Once a year, San Francisco’s famed De Young Museum is host to a popular and highly unique event. For one glorious, colorful, and aromatic week, the revered museum’s world-class paintings, sculptures, quilts and artifacts are paired with specially made floral arrangements inspired by those very same artworks. Called Bouquets to Art, the 34-year-old event is a showcase for some of the best floral designers in the Bay Area and beyond, whose elaborate, inventive, and often outrageous flower-designs represent a chance to play, show off, and take risks on a truly grand scale.
This year’s show, running from March 13-18, features three different floral designers who all happen to live and work in Petaluma.
They are Tamara Apple at Bluebird Studio (TamaraApple.com), Andrea Paul of Lily and Mint (Lilyandmint.com), and Susan Kelly of Marion Moss Floral Design (MarionMoss.com).
Now in her third consecutive year of doing Bouquets to Art, Kelly still considers herself a relative newcomer to the show, a designation that better describes Paul, participating for her second time this year. The veteran, relatively speaking, is Apple, who will be designing a piece for her fourth consecutive year.
“In my case, what draws me to Bouquets to Art is the artistic challenge,” says Kelly, who lives on a 1-acre property near the Washoe House, and who works — as many of her fellow participants do — as a creator of arrangements for weddings and other special events. According to Kelly, originally from Chicago, all participants in Bouquets to Art must pass a demanding initial screening, in which they submit photos of past designs, along with references from floral designers who’ve participated in in the show in the past.
“What happens is, all the designers go to the museum in January, where certain works of art are labeled as being available for our interpretation,” she explains. “We all select five we are interested in, and a committee lets us know which one we’ve been assigned.”
This year, Kelly got her first choice, a painting titled “Still Life with Fruit” by the 19th century American painter James Peale.
“It’s a kind of dark and moody piece from 1821,” Kelly says. “It’s pretty great — mostly grapes, peaches and pears. I tend to do fairly literal interpretations of the art pieces, so I usually lean toward the more traditional paintings, Dutch masters and the like.”
Her new piece, she allows, is still coming together, but Kelly reveals that she will be interpreting the painting primarily through its colors, rather than building a make-believe bowl of fruit out of flowers.
“I’ll be using flowers and other materials that represent the colors in the painting,” she says. Asked to name the most enjoyable part of the annual event, for her, she says it’s the chance to engage with other members of the Bay Area floral community, and to mingle with them at the pre-show fundraising gala the night before the show opens.
“For me, it’s so much fun to see everyone all dressed up once a year,” Kelly laughs. “We usually just see each other at the Flower Market in San Francisco, all wearing jeans and sweatshirts. And for flower enthusiasts and lovers of art, the whole week-long show is amazing. It’s such a great thing. I can’t encourage people enough to go. Honestly, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before.”
THINKING OF GOING?
What: Bouquets to Art, presented by the San Francisco Auxiliary of the Fine Arts Museums
When: Tuesday, March 13 to Sunday, March 18; 9:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
Where: De Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr., in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.
Admission: $13-$28. Tickets can be purchased in advance at Deyoung.famsf.org
Gala pre-opening fundraiser: Monday, March 12, 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets from $200 to $425. To reserve call (415) 750-3593, or visit Deyoung.famsf.org.