design at Art in Bloom at the Vinoy Renaissance.


The bride carried a bouquet of bright-yellow freesias. Chris Giftos was the floral designer, and in his presentation at the annual Art in Bloom luncheon to benefit the Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, he entertained the crowd of more than 400 guests with celebrity anecdotes along with creating six impressive floral arrangements.

His client? Actor Elizabeth Taylor, for her first wedding to Richard Burton.

Giftos worked for 33 years at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, from which he retired in 2003 as master floral designer and director of special events.

Wearing a floral shirt and using a Swiss Army knife to trim the stems of dozens of flowers (including four bouquets purchased from a local Publix) he intertwined stories about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Pat Buckley, Martha Stewart and the Empress of Japan with very practical advice about creating handsome arrays of flowers.

Glenn Mosby and Martha Buttner were co-chairwomen for the luncheon, which was one of several highlights of the six-day Art in Bloom celebration presented by the Margaret Acheson Stuart Society. Museum director Kent Lydecker, a onetime colleague of Giftos', and Stuart Society president Margaret Amley made introductory remarks.

Coordinated overall by Dale Wybrow and Elizabeth Walters-Alison, Art in Bloom special activities launched with a private patron party on March 6 and ran through Tuesday.

At the March 8 "Flowers After Hours" preview party, Tiffany Braun of Braun's Fine Flowers and Richard Rigg of Delma's the Flower Booth presented their "Iron Florist" artistic interpretations, and Dr. Adam Estevez created an original painting. Co-chairwomen for that event were Gail Pyhel, Whitney Shouppe and Becky Wells; and Cathy Unruh was mistress of ceremonies.

For Sunday's exhibitions, many of the amateurs and professionals who created floral tributes to artworks in the museum were on hand to discuss their designs. "Conversations with the Designers" also featured contemporary artist Mernet Larsen and art collector, designer and honorary Stuart Society member Eric Lang Peterson's floral response to her 1987 painting, Mall.

Publix chef Daniel Schubert presented a dessert demonstration on Monday afternoon.

Betty Shamas was flower installation chairwoman for Art in Bloom, which drew a steady stream of new visitors to the museum, spokesman David Connelly said.

Additional Art in Bloom committee members were Deann Coop, Nancy Dunn, Shari Ellis, Rebecca Hearn, Toni Lydecker, Monica Mason, Carol Nelson, Carol Piper, Angela Rouson, Stephanie Sanders, Carolyn Warren and Denise Williams.


Members of the Florida Orchestra Guild of St. Petersburg honored Marsha and Jay B. Starkey with the Golden Baton Award at a dinner held in the lobby and atrium of St. Petersburg's Mahaffey Theater.

The annual tribute recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions in leadership to benefit the orchestra and the arts community.

Longtime major supporters of the orchestra, the Starkeys gave a $1 million contribution to its endowment fund in 2005 and sponsor its Principal Viola chair. Jay B. Starkey serves on the board of directors. He also is on the board of directors of the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, in which he sings.

Marsha Starkey has been recognized as one of the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida's Women of Distinction. Together, the couple received the Ethics Award from the University of Tampa in 2010 for their legacy of conservation in creating the Starkey Wilderness Preserve in Pasco County.

Joan Jaicks was the event chairwoman, leading a committee that included guild president Emily Gillespie, adviser Judy Davis, Roma McDonaugh, Peggy Grom, Mozelle Bell, Marty Hallas, Ginny McConnell and Claire Mazzella.

On the town: Celebrity floral designer headlines Art in Bloom 03/13/14 [Last modified: Friday, March 14, 2014 10:58am]
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