Short of a tropical vacation in the dead of winter, what could be more uplifting than art and flowers? This no-cost winter tonic will be at the Garden Club of Harvard’s Bloom N Art opening reception Saturday, March 4, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Volunteers Hall. The gallery show, a collaboration among the Garden Club of Harvard, the Bromfield School art department, and the Harvard Public Library, and funded by a grant from the Harvard Cultural Council, will feature 25 pieces of student art, each interpreted in a floral arrangement created by one of 21 volunteers from the club. Following the initial showing of all the works in Volunteers Hall, the art and arrangements will be spread throughout the library for the following few days. The artwork may be immortal, but, sadly, the flowers are not.
The event’s initiator is former Garden Club president Shirley Boudreau, who first posed the idea to board members three years ago. She said she had been inspired by a visit to Needham’s Art in Bloom show, a collaboration between the Beth Shalom Garden Club and the Needham High School art department. Needham’s art department is huge, she said, and there were about 60 arrangements. “It’s a big family event, and the only judge is the viewer,” Boudreau added. The next year she took a few other club members with her to the event. They all agreed it would be fun to try a similar show in Harvard and that it would be a nice opportunity for the club to collaborate with the high school. The rest of the Garden Club supported the idea, and last fall a committee began planning the event. A bonus is that the show will be a special way to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the Garden Club of Harvard.
Boudreau said the Bromfield art teachers have been enthusiastic about the exhibit. High school teacher Elizabeth Hoorneman’s initial response was, “This will be an exciting experience for students and for the community as a whole.” Graphics art teacher Cynthia Fontaine, who is familiar with such an event from having taught in Needham, described it as “an awesome collaboration.” In a recent email, middle school art teacher Cindy Harris said she has four students participating, all of whom are extremely excited about having their art on exhibit. She added, “When I explained to them that someone from the Harvard Garden Club will be taking their artwork and creating a three-dimensional floral interpretation of it, they were impressed. We are all curious and excited to see the final pieces that these talented individuals will create!”
Library Director Mary Wilson has been equally enthusiastic, helping to plan the opening reception and the later placement of works throughout the library. Wilson wrote in an email, “Harvard Public Library is thrilled to host this creative and collaborative event showcasing some of Harvard’s talented student artists and the very creative floral designers of the Harvard Garden Club. As the community’s gathering place, Volunteers Hall is the perfect venue for Bloom N Art!”
On the Garden Club side, one of the first decisions was choosing a name for the gallery show. After discussing numerous suggestions, the committee settled on Bloom N Art, the club’s own take on “Art in Bloom,” the more common title for such collaborations.
Next came the matching of student art pieces to floral arrangers. Member and experienced arranger Deb Dowson, who, along with member Lois Frampton, has participated in Worcester Art Museum’s shows, described the process. Toward the end of January, Dowson emailed pictures the Bromfield teachers had sent her of the 25 pieces of art they had chosen for the show to all of the volunteer arrangers. While the majority are paintings, there are also photographs, pottery, and graphic arts. She asked the 21 arrangers to look over the photos and send her their top five choices of pieces to interpret; she then proceeded to match up art and arranger, giving almost everyone one of her top choices. Sometime in February the arrangers will have the opportunity to visit Bromfield and see their actual student art piece.
Frampton, who shares her vast knowledge and experience at arranging workshops throughout the year, held a special workshop at the end of January, along with Dowson, to give the Bloom N Art arrangers a demonstration of how to use flowers to interpret a work of art. Of the process, Dowson said, “Flower arrangers employ the same elements of design that artists use, such as color, shape, line, and balance. The arranger will draw inspiration from the art, and that will guide the creation of the flower design.” Frampton had prepared a handout of tips for the arrangers. She, along with longtime member Barbara Heim, will hold another arranging session on Feb. 16, where Bloom N Art participants may choose to do a mock-up of their exhibit arrangement.
In all, the arrangers have about a month to find inspiration and then to choose a container and decide on floral materials that will carry out that inspiration. Most will purchase flowers locally; late in the week of the event, some will go to the flower market in Boston to pick up flowers for themselves and special requests from other arrangers. Margaret Murphy, vice president of the Garden Club, wrote a grant application to the Harvard Cultural Council that resulted in a generous allotment of $350, which will help the club cover costs of flowers and publicity.
Participants may either complete their arrangements at home and bring them in the morning of Saturday, March 4, or they can gather at Volunteers Hall the afternoon before, where they can share advice and perhaps even some flowers as they create their arrangements.
The public will enjoy the whole collection on Saturday, when light refreshments will be served. Boudreau’s caveat that “the only judge is the viewer” will be honored, and what viewer will not enjoy being art critic and flower show judge—both at the same time.