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Umbrellas for All

The umbrella can also be called parasol, sunshade, brolly, parapluie, rainshade, gamp or bombershoot. The umbrella is both ancient and now universal.


Florence native Stephanie Frances Imbeau has built an art career around the umbrella. I am her proud father. See: stephanieimbeau.com.



Stephanie went from South Florence High School to The Ohio State University majoring in fine arts, graduating with honors in 2004. She then fearlessly moved across the pond to spend two years in the Fine Arts Graduate School of Newcastle University in Tyne, England. Since then, her career has taken her around Europe and the United States, securing a base in Brooklyn, New York (because the English strictly enforce their student and work visas, she was not allowed to stay in England.) She now works in Berlin, Germany.


You might ask what umbrellas have to do with it all. Stephanie would answer, “The umbrella is a symbol of protection, security and belonging.” Stephanie’s competition-winning work “Shelter” made her the first female artist to adapt Channel 4’s Big 4 in London in 2009 along the Thames River. The Channel Four piece was slotted for three months, but it was extended for another year or so, as it became a leading tourist attraction in London, admired by several traveling Florentines, as well.


She was the youngest artist in the show “Homeland [In]Security: Vanishing Dreams” at Dorsky Gallery, Long Island City, New York, in November 2014. She has exhibited in Germany, France, England, Greece and various locations in the United States, including Michigan and New York, and has been featured in print in the United Kingdom, United States and Korea. In the summer of 2016, she brought her umbrellas to Florence at the Francis Marion University Fine Arts Center and to Lqke City, along with companion lectures.


In 2017 Stephanie worked on a major project to grace Baltimore’s harbor with an umbrella display across several large sail boats as part of the Baltimore Light City Festival. The festival opened March 31. Later she exhibited at the Breckenridge International Arts Fetival, Colorado in 2018.


Once again, the Chinese lead the world in umbrellas. They first used them back in about 600 BC for both rain and sun protection. They invented the collapsible umbrella and the more modern pocket umbrella. The first umbrella was used over the Emperor’s chariot.

And now the Chinese make them by the millions, selling more than 33 million umbrellas each year in the United States.


From China, the umbrella spread to Persia and India and Egypt. Europe also used umbrellas from ancient times, going back to about 400 BC in Greece and then to the Roman Empire. But Western Europe really did not adapt the umbrella until the 1600s, and they did not become popular in Western Europe until adapted by the French in the 1700s.


And not until 1788 were they accepted in common use in England. But now our image of London is incomplete without the umbrella, usually black, worn on the arm as a piece of clothing regardless of the weather. And English television star Sir John Steed showed us the umbrella could be a weapon, too, made even more lethal by Russia’s KGB.


Believe it or not: Feb. 10 was International Umbrella Day. The U.S. Patent office employees four people full time to work just on umbrella related patents, and as of 2008, more than 8,000 U.S. patents had been issued for umbrella-related projects.


The Vatican has a graceful umbrella over one of its porticos, and some folks have a significant magnetic force field, resisting light rain. I am one of those, so I never use an umbrella.


Stay dry, my friend.

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