Visiting an art museum can be an intimidating experience for some people. Some find the reverential atmosphere off-putting, others feel that they don't know enough about art to appreciate it properly.
That's one of the reasons a lot of museums around the country have initiated periodic "in bloom" events that incorporate the works of floral designers into the museum's artistic landscape.
The Sarasota version, the fourth annual "Ringling in Bloom," is set for Feb. 27-March 1 at the Ringling Museum of Art.
"What we have this year is 30 floral designers from throughout the area," said Maureen Thomas-Zaremba, the curator of education for the Ringling. "They each select a work of art that inspires them to do an arrangement."
The floral designs, which are displayed next to the art that inspired them, add a different sort of texture to the museum's exhibit, Zaremba said, and each year "Ringling in Bloom" draws new visitors to the museum.
"We get people who say, 'I lived here for 20 years and this is the first time I've ever been here," she said. "Or they say, 'I haven't been here in 30 years.'"
It's not merely a way to dress up museum in new clothes for a few days, though.
The floral designers are artists in their own right, and their arrangements are works of art.
And the arrangements also stand as one artist's statement about another artist's work, and create a non-verbal dialogue between the designer and the museum visitor. The hope, Zaremba said, is that visitors will start to look at and talk about the museum's artwork in a new way.
The floral designers have to work against some strict limitations because their work is being displayed alongside very expensive and significant paintings, in areas where people are walking..
"They can only have a limited amount of water, because that adds to the humidity," Zaremba said. "And the arrangements have to be stable, because we don't want them toppling over."
The limitations on water use are one reason "Ringling in Bloom" only lasts for four days, Zaremba said.
On their way out of the museum, visitors get to vote for their favorite designs. This year's the voting has
been expanded to include three categories: the Most Beautiful Arrangement, the Most Creative Design, and the Best Interpretation of a Work of Art. There are no prizes other than the prestige, but that means a lot to the floral artists, Zaremba said. Winners will be announced soon after the event ends on the Ringling website, www.ringling.org.
This year, Zaremba said, there's more to "Ringling in Bloom" than the pairings of floral arrangements with the works that inspired them. The Ringling is hosting associated events all trough the event.
Ringling in Bloom will open with a Designer's Preview from 5-7 p.m. on Feb. 27. It's part of the museum's regular "Art After 5" event. Guests can meet the designers and discuss their interpretation, inspiration and choice of flowers and materials. Cocktails and appetizers will be available for purchase. Admission to the preview is free with admission to "Art After 5," which is $10 for adults, $5 for children and college students with ID and is free with museum membership.
The next day, from 11a.m.-12:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 28, the "Bayfront Gardens Walk and Talk: Growing Roses in Florida" will talk about scientific advancements that make growing roses easier now than in decades past. The program will start at the Education Center. Tickets cost $10. Or $5 for museum members.
Later that day, from 2-2:30 p.m., also at the Education Center, "Florida Friendly!," a flower arranging workshop, will teach how to create unique floral arrangements from blooms and foliage that grow in Florida. Participants will need to bring flower clippers. Tickets cost $45 with a discounted ticket price of $35 for Museum members.
On Sunday, March 1, "The "Bayfront Gardens Walk and Talk: Florida Friendly Landscape, Right Plant, Right Place" will teach landscape management techniques for Florida's climate. It runs 11 a.m. -12:30 p.m. on March 1. Tickets are $10, or $5 for museum members.
And from 2-3:30 on March 1, the flower arranging workshop "Beauty in Your Own Backyard" will give participant ideas for creating low-cost floral arrangements from plants in the backyard of Florida homes. The workshop, in the Education Center, requires a scissors and stapler. Other materials will be provided. The workshop will be held in the Education Center. Tickets cost $45 with a discounted ticket of $35 for Museum members.
The regularly scheduled "Bayfront Grounds and Gardens Tour" will add an afternoon session during Ringling in Bloom. Docents will point out botanical specimens and discuss the history of the 66-acre estate. Tour times will be 10:30 a.m.-noon and 1-2:30 p.m. on Feb. 28 and March 1. Tours begin in the Visitor Pavilion. Tickets are $20, or $10 for museum members.
For information call 941.360.7399 or go to www.ringling.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.