When the Rockford Art Museum decided to start “Art in Bloom” a couple of years ago, David Boccignone was excited by the opportunity to serve as its chair. He sees the event as a way to make the community aware of the amazing artworks in the museum’s own collection by highlighting certain pieces from it by recreating them through floral designs.
“Quite frankly,” Boccignone said, “it was a way to find groups who never maybe set foot in the door, and give them a way to look at art differently, so that it’s more accessible.”
This year's event, which runs June 27-29, features interpretations of artworks from the Museum’s collection constructed from flowers and other organic material. A ticketed preview party will be held Monday, June 26.
Boccignone says the three-day event, which includes lectures, workshops and demonstrations, also serves to show off the talents of 14 local designers, which he says are amazing. He remembers looking at a creation by Event Floral owner Erin Stoffregen and her team at last year’s event.
“And I would go up to the painting, and it might have been a painting I would have never looked at on my own,” he said, “but looking through the flowers at how she interpreted the painting, it was great.”
Stoffregen says the event is a real opportunity for designers like her, who mostly do commercial work.
“We, as artists and designers, have always viewed floral as our means of interpretation or our means of creativity,” Stoffregen said, “but, with a retail order or an event order, we are following or in the parameters that a client has put together.”
Stoffregen says by contrast, beyond the specific artwork assigned to them, designers for “Art in Bloom” have the freedom to create whatever they choose.
“What’s so interesting to me is, it’s a layering effect,” she said. “You start with a piece of artwork and now you’re bringing one more interpretive viewpoint -- kind of reiterating certain viewpoints that they’ve already put together through the art and adding your own flair, your own touch to it.”
And, according to Boccignone, there are many viewpoints. The lineup includes floral designers such as Stoffregen, but also designers from partner organizations like Klehm Arboretum, Anderson Japanese Gardens and Nicholas Conservatory, each bringing their own touch to the event. For instance, Boccignone said, in some cases Nicholas Conservatory was actually using materials – flowers and other plant parts -- right from the conservatory to interpret the painting that they were assigned.
And if that’s doesn’t seem so unusual, how about some new participants this year -- three restaurants – that Boccignone says were given special instructions.
“They’ve been asked to interpret using food-based organic materials, he said. “So it might be fruits, vegetables, grains. Using materials that we see every day in our daily life, but to see it used to interpret art is going to be fun to see.”
Boccignone says one of the great things about this year’s “Art in Bloom” is that the collaboration between the museum and other organizations doesn’t end with their floral designs. Anderson, Klehm and Nicholas also are offering complimentary programming.
“We’ve coordinated and tried to give people a chance to design their own day,” he said, "and go from place to place and have a tied-together theme of art and flowers and bloom."
Boccignone thinks it’s a fantastic idea, and one to build on for the future.
Stoffregen said that, besides the chance to show the public what she and her colleagues can do, “Art in Bloom” also can be part of the growing process for the participants. She thinks input from both colleagues and the public can be invaluable.
“They may see something we didn’t in a piece of artwork that we put together," she said, “and that allows us to even think further about what we’ve designed.”
And what might be done the next time, or on a similar project.
While the event is meant to be fun and enjoyable, Boccignone said, it starts from something deeper -- something tied to the museum’s mission to enrich people’s lives. Something he, a financial adviser by trade and self-professed “numbers guy,” feels personally when he comes face-to-face with art.
“That creativity flows through in some way, he said.” “I don’t know how to explain it exactly, but it taps a part of my brain that I think helps me in the rest of my life.”
He says if more people could have that experience, it would make the community stronger. “Art in Bloom,” he says, is a way to do it – with flowers.
- David Boccignone is an underwriter of WNIJ.