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The Garden Club’s Bloom ’N Art show must go on

You won’t be able to smell the roses this year, but other things will be the same in the Garden Club of Harvard’s fifth annual Bloom ’N Art show.

The best part of this year’s event is that even if you miss the virtual opening on Sunday, April 18, you will be able to visit online whenever and as often as you like. Co-chairs Marijke Vallaeys and AnaMaria Nanra are making everything run smoothly, and Marijke’s husband Patrick is working magic, producing the show and making it available to the public at a link found on the Garden Club website.

Carol Hartman shows her practice arrangement that complements a student painting. (Courtesy photo)

The preparation for the exhibit, which features floral arrangements complementing student artwork, was the same as it has been since the first show, inspired by then-president of the club Shirley Boudreau. Bromfield School art teachers, Elizabeth Hoorneman, Cynthia Fontaine, and Cindy Harris chose selections in a variety of media from among their students, grades 6 to 12, photographed each, and sent the pictures to the Garden Club. Meanwhile, the chairs of Bloom ’N Art were receiving names of Garden Club members who wanted to do an arrangement for the exhibit. Member Deborah Dowson, the matchmaker, sent members pictures of the artwork and tried to give all arrangers one of their top choices.

Arrangers had an opportunity to view their chosen art pieces outside in late March. Like meeting an online date in person, some found the reality surprising—much taller, or smaller than they thought, the green feature not the shade it seemed in the photo, the mood whimsical whereas they had been thinking it serious. A lot of the art this year, not surprisingly, has images from the pandemic. Vallaeys said of the student work, “It was so beautiful. Teachers and students were limited by COVID, and yet they produced such a variety of great art work.”

Traditionally, member Margaret Murphy runs a workshop in preparation for the exhibit in which she reviews principles of arranging and shows slides of museum exhibits where flowers complement a piece of art. This year in the workshop on Zoom, participants talked less about choices of flowers and containers and more about the technology and logistics of how they would get their arrangement from their house to the website. The plan is that each exhibitor will be scheduled in a time slot, the arrangement and accompanying artwork will be photographed, and the photos will make up the web presentation.

Also traditionally, arrangers who want help get together with their practice arrangements to give each other feedback. That was done this year on the patio at the General Store. March was busy going out like a lion, but eight or so club members were undaunted by the chilly wind and met up to share images of their artwork on their phones and exchange suggestions on one another’s mock-up arrangements.

The dominant feature in Carol Hartman’s chosen painting, by Alex Castro, grade 11, is a white stick figure, arms akimbo. Hartman’s son told her he thinks the figure is moving as described in the song “Walk Like an Egyptian.” Hartman has used white twigs for the figure and captured colors through red and yellow flowers; she still needs blue—the hardest to come by. Hartman says she is hoping to find more exotic flowers to go with the Egyptian theme she’s got going. She holds up a peacock feather—it’s exotic, but she decides the colors don’t work at all with the ones she already has.

Murphy chose a joyful painting (Allison Redinger, grade 10) called “It’s a Wonderful World,” which even has “Louis Armstrong” written on a sunflower. In her arrangement she has arched red and yellow flowers as they appear in the painting. The challenge has been how to represent the hands reaching out to one another at the bottom of the painting, one light and one dark. At someone’s suggestion, she has whittled a piece of bark for one of the hands and is on the hunt for birch to shape the other.

While Murphy and Hartman are old pros, this will be the first Bloom ’N Art arrangement for three women at the practice session. Meg Bagdonas is working from a linoleum block print—a mirror image in shades of green, soft red, and yellow—by Eleanor Maglothin, grade 9. Bagdonas has a beautiful variety of greens clumped together, one an unusual, fairly large, deep green leaf with a white pattern, which she identified as angel wing begonia. She thinks the art has an Asian feel to it, and she has captured that with a low container and spikes of red and yellow. Strands of thin white packing material are drizzled through the foliage. “I thought this would be fun,” she says, “but then I got nervous. Now that I’ve got my hands in it, it’s exciting.”

Judy Warner confesses she had no idea just how “serious this is, with conventions to follow and all. I thought I would just buy some flowers and put them in a vase,” she laughs. Her painting is “The Color Wheel,” by sixth-grader Ben McWaters, and she has circled flowers in bright colors around the base of a cake pan, behind which she will set a small, metal, spoked wheel. In the center she has placed a holder and filled it with multicolored markers to represent the art element.

New member, but not new to flower arranging, is Nancy Webber, who is still mulling over her concept. Her artwork is a small ceramic dish, with green and blue swaths, a small house, and a mushroom. She says she feels the artist, Elli Pulido, grade 7, is a minimalist, with a strong connection to nature, and she’s trying to capture this feeling rather than do a more literal floral interpretation. She has a small vertical container that she thinks will work to capture what she sees as the Japanese-inspired artwork, and she’s giving a lot of thought to how she can express all this in her final arrangement.

Last year the exhibit was cut short by the pandemic; this year the Garden Club was determined to have the show, however altered it might have to be. As publicity chair Theresa Ledoux wrote, “We affirm our commitment to bridge the generations and celebrate the common bond among all artists in the Harvard community.”

For more information and a preview of the student art chosen for this year’s show, go to the Garden Club of Harvard website (www.harvardgardenclub.org) and click on the brown Bloom ’N Art button at the top of the page (https://bloomnart.online).

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