Art in Bloom accents masterpieces with floral arrangements

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Thursday, April 4, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

The complementary combination of paintings and petals in the fifth annual Art in Bloom allows spring to blossom with this four-day display and celebration.

Regional garden clubs and florists created stunning floral displays to fill the Carnegie Museum of Art's galleries with the season's most vibrant colors and loveliest fragrances.

Art in Bloom, presented by the Women's Committee, features 39 arrangements paired with pieces of art.

“The work of everyone involved makes this such an incredible event,” says Sandy Roberts, a member of the Women's Committee and co-chairwoman with Laurie Bly. “There are such wonderful visual arrangements. It's a perfect way to think spring, which we all desperately need.”

Opening night on April 4 began with the “Skyline After Dark Preview Gala,” set in the Hall of Sculpture, re-imagined as a stylish urban parkscape.

Bill Chisnell, owner of Bill Chisnell Productions in the Strip District, helped design the entryway based around the New York High Line, a public park built on an elevated rail line above the streets on Manhattan's West Side.

“It is a cool urban landscape,” Chisnell says. “I want to show that you can create your own urban skyline anywhere you want.”

As keynote speaker, Danielle Rollins from Atlanta — author of “Soiree: Entertaining with Style,” contributing editor at Veranda, frequent contributor to Southern Living and Lifestyle, and editor for — will conduct floral-arranging demonstrations and talk about outdoor entertaining on April 5.

Organizers expect more than 400 people to attend.

“I love being able to educate and inspire people through showing them ways to entertain and to help them find a way to make life better and more enjoyable with flowers,” Rollins says. “It's my passion. We all definitely need some bright colors after this winter.

“I love having a pop of color in a room,” she says. “I have daffodils on my desk. They are literally a dose of sunshine. I am passionate about living with flowers and plants in my everyday life.”

Having Rollins in Pittsburgh is wonderful, Roberts says.

“Danielle is charming and delightful,” she says. “We wanted to try something different this year in terms of the traditional flower arranging. She is more of a lifestyle speaker. I was looking through her book. The photographs are amazing, with such bright colors and numerous recipes and tips for party planning.”

Christine Cohen of the Trowel & Error Garden Club in Sewickley, and a member of the Women's Committee, says she told designers to consider the container, research the artist, and find a color scheme or pattern.

“It is interesting to see what people come up with,” Cohen says. “I hear people who are walking through the galleries say, ‘I never would have thought of that.'”

The arrangement she worked on with Laurie Johnson, Courtney Jones, Lauren McLeod and Judy Sherry is Edvard Munch's “Girl Under Apple Tree” (1904). Cohen says the artist's emotionally charged brush strokes describe his tortured interactions with women.

The arrangement includes white roses, to suggest the innocence of the girl, with magnolia leaves, thistles and heather, to allude to the dim shadow surrounding her, a symbol of her darker side.

On a lighter note, Sally Foster and committee member Alice Snyder of the Garden Club of Allegheny County designed an arrangement for Katsushika Hokusai's “South Wind at Clear Dawn” (c. 1830-1831).

“We loved it, although it was very challenging,” Foster says. “So we went to the library at the garden center and found lots of books on Japanese flower arranging. We found the Japanese revere the pine tree.”

So, they built their arrangement around pine trees, which symbolize long life, courage, endurance, steadfastness and health.

Snyder likes that the arrangement is reflective of Japanese sensibility. “(Art in Bloom) is a perfect opportunity to see the arrangements live and to see the art in a different light,” she says.

Kitty Vagley, director of development for Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, says she and volunteers Martha Swiss and Carole Kamin worked with William C. Wall's “House and Farm on the Allegheny River” (1863). The Allegheny River is the dominant element of the painting; their arrangement uses a custom ceramic container with green glaze and gold overtones, which evoke the river and colors in the painting.

“I have limited artistic ability,” Vagley says. “But Martha and Carole created an outstanding arrangement for our first entry into Art in Bloom. We took a look at the painting and then talked about what we thought were the leading components. We decided on the golden river and the yellow house. The painting very much mimics the historic homestead we are restoring.

“It makes the museum come alive through fresh ideas,” Vagley says.

Founded in 1957, the Women's Committee has enabled the purchase of more than 280 works of art for over $4 million. In addition, it contributed $1 million to the Museum of Art Capital Campaign Fund for the renovation of the Scaife Galleries, as well as $500,000 to the 2009 renovation of the Bruce Galleries. Most recently, the group committed $500,000 to the Richard Armstrong Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art Endowed Chair.

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at or 412-320-7889.

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