By Rebecca Massie Lane
Special to The Herald-Mail
We are now in the month of March madness, weather like lions and lambs, and when the March hare reappears in our lawns after a winter of hibernation. But we can be sure that another sign of spring is also soon to come — Art in Bloom.
A sign of success in the museum world is when a traditional activity becomes the subject of research and formalized discovery, as was recently the case with the November 2012 thesis of Marilyn Schachter on the subject of museum “Art in Bloom” events.
Her thesis, which was titled, “Hosting a Successful Museum In-Bloom-Event Mitigating Risks, Offsetting Costs, and Realizing Benefits,” was completed in the field of museum studies for the degree of Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies at Harvard University’s Extension School.
Schachter’s research was conducted through personal contacts, surveys and email questionnaires. Forty-eight museums throughout the United States participated in the survey, including the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts.
Art in Bloom events combine works of art in art museums with original floral designs created in response to these works of art. The floral arrangements interpreting a museum’s collection are displayed in the galleries alongside the objects that inspired them. Of the museums surveyed, the longest-running Art in Bloom event had been presented for 35 years. The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts will host Art in Bloom Friday, March 22, and Saturday, March 23, for its 11th annual year. Reservations for the ticketed Friday event have passed.
Schachter looked to the origin of the Art in Bloom concept and found that “the idea to include floral displays in museums is not new. Isabella Stewart Gardner’s art museum (in Boston) opened in 1903, including a beautiful flower-filled courtyard that remains a popular attraction in the museum today. (“The Museum: Museum Overview”).
Closer in spirit to an in-bloom-event, at a 1938 dinner for the Garden Club of America, hosted by the Philadelphia Museum of Art more than 20 galleries were decorated with floral arrangements designed to complement the specific age and origin of the objects exhibited therein.” Schachter traces the earliest Art in Bloom event to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts in 1976.
Schacter’s research revealed that Art in Bloom events are complex and time-consuming events to put on, but their originality and benefits outweigh the challenges.
For floral designers, the events offer a chance to express their talents in floral design without the strictures of a formal floral judging competition, and the opportunity to interpret important works of art in museums is especially rewarding.
In addition, through their exposure to a broad museum audience, the designers have an opportunity for much wider recognition of their abilities, and their opportunity for learning and artistic development is greatly increased.
For museums, the Art in Bloom events are often important fundraising events that support annual operations, art exhibitions and programs, and facility maintenance needs; in fact, Schachter found that the first Art in Bloom in Boston began as a fundraiser. At the Dallas Museum of Art, last year’s Art in Bloom raised $160,000. Museums also indicated that the opportunity to reach and engage new and diverse audiences is a major benefit.
For the public, the Art in Bloom events provide opportunities to experience a unique, one-of-a-kind event.
As Schachter explains, “The festive atmosphere produced by the creative, often breathtaking floral displays, coupled with a wealth of educational and entertaining offerings, draws crowds of visitors to the museum.”
Everyone is invited to the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts’ annual Art in Bloom event, organized in conjunction with the Hagerstown Garden Club. Twenty-four arrangements from regional Garden Clubs will grace the museum’s galleries at the preview party on Friday, March 22 (a ticketed event; reservations are past) and all-day 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 23. Enjoy the beauty of flowers with art while March madness swirls around us.
Rebecca Massie Lane is director of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts. To find out more about the museum, visit www.wcmfa.org.
If you go ...
What: Art in Bloom
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 23
Where: Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
More: Go to www.wcmfa.org