Tropical Forest India Exhibit Outlined in Phipps’ Wines Under the Glass Gala

by Premlata Venkataraman

The colorful gala with the picturesque backdrop.

The soft melodic notes of the bamboo flute wafted through the lush dark green foliage of the plants at the twilight hour. Dwaraka?  Mathura ? or the famed Vrindavan?  No. This was the Phipps Conservatory in Oakland on Friday, October 21 during The Green Heart of Pittsburgh Award and The Passage to India celebration. The latter was a prelude to the 3-year long Tropical Forest India live exhibit beginning in February 2012 thru 2015.

L to R: Anuj Dhanda & his fiancé Anne Nemer & Sunil & Nita Wadhwani at the gala.

The evening gala, appropriately called Wines Under the Glass, featured excellent wines and delectable hors d’oeuvres, many of them Indian, all made by Phipps’ kitchen staff.

Phipps Director for Development Campaign Ben DuFour said over 400 guests attended the ticketed gala, almost an overflowing gathering of people for the hall.

Many of the Indian women clad in their finest silks with attendant jewelry were well-complemented by Indian men in Nehru jackets or Western suits. The pleasant Fall evening was further enlivened by the live jazz band.

Sunil & Nita Wadhwani, and Anuj Dhanda & his fiancé Anne Nemer, were the honorary cochairs for the evening. In keeping with the atmosphere of the evening, all speakers were brief.


PNC’s Executive V.P. Anuj Dhanda (L) and Chief Financial Officer Rick Johnson (R) with the Green Heart Award with Phipps’ Richard Piacentini (C).

India is not new to Phipps.  In 2003, it organized Medicinal Plants of India exhibit; and currently it supports two botanists’ work in India through its Botany In Action program.

Unfurling the details of the Tropical Forest India, Phipps’ Executive Director Richard Piacentini said, Phipps horticulturalists and education experts spent considerable time traveling in India’s Western Ghats to ensure that the exhibit will be the finest. From February 2012 thru January 2015, Phipps’ Tropical Forest Conservatory will transform into India’s Tropical Forest. The exhibit will host public events on the plants, cultures and people of India – all against a lush backdrop of India’s plants and trees.

The evening began with the annual Green Hearts Award presented to the Heinz Endowments and PNC Financial Services Group for “their commitment and leadership roles on environmental issues.”

Phipps’ Piacentini, making the award to the Heinz Endowments, said, the Heinz Endowments help develop solutions to regional community challenges that are national in scope, He added “Phipps has worked with the Heinz Endowments over the years in the sustainability movement that Teresa Heinz launched here locally in the 1990s.”

Making the award for the PNC Financial Group, he said PNC has more newly-constructed “green” buildings certified by the U.S. Green Building Council than any company in the world, adding “as Pittsburghers, we’re all anxiously awaiting PNC’s new green sky-rise office tower downtown. Phipps is proud to call PNC a partner in our many programs and plans for the future.”

The 800,000 sq. ft. 40-storey PNC headquarters to be built at a cost of $400 million, will be completed in 2015. This will be the world’s most ecofriendly corporate headquarters. The 150-year old PNC Group has 60,000 employees nationwide.

The Heinz Endowments President Bobby Voigt, and PNC’s Executive Vice President Anuj Dhanda and Chief Financial Officer Rick Johnson received the Green Heart Awards from Phipps’ Piacentini.

Towards the end, Nita Wadh- wani introduced the audience to flavors of India’s classical and contemporary dances. Kala Niketan’s Soumya Rajupet, and Nandanik Dance Group’s Aparna Roli Nigam, Roosha Mandal, and Vishmaya Saravanan rendered short dance pieces in the Indian classical styles. Ruby Jain provided a contemporary and glamorous Bollywood piece.

Ajit Ranganathan, with Charan Rajan on the mrdangam, wielded the pleasing bamboo flute and set the atmosphere for the evening. Nita introduced these artistes also to the audience. The piece de resistance of the evening was the ambience of Phipps conservatory itself.

— Photographs by Renee Rosensteel   

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