The annual Philadelphia Flower Show is breaking from its recent pattern of featuring countries and destinations, this year choosing to let floral artists interpret museum exhibits, including one from the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery at the March 1-9 event.

“This is a real and welcome challenge,” said Eric Schellack, the “designer extraordinaire” who is building an elaborate display for show contestant, Robertson's Flowers & Events of Philadelphia. The show is the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society annual main event.

Schellack recently toured the portrait gallery for ideas and settled on the “Dancing the Dream” exhibit that runs through July. He isn't building dancers of flowers, but instead using materials and orchids, lilies and others to evoke dance for the show titled “ARTiculture.”

He’s also weaving in some history, building one of his exhibits to recall the Cold War defections of Soviet ballet giants Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolf Nureyev.

While typically tied up on Robertson's client events like weddings, Schellack said the flower show “gives us a chance to do something we want to do rather than what someone else wants us to do.”

Amy Henderson, the museum's cultural historian and curator of Dancing the Dream, said the teaming with the flower show is an example of how the Smithsonian is moving to draw in new audiences by breaking from the old static model for museums.

“Oh, it will reach a different audience,” she said of bringing the gallery’s vision to the flower show. “It’s a win-win,” she said, adding: “I’m thrilled by this unexpected attention from the Philadelphia Flower Show.”

Her exhibit features 100 years of portraits of major dancers and is meant to show reflect the last century through dance, right up to the YouTube generation. “It is an example of doing something out of the ordinary and sparking something new,” said Henderson.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at