Just when spring looked like it had finally arrived, it snowed. And not just a light dusting of snow but oatmeal size flakes that thought about sticking. That’s why it’s a very good day to visit the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG) to remember what spring (usually) feels like as Art In Bloom is included in the regular admission price.
It’s a festival of fine art and flowers that celebrates spring and is modeled on the annual Art In Bloom events that have been held at the Museum of Fine Art in Boston and the Minneapolis Institute of Art for many years. It was last held at the WAG in 1996 but is set to become a bi-annual event at the Gallery. It may be snowing outside but inside the WAG spring flowers are being celebrated and are blooming.
Event co-chairs Hazel Borys and Hennie Corrin strongly believe in the power of flowers and nature to brighten peoples mood. Overwhelming research has proven that spending time in nature lowers blood pressure and reduces stress.
Borys, whose husband Stephen is the CEO of the WAG, is a city planner with urban design firm “Placemakers” and tries to include playgrounds, plazas and other ways to experience the outdoors in all her designs.
Corrin founded and volunteers with Floral Philanthropy a non-profit that re-purposes flowers used at weddings, conventions and other events. It’s the first organization of its kind in Canada. For a $100 donation to Winnipeg Harvest volunteers pick up the left over flowers, dismantle them, re-purpose them into fresh arrangements and deliver them to hospital wards, personal care homes and other places that will treasure them.
They both created beautiful flower arrangements in celebrated floral designer Holly Heider Chapple’s workshop yesterday morning at the WAG. Chapple is a world famous designer based in Virginia, USA, whose flower arrangements have been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, Town and Country and Style Me Pretty amongst other publications. She has taught in China, Russia, Australia, London, UK and now Winnipeg.
Sixteen attendees of all levels of ability from professional florists to amateurs took her class on Friday morning as part of Art In Bloom. Sherri Dlouhy-Stevenson is an event florist who came in from Regina to take the workshop. “I’m a Holly Chapple fan, she’s an incredibly gifted florist,” she said.
One of the key tenets of Art In Bloom are the pairings of paintings with floral interpretations of them. Sixty-one paintings from the WAG’s collections have been paired with magnificent floral interpretations of the pieces created by volunteers.
The interpreters ranged from the kids at Art City in tribute to their founder Wanda Koop, to Ace Burpee, to local architects and floral designers. Because much of the art is copyrighted, I wasn’t able to publish pictures containing both the painting and the floral interpretation of the painting, so you’ll have to go to the WAG yourself to enjoy the pairings and muse over how well you think the designer represented the painting.
All the galleries are open during the event which is on through Sunday and the interpretations are scattered throughout the galleries.
One of my favourites was Sharlene Nielsen of Front Door Stories interpretation of Frederick Horsman Varley’s “View From The Artist’s Bedroom Window, Jericho Beach”.
I also loved the interpretation by Heather Page of Academy Florist of “Portrait of a Lady” by Sir Henry Raeburn. Sir Henry Raeburn was the portrait painter to King George VI in Scotland. He was known for his skill and over a span of 50 years he completed more than 1000 portraits while working from life with no preliminary sketches.
Heather said she took her inspiration from the feeling and mood of the painting as well as the colours of the woman sitting.”It was the blush in her cheeks, the deep colour of her cloak. I really do like portraits from that era, they’re in a more traditional style.” She used ranunculius, tulips, peonies, garden roses and camelia greenery in the arrangement.
The real masterpiece is found in the Eckhardt Hall on the main floor where Wanda Koop’s new show was previously hanging. If you look toward the back wall you’ll forget you’re at the WAG.
A three dimensional floral installation named “Spring Tide” that portrays an idyllic Canadian country landscape in springtime takes up the whole back wall. It is five metres tall by 13 metres wide and contains 20,000 stems. Chapple designed it and it was then brought to life by 30 local florists working together in her eight hour master class on Thursday.
Before they could even start to add the flowers it took a crew eleven hours to build the supporting structure and then the whole thing had to be prepped with moss.
Gloria Sawatsky of Beyond Flowers was one of the florists who worked on it. “It was an amazing experience. It was so nice to work together as a group.”
She added, “We don’t have enough events that bring florists together and we need more.” She described the flowers and shrubs that compose the installation. “The mountains are made of curly willow, pussy willow and Spanish moss and the snow covering them is white carnations.” She added, “Blue delphiniums make up the river.”
I asked her about the spectacular blooming cherry tree to the side of the installation. “That looks so full because it’s had curly willow, birch and pink hyacinths attached to it.” Any other flowers? “We also used crocuses, more pink hyacinths and daffodils.”
It’s stunning and the WAG has put tables up in the foyer if you want to sit and look at it for a while and imagine it’s spring and you’re in the countryside. You may even want to get a cup of coffee at the pop-up café on the main floor and drink it there.
There’s also a large pop-up fresh flower shop in Eckhardt Hall selling all things floral. They have flower arrangements as well as single stems and local artisans have made pretty pottery vases that are for sale. There’s pottery, floral glass art and books on floral arranging – even a stall selling chocolate. Visit Art In Bloom on at the WAG all weekend and pick up some beautiful blooms to take home.
None of the flowers and greenery used in this event will be thrown away as Floral Philanthropy will pickup and re-purpose any flowers and shrubs that are still usable from the installation after the event and the floral interpreters can also choose to donate their flower arrangements to the organization.