Feast for the eyes, plenty of dressing Mall's window wonderland.

Posted: December 09, 2007

A window-design contest for art students will help give the Gallery at Market East its seasonal look this month.

The contest, known as "Windows to a Winter Wonderland," features four seasonally themed window designs produced by students at the Art Institute of Philadelphia.

Shoppers can vote on which design they think is best at the Gallery's visitor center or its Web site, www.galleryatmarketeast.com. A winner will be announced in late January.

"We wanted to do something that would tie into the city's desire to make Center City a festive environment," Maureen Brady, marketing director for the Gallery, said yesterday. "Pedestrians can pass by, see this, and vote for their favorites."

The four designs, which feature plenty of tinsel, mannequins and holiday ornaments, hang in the storefront windows of the former Strawbridge's on Market Street between Eighth and Ninth Streets.

Brady said the students should be done putting the finishing touches to their designs by Tuesday. The winning designer will receive a $1,000 gift card to the mall, and all contestants will receive $300 gift cards.

The contest, which is in its inaugural year, was organized jointly by the Gallery and Club Fashion Foundations, a local organization that promotes fund-raising and charity work among art students.

Ilene Fink, chairperson of Club Fashion Foundations, said that "Windows to a Winter Wonderland" provides the students with the real-world experience of having to tailor their artistic visions to their patron's requirements.

"This is a real hands-on, real-life industry experience," she said. "It's a good opportunity for the students and great for the retailers and the community as well."

The students were required to submit detailed proposals for their designs, including an outlined budget of no more than $1,000.

The four winning proposals were selected by Brady, and the Gallery paid for all the students' supplies.

Fashion marketing major Matt Muehlheausler, 20, based his design on a theme of winter elegance. "It was something different," he said. "Not a lot of stores do an elegant theme. It's contemporary."

Muehlheausler's design features a chandelier and pieces of wallpaper hung inside frames on the wall. It's an approach he hopes will garner him some extra votes. "This is more sophisticated," he said. "Hopefully, people who walk by will see that."

Nora Stinnett, 23, also a fashion marketing major, said her design is "supposed to make you feel like you're walking through a winter park at night." It is based around a theme of silver and red and features tree ornaments and a mannequin in silver and red clothing.

The $1,000 gift card would be nice, but Stinnett said it was a victory just to be selected for the contest. "I feel like I've already won," she said.

Contact staff writer Ashwin Verghese at 215-854-2601 or averghese@phillynews.com.

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