‘Art in Bloom’ kicks off in Columbia for ninth year

The festival averages about 1,500 attendees annually.
Columbia residents wander the halls and observe the ninth annual Art in Bloom exhibit on Sunday at the Museum of Art and Archaeology. Floral designers from around the city contribute designs based off paintings and artifacts on display.

The Museum of Art and Archaeology hosted its ninth annual Art in Bloom festival last weekend, showcasing the designs of many florists and gardeners around Columbia.

The event, sponsored by Museum Associates, allowed attendees to view floral arrangements inspired by artworks in the museum. When finished, the floral arrangements are set up adjacent to the artworks they were inspired by.

“Art in Bloom is an opportunity for us to open up the galleries and have local florists come in and do arrangements inspired by the works in our collection,” Director of Museum Operations Alex Barker said. “We have floral artists being inspired by visual artists.”

Florists and gardeners are invited to a reception before the festival that allows them to get a good look at all the pieces the museum has to offer.

“The florists are usually major retailers in town, as well as garden clubs,” said Bruce Cox, the assistant director of museum operations.

The concept is that local floral designers will come to the museum and be able to choose a piece with which they feel a connection. Designers then craft their arrangements based on the visual and emotional activity in the artwork using various flowers and colors.

Ruth LaHue, owner of My Secret Garden, used the piece “An Italiante Landscape” to create her design.

“We enjoy supporting the museum, but we also enjoy the creative outlet that we don’t get to explore any other time of the year,” LaHue said. “Coming to the museum and choosing a piece that inspires you is nice, because not all Art in Bloom festivals across the country let the florists choose their own piece. It’s nice to think about something that you want to be inspired by.”

For many designers, the creative challenge is the most rewarding part.

Lora Schnurbusch of Kent’s on Broadway chose “Aegean V” as her piece, using the “depth created through the collage, circular shapes and hazy horizontal outlines” as inspiration, according to Schnurbusch’s designer description.

“It’s a creative challenge, and very seldom do you get the budget and the freedom to go all out and design with complete creativity,” Schnurbusch said. “My piece didn’t have a lot of details, but I wanted to draw out the minute details. It’s almost monochromatic, so I was trying to recreate all the little nuances of the piece.”

The festival combines the sophisticated vibe of art with the fun of springtime, even offering an Art in Bloom for kids component, in which kids are able to create and take home their own designs.

“In one form or another we’ve always had children’s programs associated with Art in Bloom, but it’s really evolved over the years,” Barker said. “One of the challenges we’ve had in past years was just making sure we’ve had enough flowers for all the kids and their parents.”

The number of attendees accounts for the popularity of the festival, with an average of about 1,500 people coming through the doors each year, Cox said. Due to the popularity, what began as an experiment for the museum has become somewhat of a signature.

“Art in Bloom is just really unique,” Cox said. “This time of year everybody’s ready for spring, and I think for a lot of folks it’s just a chance to get to see the flowers and everything in bloom.”

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