Last year, flowers played a major role in the merriment as the Pensacola rang in the arrival of spring with Art in Bloom, a fundraiser for the Pensacola Museum of Art (PMA)
The people of Pensacola are always finding ways to celebrate life and events on the picturesque Gulf Coast of Florida. Be it the annual seafood or arts festivals or the weeklong extravaganza commemorating the city’s history through the Fiesta of Five Flags, Pensacola is all about the joie de vivre.
Last year, for the second time, flowers played a major role in the merriment. The city proudly rang in the arrival of spring with Art in Bloom, a fundraiser for the Pensacola Museum of Art (PMA), modeled after similar events held at museums from Boston to San Francisco.
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While living in Southern California, Pensacola resident Shannon Pallin had worked a similar function herself. After moving to northwest Florida and establishing her floral design business, FIORE of Pensacola, Shannon was ready to bring the excitement to the Gulf Coast when approached by a couple of the museum’s board members.
Co-chairs David Bear and Vicky Wonders catalyzed Shannon’s experience to transform downtown between the PMA and the Cultural Center into a European open-air flower market. A team of committed volunteers and civic-minded businesses banded together to bring Art in Bloom to life. With stage set, the performance opened with a preview cocktail reception and gala featuring sumptuous food artistically displayed by several premier local caterers.
Of particular appeal to attendees were floral interpretations of the current art exhibits Janet Fish: Light and Transparent Space and Tradition/Innovation: American masterpieces of the Southern Craft and Traditional Art. Pulling out the stops, floral designers recreated scenes represented in the exhibited art, using various props such as goldfish in bowls and engineering elaborate tablescapes. Even the rural scene of the “Lawn Sale” painting was captured with a flower-laden mailbox and an antique tennis racket.
Outside, the open-air flower market offered a kaleidoscope of color for sale. A sea of hues ranging from flaming orange to cotton white washed over the street. Like Shakespeare’s play within a play, smaller fundraisers, such as the booth selling century-old crinum lilies benefiting the preservation of the historic St. Michael’s Cemetery, lay within the overall philanthropic enterprise.
Thanks to Shannon’s efforts and dedication, the highlight of the three-day event was keynote guest lecturer, René van Rems. Having worked for René years before in San Diego, Shannon “knew what he could bring to the table” with his extensive floral expertise. His ability to educate the mind and elevate the heart with the joy of floral design kept his audience riveted.
A native Dutchman, René is a frequent speaker at museums, often featured in numerous national publications, and a former president of the Cut Flower Commission of California. For his Art in Bloom lecture and workshop theme, he chose European Floral Interiors, a timely subject, as Pensacola celebrated its 450th year of Spanish heritage in 2009.
Floral students from the community were abuzz with excitement as they flitted from lectures to workshops within the Cultural Center. A spectacular array of containers spilling with luscious blooms surrounded René as he held court at the front of the room. Lapis blue delphiniums, regal purple hydrangeas and ranunculus, pale pink cabbage roses, golden sunflowers and anemones, and various chartreuse botanicals adorned the stage. Using European furnishings from Pensacola’s upscale shop, Duh Home and Garden, René worked his uniquely international imagination into each interior scene with his creations. With ease, wit, and charm, René demonstrated how to incorporate floral designs into the furniture style and interior setting.
Then, the moment the floral enthusiasts had anticipated arrived: the master became the mentor as René instructed his students to craft their own arrangements under his guidance. Here, his rapt pupils pushed through their intimidation to enjoy the creative journey and the process of “doing for self.” Not surprisingly, it is the workshops of these Art in Bloom events that keep René traveling the national circuit.
Just before boarding the plane to return home, René enthusiastically shared his thoughts on the event. “I just love it when people leave with a greater awareness for aesthetics. After my presentation they were elevated, they loved what they did, and they were excited! This one lady came up to me and said, ‘You know, I’ve never done this before, and I didn’t know I could do this; I don’t have a creative bone in me.’ And I said, ‘Well, you obviously do!’ Now, that’s fun,” he exclaims.
Buoyed by Shannon and René’s enthusiasm, the Pensacola Art in Bloom proved an enjoyable weekend for all involved. People came together to surround themselves with art and beauty and support the only AAM-accredited museum of art from Mobile to Tallahassee, and return home with renewed confidence in their own creative abilities. Plant your own Art in Bloom in your community, and see for yourself!