The inspiring history of the 25 years of the Whimsical Women Art Sale begins with a story of two sisters and the mother that they adored, admired, and wished to honor.
Luli Sanderford and Linda Palladino grew up the precocious daughters of Bill and Ellen Brown. Ellen was an amazing and creative seamstress who was always busy making something, often to be given away. “I don’t think Mom was courageous enough to try selling what she created, so she just kept making and giving things away!” says Linda. The girls noticed how their mother’s creations brought so much joy and peace into the lives of others.
After losing their beloved mom, Ellen’s selflessness, combined with her creative spirit, served as the motivation for Luli and Linda to put together an art sale as a tribute to her. Not only did they want to honor her, but they wanted to practice the idea that through the creative process, one can begin to heal the soul.
So, in the spring of 1996, with only the two sisters as artists and combined with the selling of bedding plants from Luli and Jim’s farm, the first Whimsical Women art show took place in Luli’s yard in Pfafftown. Even though Linda swears they were “terrible artists back then,” they quickly realized their art was selling better than the plants! The following spring, they held the show again, this time inviting creative friends to join them. A few years later, they added a second show in Chapel Hill, NC.
The only requirement for artists to join was that they be women who make their own art. It was, and remains, very important to the sisters that female artists feel empowered and supported by a like-minded community. The WW art shows have never been about anyone getting rich; they have always been about growing a community of women who care for and support each other.
Over the years, the sisters recruited many talented, hardworking, and generous women to help run the show. As a result of the tremendous growth of the show and the need to “make it legal,” they eventually created the Whimsical Women Executive Board. A common sentiment from those lucky Executive members is how honored they feel to be included and to help manage their favorite show of the year!
Although Linda and Luli “retired” after 20 years of directing the Whimsical Women executive board and annual show in 2016, the story did not end! The spark that ignited this creative and passionate endeavor in 1996 was still lit; it just needed to be adopted by other energetic women who were the best kind of crazy-enough to keep it going! That’s exactly what happened and a determined handful of artists, some previous Execs and others new to the board, jumped right in, and the show goes on!
While the show began on Luli’s farm, it has since been held in many different places over the years in both Winston-Salem and Chapel Hill. It was not uncommon for over 1,500 shoppers to flock to the show, with as many as 200 getting in line an hour or more before the start of the event! In 2016, it became apparent that the show had outgrown its cherished space on the Sanderford Farm in Pfafftown. After trying settings similar to the Pfafftown farm for a couple of years and then missing one year entirely due to the pandemic, Whimsical Women is thrilled to be celebrating their 25th Anniversary Show at Bailey Park in Winston-Salem this November 20th!
Bailey Park promises to be an exciting space to fill with whimsical art from 112 artists! There is ample free parking in nearby public parking lots as well as street parking. There will be live music from The Brown Mountain Lightning Bugs, magic from the Fairy Hair Fairies, and several food trucks will be on hand. Shoppers can also enjoy the many nearby dining and drinking options that surround Bailey Park.
Whimsical shoppers are encouraged to bring their own earth-friendly bags and while most artists accept credit cards, having some cash on hand is always a good idea, too!
From humble farm gatherings to the stellar show that it is today, Whimsical Women has been a crazy, sweet ride. Starting out with gentle and soulful beginnings, the Whimsical Women art show has grown into a vibrant, all-day affair with thousands of customers enjoying beautiful art created by amazing, wonderful women. It’s hard to imagine a more authentic and harmonious way to honor a mother who raised two girls who have gone on to touch so many people’s lives with their creations – embodying what it means to be Whimsical Women!
When I asked Linda and Luli what they cherish the most about the last 25 years, they said, “The spirit of community and all those friends that we made was the best thing to come out of it… all the people helping and supporting each other over the years.”
For more information about the Whimsical Women, visit www.whimsicalwomen.org or on Facebook and instagram!