News Column

Natural, man-made objects intersect in 4-day program at Toledo Museum of Art

May 4, 2014

By Mike Pearson, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio



May 04--Everything is coming up roses at the Toledo Museum of Art this week -- and Queen Anne's Lace and Calla Lily and snapdragons and daisies. Come Thursday, the premises will be a literal bloom town.

It's all part of Art in Bloom, a fund-raiser to support the museum's nonprofit art education programs, and timed to coincide with Mother's Day and the final weekend of the museum's The Art of the Louvre's Tuileries Garden show.

The central idea? Enlist professional and amateur flower arrangers to build displays that pay homage to pieces of art at the museum, or design conceptual artwork of their own. The Art in Bloom concept is not new; Boston'sMuseum of Fine Arts has been doing it for three decades, and galleries from Monterey to Milwaukee (not to mention Columbus and Cincinnati) have followed suit. But it's a first for Toledo, and the museum's Ambassadors volunteer group has packaged a number of events around the program's four-day run Thursday-May 11.

There's an opening night gala in the museum's Glass Pavilion; two Friday demonstrations by James Farmer, editor at large at Southern Living Magazine, and a Mother's Day brunch on Sunday.

And, of course, there's the museum proper, where two dozen amateur homages will be on display and free to view during museum hours. More arrangements will reside across the street at the Glass Pavilion, and here is where Toledo diverges from its national brethren.

The museum invited 12 professional flower arrangers from the metro area to "conceptualize" vases, and then had its glass studio make the one-of-a-kind vessels in which the designers will work their floriferous magic.

All 12 vases will be auctioned off during the black tie event Thursday, yet will remain on display through May 11.

Who says it doesn't help to have your own kilns and studio glass artisans?

"Glass is an essential part of our legacy, and it's a medium we continue to explore in new ways," says museum director Brian Kennedy. "Introducing the vessel as an equal part of the floral arrangement will be a unique visual opportunity."

Among the designers asked to conceptualize a vase was Mary Beth Lorenzen of Schramm'sFlowers in Toledo, who has been a professional flower arranger for 40 years. She says it was a rare chance to flex her creative muscles without input from customers, whose whims she normally attends to.

"After working so long in this business, I don't think anything could top this," she says. "A lot of times [customers] come in with a photo and they want an exact copy of the picture. I don't like to copy pictures out of a book."

For Art in Bloom, Lorenzen conceived a vase shaped not like a tulip, but a large turqoise fish -- a fish arranged with orange pincushion protea, tropical greenery, and orange roses.

"Anybody can put a dozen roses in a vase," she says. "You have to make it original. They're flowers, so there is no right or wrong."

When it comes to actually creating vases, there are technical rights and wrongs, says Jeff Mack, glass studio manager at the museum. The studio began working with the arrangers six months ago and actually firing the glass in February. Many of the florists came in with concrete ideas while other visions were more abstract.

The biggest difference he saw between the flower arrangers and someone who works with glass for a living?

"A lot of times for an artist a vessel or vase must [first and foremost] be visual," he says. "The florists are very customer-oriented; functionality is what they're after."

Five museum glass blowers teamed with the florists, and the actual firing of the pieces took a half day each. The colorful vases are made of the same material you find in a window pane at home: sand silica, soda ash, and limestone fired at 2,000 to 2,100 degrees.

"It's been a lot of fun," says Mack, himself a renowned glass artist. "It's been a rapid fire process (with us creating a work) for one florist a week. The problem-solving created some interesting, positive challenges."

As for the existing museum artwork getting a floral tribute, "It's going to be wonderful," says Cindy Rimmelin, who co-chairs the Museum Ambassadors with Elizabeth Emmert. "We've got 23 amateurs doing arrangements to [be exhibited next to] works that range from Frank Stella and Matisse to Persian tiles. We've reached out to a lot of local garden clubs to make this happen."

Contact Mike Pearson at: mpearson@theblade.com or 419-724-6159.

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(c)2014 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)

Visit The Blade (Toledo, Ohio) at www.toledoblade.com

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Source: Blade (Toledo, OH)


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