Annual Art in Bloom Festival Celebrates the Return of Spring

To celebrate the long-anticipated return of sunny skies and spring breezes, the Museum of Fine Arts held its 42nd annual Art in Bloom festival this weekend. A longstanding tradition, the festival juxtaposes works of art from the museum’s most beloved collections with floral interpretations, arranged by local garden clubs. This year, 50 New England garden clubs were represented, along with professional florists who made pieces for the museum’s entrances and walkways. The event opened with a special preview for members on Friday night and runs through Monday.

Visitors entered to fresh smells and sensations, and, as they made their way through the galleries, looked at their favorite works with a new perspective. Tour groups circulated through the halls throughout the day, offering insight on both the artwork featured and its floral counterpart. Live flower arranging demonstrations were also held throughout the day.



“Thank you so much for coming out today, we really do have a spectacular show,” said Susan O’Brien, chair of Art in Bloom, as she introduced a panel on the art of Japanese flower arranging.

“Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging,” she said. “While there are thousands of styles, here in Boston, Ikebana international is represented by the three schools here today: Ikenobo, Ohara, and Sogetsu.”

O’Brien went on to introduce the three floral designers, who made arrangements showcasing the design principles of their respective schools. Up first was Tomoko Tonaka, of the Ikenobo school. Ikenobo is the oldest school in Japan, and deeply rooted in tradition and spirituality.

“Beauty in Ikenobo means temperance,” Tonaka said.

Tonaka went on to make two arrangements, showcasing the traditional teachings of the school. Both were made out of the same materials, and were minimalist in design.

Next, Misumi, representing the Sogetsu school, took the stage. Sogetsu is the newest school of Ikebana and the most popular in Japan. Rather than stress adherence to tradition, Sogetsu stresses creativity and individual expression.

“In the past there were too many rules,” Misumi said. “Sogetsu can be arranged anytime, anywhere, by anyone, and with any material.”

Misumi went on to create two highly unique pieces. In one arrangement, she used bendable colored wire to add movement to the piece.

The final designer to take the stage was Russell Bowers, representing the Ohara school.

“In Japanese, Ohara is written using two characters, one meaning ‘small,’ and the other ‘plain,’” Bowers said.

He explained that this is because the school is most known for making arrangements in shallow containers, which, like the Sogetsu school, signifies a break from tradition. For both arrangements, he used shallow glass bowls.



After the lecture dispersed, visitors stopped to grab a snack at the “Art in Bloom Cafe” or browse the “Art in Bloom Market” in the Shapiro Family Courtyard. Many customers were on the hunt for Mother’s Day gifts, and the market featured a unique array of goods from Boston based vendors, who sold items ranging from handmade jewelry, to stationary, to ceramic fish, among others.

But the most popular stand at the pop-up market was the “Garden Cart,” which featured custom arrangements and succulents inside porcelain tea cups and coffee mugs, along with garden supplies and other small gifts. Nearly every visitor left with a flower in hand, making sure to bring “Art in Bloom” back home with them.

Featured Image by Isabel Fenoglio / Heights Editor