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Art "Blooms" in Museums Across the Midwest

by Alana Horton

A colorful pop art painting and a floral arrangement interpreting it
Photo Credit: Minneapolis Institute of Art.
A view of Art in Bloom 2022, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Friends of the Institute at Minneapolis Institute of Art. Floral arrangements, installations, and interpretations appear throughout Mia galleries and building.

At Art in Bloom events, you’ll encounter colorful and fragrant displays of flower arrangements that take inspiration from art on the walls of museums.

There’s nothing like spring in the Midwest after a long, cold winter. To celebrate, several museums across the region take inspiration from the turn of season with a show of ephemeral art: flowers.  

“I think the simplest way to describe Art in Bloom is that it’s floral artistry that’s inspired by art,” says Ann M. Keeling, co-chair of Art in Bloom at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

The Cincinnati Art Museum has been doing a bi-annual Art in Bloom event for 20 years. This year, over 60 flower arrangements inspired by art from the museum’s permanent collection are set to be displayed, paired with community events, lectures, and more.

“It’s a whole different way to see the museum, through flowers.”

Ann M. Keeling, co-chair of Art in Bloom at the Cincinnati Art Museum
Two women look at a marble sculpture and a floral arrangement interpretation
Photo Credit: Minneapolis Institute of Art
View of “Art in Bloom 2022” installed at Minneapolis Institute of Art.

A few states over, the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) is hosting their 40th annual Art in Bloom. More than 100 individual and commercial florists participate in the event, which is expected to be seen by over 62,000 visitors this year. 

“It’s a floral feast of the senses,” says Barb Champ, co-chair of Mia’s Art in Bloom and a volunteer with Friends of the Institute. “I think there’s this huge need or urgency for spring in the Midwest. A lot of people will say Art in Bloom is the first rite of spring in Minneapolis.”

A golden statue of a woman dancing next to a yellow floral arrangement that mirrors it
Photo Credit: Minneapolis Institute of Art
View of “Art in Bloom 2019” installed at Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Different museums run their Art in Bloom events differently. Cincinnati has a juried submission process, while Mia has a lottery system for floral artists.

But for both, it’s an essential way to raise awareness – and money – for these community institutions. The Cincinnati Art Museum and Mia both offer free admission, which is made possible in part by events like Art in Bloom.

“It is a major awareness-building opportunity for the museum and is also a major fundraising event,” says Ann M. Keeling.

A red and gold porcelain bottle with a pattern of leaves on it, and a red and gold flower arrangement
Photo Credit: Phil Armstrong
View of “Art in Bloom 2022” installed at the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Behind the scenes, a lot needs to happen for an Art in Bloom to take place, starting with collaborations with museum staff.

“We have to work with the curators for them to tell us what artworks are available for interpretation,” says Champ. “Obviously, the artwork has to be up when we do Art in Bloom. And you can’t have too much going on in any single gallery”

Then, there are rules that the floral artists need to follow to keep the museum’s collection safe.

“The criteria for the floral artists is very, very specific in a museum environment,” says Keeling. “There are a lot of rules around water and around freshness of flowers and where the flowers come from so that there are no bugs.”

All told, over 200 volunteers may take part in pulling together a complex event like Art in Bloom, says Champ. “It takes a lot of people to be involved, from a committee for Art in Bloom, to volunteers that support the events, to people that help guide our guests throughout the museum.”

But it’s all worth it in the end. “It is so exciting to just see the level of commitment, and the time, energy, and care the floral artists take,” Champ says.

Keeling agrees. “It’s a whole different way to see the museum through flowers. And there’s a whole different energy in the museum during that time,” she shares.

Art in Bloom transforms Midwest museums into vibrant spaces where art and nature intertwine. Visitors are invited to see familiar artworks through a fresh lens and discover new connections.

“I hope people take away from Art in Bloom that art is for everyone, because it truly is,” says Keeling.

Visit an Art In Bloom Event in the Midwest

  • Newfields (Indianapolis, IN)

    Fifty fabulous floral arrangements designed by local, regional, and national florists transformed the IMA Galleries March 21 – 24, 2024. Learn more at their website.

  • Cincinnati Art Museum (Cincinnati, OH)

    See creative floral displays inspired by fine art, take part in special programs and events, enjoy family-friendly activities, and much more. Events are taking place April 26–28, 2024. Learn more at their website.

  • Minneapolis Institute of Art (Minneapolis, MN)

    Celebrate the 40th anniversary of Art in Bloom with a free daily guided tour specifically curated with a floral eye and extensive knowledge of each work of art.  Events are taking place April 25-28, 2024. Learn more at their website.

  • Milwaukee Art Museum (Milwaukee, WI)

    Milwaukee Art Museum’s annual celebration of art, flowers—and spring – took place April 18–21, 2024. Learn more at their website.

  • Rockford Art Museum (Rockford, IL)

    Art in Bloom returns for the eighth year with an imaginative display of live florals and other organic materials. Due to ongoing construction, this year’s exhibition will happen at Union Event Space. Events are taking place June 13-16 2024. Learn more at their website.

  • Bismarck Downtown Artist Cooperative (Bismarck, ND)

    The Bismarck Downtown Artist Cooperative hosts a yearly collaborative exhibit with visual artists and floral designers. Events will take place July 9 – 27, 2024. Learn more at their website.