Art in Bloom 2018

The 4-day annual spring Art in Bloom event at Minneapolis Institute of Art just ended. AIB is a festival of fresh-flower arrangements inspired by 165 chosen works of art throughout the galleries of Mia. Last year, over 52,000 visitors came to this free event. Even more were expected this year because we had such a late spring in Minnesota and we were all so hungry for colorful blooms.

I have participated in AIB as a pedestal floral artist for the last 6 of its 35 years and, each of those years, I have been a member of a team that collaborated on the floral design. One year the team was as many as 8 and another as few as 3. The teams have been comprised of different combinations of friends and neighbors. Only 2 of us have been a part of every year. I love everything about this event, but I wanted to take this chance to write about just the collaborative aspect of the process, because Larry and I collaborated on creating SeeDouble Press, and continue to do so with each other and with artists, designers and printers.

I have heard a lot of people say that they don’t like to collaborate as artists or anytime really. I also know some people seek it out. The friends who started participating in AIB really didn’t think it through. There was a bunch of us who went to the event for many years and one year decided to participate. It just seemed to follow that anyone in that visiting group who wanted to make the leap to participant should be included. Right from the start, there was consensus without an actual vote.

As novices, company made us braver.

That is one advantage of collaboration: friends who are willing to go down in flames together. Fortunately we have liked our arrangements each year and have enjoyed sharing the well wishes. We have definitely had some near disasters which prompted adventures and morphed into good stories.

Other advantages include practicing listening skills and humility when embracing a partner’s idea that takes the project in a totally different direction but is actually better than yours or as good but it is their turn. Acknowledging turns is a good skill to keep current. You have someone looking out for your turn too. Someone who is encouraging and maybe holding you back from making that insane leap with too many anthuriums.

Collaboration means a shared history and built-in empathy. Forever.

Of course, the hard part is having to compromise your personal artistic vision. It can rankle, but for me the positives out-weighed the momentary loss. What I really discovered was that it is the best of both worlds. Before the meeting, when our team vision gets hashed out and is the better for it, I never have to compromise my individual flights of imagination. I can spend all of February and March flying as high and wide as I wish. No one inhibits or censors my wildest dreams. Having this balance between individuality and cooperation is really a treat and what I strive for in all parts of my life.

I have included a photo of this year’s team creating in the workshop.  The final result is next to the painting which inspired us: “Italian Town by the Sea” by Alexandra Exter. The thumbnail and title photo is of a tiny sculpey clay house that I modeled in the image of the building at the center of the painting. As I often, during the gray winter, daydreamed about our arrangement, I would imagine that this was our B and B to which we returned every night after walking the narrow cobblestone streets of the Italian town.  Those streets were lined with flower boxes filled with happy explosions of color.   Friendly people went about their errands in bright shops along the sea. The sculpey house peeked out from the flowers in arrangement like a fairy house.

Mab Nulty