A dizzying array of opportunities to re-examine the history, architecture, gardens and art of Charleston is just around the corner. As flowers bloom in the coming weeks, residents and visitors will reflect on the cultural influences that define the Holy City.

If you go

What: Charleston Art & Antiques Forum's 16th annual Fine & Decorative Arts Series

When: March 13-17

Where: Old Courtroom, 23 Chalmers St.

Sponsor: Charleston Art & Antiques Forum

more info and tickets: www.charlestonantiques forum.org/schedule.htm

Other events focusing on Charleston's history, architecture, gardens and art during March and April include:

Charleston Symphony Orchestra League's Designer Showhouse, March 21-April 21. www.csolinc.org/events/2011-designer-showhouse.

Historic Charleston Foundation's 66th Annual Festival of Houses and Gardens, March 21-April 20. www.historiccharleston.org/Events/Annual-Festival-of-Houses-and-Gardens.

Historic Charleston Foundation's International Antiques Show, March 22-24. www.historic charleston.org/Events/ Annual-Festival-of- Houses-and-Gardens (scroll down and click on the specific event you are interested in attending).

Garden Club of Charleston's House and Garden Tours, April 5-6. www.the gardenclubofcharleston.org.

Charleston Horticultural Society's Plantasia, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 12; and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 13. www.chashortsoc.org/events- tours/plantasia-2013.html.

“A Grand Tour: Trade Winds of Influence,” the Charleston Art and Antiques Forum's 16th fine and decorative arts series, heralds the arrival of spring events in and around Charleston. It takes place March 13-17 and will benefit the Charleston Parlor Restoration Fund of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Old Salem, N.C.

Other events associated with Charleston's spring cultural feast include the Historic Charleston Foundation's Charleston International Antiques Show and its Festival of Houses and Gardens, Charleston Symphony Orchestra League's Designer Showhouse, Charleston Horticultural Society's Plantasia, and Garden Club of Charleston's House and Garden Tours.

Dame Rosalind Savill, director emeritus of the Wallace Collection, a London museum, will deliver the forum's keynote address, “Twenty Years With French Decorative Arts.” Jean Y. Helms, the forum's founder and chair, calls Savill among the most learned in her field.

Helms stressed the many cultural influences highlighted in the forum's 2013 program and says they reflect the unlimited reach of the decorative arts.

“The more you get involved, the more you see what there is,” says Helms. Those in the world of decorative arts can learn much from each other, she adds.

“Every year, we are more and more successful in reaching more people from all over the world.”

Decorative arts

This year's program focuses on such diverse decorative arts influences as Italian palaces, trade with colonial Latin America and the French impact on silver. Two other lectures also are among those garnering their share of attention.

“A Yankee Invasion: New York Furniture for Southern Clients” by Matthew Thurlow, major gifts officer for the Winterthur Museum and Country Estate, offers a broadened context for studying antique furnishings owned by Charlestonians, particularly pieces made in the early 19th century.

“Although objects may not have been made in South Carolina, they help to tell interesting stories about people who lived in Charleston and elsewhere,” Thurlow says. “A host of different furniture makers working in New York at the time found favor with Southerners.”

Thurlow's collaboration on a major Duncan Phyfe exhibition for the Metropolitan Museum gave him the chance to focus on pieces made for Charleston clients in Phyfe's shop, he says. Phyfe was a leading 19th-century cabinetmaker.

Pieces made for Charleston clients include a sewing table for William Dearing and a large suite of furnishings for Dunbar Paul.

In addition, Deming & Bulkley, furniture makers, had a retail shop in Charleston for furnishings made in New York, Thurlow says. While their work, like that of others, may have been influenced by the English and French, their styles remained distinct, particularly with regard to the high ornamentation and gilding.

Layers of history

Representatives from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation also will focus on furniture.

“Reading the Upholstery Evidence on 18th Century Furniture” will be a live demonstration by Leroy Graves, master upholster, on how he goes about pulling back the layers of upholstery to discover a detailed history of the pieces. He will be joined by Margaret Pritchard, the foundation's curator of maps, prints and wallpapers.

“When we get an object in, we peel back each layer (of fabric) until we get to the final layer for evidence of original upholstery,” says Graves.

Should that fail to provide the needed information, they search original nail holes for threads of the original fabric such as wool, silk or cotton. They also may look at the clusters of nail holes and shadow marks on a frame to determine more about a piece's past.

“A lot of that can give you evidence of how the upholstery was applied,” says Graves, who will bring frames and a cutaway to Charleston to demonstrate the process.

In addition to reading the piece, Graves will cover Colonial Williamsburg's noninvasive system of reupholstering pieces.

The new upholstery, made of fabric ordered from England to fit the piece's age, is designed to be removable and eliminates the need to add more nail holes to a piece. It also helps those who later will study the piece in the future, Graves says. “Our system at Colonial Williamsburg is now used all over the country.”

Reach Wevonneda Minis at 937-5705.