Trash cans filled with huge bouquets of flowers have been popping up around the Triangle this week.
That means Art in Bloom is near, the festival of flowers at the North Carolina Museum of Art.
The fifth annual event is March 21-24 and will feature 53 floral designers from across the state. They’ll create floral representations of art in the museum’s collection in the West Building, giving viewers two different pieces of art to look at. They can be interpreted alone or together.
“Each of the artists is randomly assigned a work of art to interpret in flowers,” Laura Finan, director of Art in Bloom, tells The News & Observer. “So the art and the flowers sort of live together in the same space for those four days. It is a nice way for not only the designers to see the art, but for those of use to see something new in the art.”
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Art in Bloom is a ticketed event and serves as a museum fundraiser. There are several presentations and workshops throughout the weekend.
Last year’s event was the most successful, the museum said in a news release, with 18,700 attendees and many sold-out events.
Art in Bloom is a major undertaking, and the process starts weeks before the flowers even bloom.
How it comes together
The floral designers, all volunteers, are connected to the museum by area flower and garden organizations as well as the American Institute of Floral Design.
“There is honestly no criteria,” Finan said. “You don’t have to be a professional or do this as your career, you just have to have a real solid understanding of flowers.”
As for the art, the works are chosen based on their location in the museum. Finan said it’s important that both the art is protected and the floral designs — on platforms or pedestals nearby — can be seen from all angles. So the art pieces have to work with traffic patterns.
“We try our best to have many different pieces, but sometimes, by necessity, we have the same pieces,” Finan said. “We have a couple of repeat pieces this year, but the fun thing about that is that different artists get them so you see different depictions.”
Designers come to the museum six weeks before Art in Bloom and are assigned their art work by a lottery system. They each receive an envelope with the title of the art piece and have an opportunity to swap.
Sometimes, Finan said, they trade because they want a sculpture instead of a painting or just because they have a prior connection to a certain piece of art.
Then the work begins, from sketching the design to choosing the flowers they’ll use. In addition to complying with museum requirements, they need to consider the building’s atmosphere. Air temperature and quality must be kept a certain way for the art, so certain flowers may not thrive in that situation. Designers have to plan for the anticipated dryness when creating their arrangements.
About two-thirds of the designers are returning from previous years, and all have different backgrounds and experiences, coming to floral design in sometimes unexpected ways.
Sherene Tan attended college as a business student and studied Information Technology systems but decided to follow her calling as a floral designer. Now the Maryland designer runs her own floral business, Beyond Imaginations Inc., teaches floral design at Anne Arundel Community College and has multiple certifications for floral design.
She says she is inspired by different materials. When she participated in the festival in 2016, she was assigned a sculpture. Her floral representation was based on a piece of cloth in the sculpture and the marble origins within the sculpture.
Designer Marcela López-Vallejo tells The N&O she is inspired by colors, but that others may be sparked by emotion or materials within the visual arts.
“It can be any form of color,” she said. “Color combinations inspire me a lot.”
Both designers will have demonstrations March 23.
Tan is scheduled to demonstrate a bamboo piece that represents tranquility.
“When I was given this opportunity, the first thing I thought of was bamboo,” she said. “I am more of a naturalistic designer and I am Chinese, so it meant a lot to me.”
López-Vallejo is creating a design based on the intricate elements of oxcart traditions in Costa Rica.
“The paintings and designs are really complex, so I am going to be talking about that and presenting a floral design about them,” she said.
They’re just some of the designers who will have demonstrations during the weekend on a variety of topics.
Holly Heider Chapple of Virginia is known for her floral skills and flower farm, Hope Flower Farm, Finan said. She has been featured in Southern Living and Martha Stewart publications and will be at the museum March 22.
“She’s a mother of seven, she’s innovative and has a bright unique style,” Finan said. “We thought that she would relate to the Southern belle in all of us.”
Ready to bloom
On Wednesday, March 20, the museum will be a flurry of activity as the designers come to the museum to assemble their pieces.
“Wednesday is the installation process, where the designers come and do their designs in the building,” Finan said. “Some just come with them prepared, but most of them start to make them in the building.”
If attendees can only come one day, she recommends attending a presentation, then wandering around the museum to explore the floral arrangements.
“The best thing to do is find the art,” Finan said. “The correlation between the flowers and the art — that is what makes this so special… When you see (the art) through someone else’s eyes, it’s the most fun part.”
What: Art in Bloom
When: March 21 and 24, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; March 22 and 23, 9 a.m.–9 p.m. Last entry is an hour before closing.
Where: North Carolina Museum of Art, 2110 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh
Tickets: $13 for Members, $18 for non-members. Event tickets and tours are sold separately.
Info: ncartmuseum.org/bloom or 919-715-5923