courtesy photo

The Brown County
Art Gallery
Victorian Tea

by Karen E. Farley

For almost two decades women and men of all ages have enjoyed a Victorian tea service surrounded by beautiful flowers and artwork from some of Indiana’s top artists. On Sunday, April 14, the historic Brown County Art Gallery Foundation presents their 19 Annual Victorian Tea.

In the early 1990s, Betty Abbett and Joan Knight, also known as the Gallery Gals, would hold private afternoon teas in their homes. By the third year, almost 50 women attended the teas. It became so popular that in 1995 the 1st Annual Victorian Tea was held in Nashville at the Brown County Art Gallery.

“It has been, for the past three years, a sold-out event that features a unique guest speaker, music, women, men, and children dressed in Victorian period costume, fine teas, finger foods, and desserts,” says Elizabeth Domont, committee member for the annual tea.

Domont has served on the committee for five years, along with Cheryl Eyed, Donna Tackett, and Paula Sexton.

Afternoon teas have been popular for many years. According to The Complete Victorian, afternoon tea was invented by Anna Duchess of Bedford (1783–1857), one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting. She decided to take tea to alleviate the hunger of afternoon between lunch and dinner.  Soon she was inviting friends to join her for tea, around 4 or 5 o’clock, and served a light luncheon of tea, sandwiches and small cakes.

Guests at the 2013 Annual Victorian Tea in Nashville will enjoy finger sandwiches, scones, Devonshire cream, and decadent desserts catered by Step Back in Time of Edinburgh, Indiana. The Candy Emporium of Nashville will donate the teas served at the event. Both Earl Grey and “naturally decaffeinated” teas will be on each table. Special favors will be at place settings and there will be tea-inspired door prizes, raffle items, music, and local jewelry and craft items for sale.

“Over the years, the program has gotten better,” Cheryl Eyed, chairman and vice-president of the foundation says. “In the early years, we prepared all of the food. For the past four years, we have had it catered.”

An added feature of the afternoon social is the popular Chef Wendell Fowler as guest speaker. Chef Wendell is a well-known food philosopher and host of CBS Eat Right Now with Chef Wendell. Fowler will share tips on nutrition and healthy eating using fish and local food. His popular lectures inspire many to make informed eating decisions that result in feeling good. His cookbooks will be available for purchase at the event.

Both men and women are invited to the annual fundraiser and all guests are encouraged, but not required, to wear Victorian period hats and costumes. With over 100 attendees each year, only half are from Brown County. Ticket holders have come from Kentucky, Illinois, and Pennsylvania. Though many are dressed in normal attire, they encourage all to wear period hats.

“We love to see people come with hats,” Eyed says. “We have had some pretty spectacular ones over the years.”

The event will be held at the gallery at One Artists Drive in downtown Nashville. All proceeds benefit the Historic Brown County Art Gallery Foundation which promotes Indiana’s living artists and provides them with exhibit space and a professional staff.

According to their website, The Brown County Art Gallery was established in 1926 by early members of a regional art colony. After the addition of an important permanent collection by early Indiana artists, the members formed the Brown County Art Gallery Foundation. In order to make a priority of protecting the valuable paintings and property, a foundation was needed to oversee the gallery and raise money for its operations. The gallery is one of the oldest galleries in the United States. Visitors can learn the history of those early artists and find the works of current Indiana artists on display.

The gallery also owns a large collection of antique tea cups and tea pots. The volunteers for the event, all specialists in tea service, spend hours decorating tables with flowers, antique teaware and fine linen.
“We are always looking for volunteers to help plan and prepare for the annual event,” Eyed adds.

Unlike the “Mad Tea-Party” in Alice in Wonderland, the Brown County Art Gallery’s Victorian Tea promises to be an afternoon of delicious food, fun, entertainment, and of course, fine teas.
Doors open at 1:00 p.m. Tea service and program from 2:00 p.m.to 4:00 p.m.Tickets are $25 for adults and $17 for children under 10. Raffle tickets for a painting by Jodie Friend can be purchased in advance at the gallery.

For more information and advance reservations, call the gallery at (812) 988-4609 or visit their website <www.browncountyartgallery.org>.