After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Art in Bloom is getting ready to burst forth at the Montclair Art Museum again. 

Art in Bloom will take place from May 18 to 22. The exhibit will feature 41 floral artworks by local and regional floral designers, some professional, but many of them enthusiastic amateurs. 

All of the floral displays are modeled after pieces of art in the museum. 

Besides the floral exhibition, there will be three special events: a luncheon on May 19 and two evening events, on May 21 and May 22. 

Art in Bloom has been a regular event at the museum since 2008. Other museums across the country have done Art in Bloom events for many years, such as Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and San Francisco’s de Young Museum. 

Every year, MAM picks a “fund in need”: an aspect of the museum that it would like to expand and raise money for. This year, Art in Bloom’s funds will be used to help expand the museum’s outreach efforts. 

Those outreach efforts, Executive Director Ira Wagner said, are part of the museum’s ongoing efforts to show the community that the museum is a place that everyone can enjoy, from hosting virtual and in-person tours that can accommodate a wide range of people to presenting events that appeal to different groups.

The guest speaker at the luncheon on May 19 will be Portland, Oregon-based floral designer and artist Françoise Weeks, and the guest of honor will be Montclair resident Betty Murphy. The luncheon was sold out as of April 13, and there was a waiting list as of that day; seating capacity was more limited this year than in the past due to ongoing COVID-19 precautions and safety measures. 

As of April 14, there were 50 to 60 tickets still available for the May 20 evening event. 

The May 21 evening event has also been sold out. 

(PHOTOS COURTESY BLAKE SCOTLAND/MONTCLAIR ART MUSEUM)
(PHOTOS COURTESY BLAKE SCOTLAND/MONTCLAIR ART MUSEUM)
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Deborah Hirsch, one of the co-chairs of the luncheon, said Art in Bloom is an event that is very dear to her heart. “[It is] a celebration of the temporal and the permanent,” she said, referring to the flowers alongside the more permanent pieces of art. It is also an event where the entire museum staff pitches in. “There is no area of the museum that does not help with this,” Hirsch said.

The event is an exhibit, and not a competition with designers competing for first place. The artists receive instructions on which piece of artwork they are going to model their floral displays after. 

Art in Bloom will also hold an auction, with items such as colored pencil sculptures donated by an artist previously featured at the museum, and skybox tickets for Elton John’s “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” show at MetLife Stadium, Wagner said. 

In the past, the evening events have been billed as galas. For this year, Emily Nso, the museum’s interim director of development, said that the event planners have removed the word “gala” from the evening event description, to make it seem more like a fun, easygoing night out rather than a formal dress-up affair. 

The atmosphere will be that of a jazz/blues club, with different-sized tables arranged around a music stage. 

The pandemic caused many of Montclair’s cultural institutions, including Montclair Film and the Montclair Literary Festival, to rethink how they were going to conduct their events, which traditionally have depended a lot on in-person attendance. 

“I will say that COVID has made its mark on us, and so many institutions in Montclair,” said Cheryl Slutzky, the other co-chair of the luncheon. 

But the museum is in a strong position at this time, she said. For example, it is offering far more virtual tours than it did before the pandemic, and those have been very popular with the public. “Every cloud, you could say, has some sort of silver lining,” Slutzky said.

Hirsch added that the museum’s virtual art classes during the pandemic attracted people from 14 states, and even some students from outside the U.S. 

(PHOTOS COURTESY BLAKE SCOTLAND/MONTCLAIR ART MUSEUM)
(PHOTOS COURTESY BLAKE SCOTLAND/MONTCLAIR ART MUSEUM)
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The organizers feel that people are eager to get out and have fun in person again with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions. Nso remembered that at MAM Mania in 2021 — which was themed around Beatlemania — people were actually dancing on the museum lawn. 

The museum recently hosted Diwali and Lunar New Year celebrations in partnership with AAPI Montclair as well.

The calendar for May, June and beyond includes a Pride event in partnership with Out Montclair, a summer camp for kids and a wide range of new exhibitions. 

For different guests, Art in Bloom is likely going to appeal in different ways, said Blake Scotland, the museum’s assistant director of special events. People attending the luncheon are likely to be big fans of Weeks and her floral design work, while those going to the nighttime events may be interested in a fun evening out. “I think it really depends on who,” she said. 

When asked what she most looked forward to about this year’s Art in Bloom, Scotland said it was the prospect of everyone’s enjoying themselves. “Seeing people have a good time is my favorite part about doing events in general,” she said, while Nso said she was excited about this year’s iteration of the evening jazz club. 

Wagner said he was most excited about seeing what floral designs the artists come up with this year. “I have a feeling that because they’ve missed a couple of years, some of [the designers] are going to go all out,” he said.

(PHOTOS COURTESY BLAKE SCOTLAND/MONTCLAIR ART MUSEUM)
(PHOTOS COURTESY BLAKE SCOTLAND/MONTCLAIR ART MUSEUM)
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