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  • Rose Stanley-Gilbert

EXPERIENCING ART IN BLOOM as a New (or Newer) Guide

Art in Bloom, presented by the Friends of the Institute, was a record-breaking success this year with more than 62,000 visitors descending on Mia to check out the floral arrangements paired with artworks throughout the museum and revel in the coming of spring. Guides gave numerous public tours during the

four days of Art in Bloom, in addition to two virtual tours, all of which were very well-attended. Some of those guides were new or relatively new to this rather distinctive touring experience, so Rose Stanley-Gilbert asked a few of them for their impressions.



Cathie A. Wemlinger

I love so much talking with the floral designers, listening to their connection to the artworks, learning about their process, the container they chose, the flowers, etc., and also hearing about the positives and challenges in getting to their final floral design.

I led appreciative tour groups, sharing the stories about the floral designs and designers and creating a window of access into the artworks.


I had the opportunity to explore and learn about new artworks.


I enjoyed working with fellow guides and volunteers … Spending time with new friends and old.


Finally, I was pleased to be involved in raising money for school buses and for school tours through Art in Bloom.


Boyd Ratchye shares his first Art in Bloom experience

A good experience: My tour got to The Denial of St. Peter just as its PFA (Pedestal Floral Artist) was there. I asked her to discuss her floral arrangement with the group. And what followed was just plain amazing: She was so excited to speak to the tour group and they were so interested in her.


I do want to emphasize how good-humored and involved and ready to participate the attendees are—of all ages: singles, couples, families and children with their parents. Great time @ AIB—that’s for sure.


Jennifer Orton - Serendipity of AIB Tours

Mia’s art, AIB’s floral arrangements, and record visitor numbers combined to create very serendipitous tours for my first experience leading tours at AIB. Thanks in no small part to Minnesota’s dismal April weather, visitors were open to viewing anything. I became their “guide on the side” as they looked slowly, asked thoughtful questions, and added their meaning to the phrase “the power of art.”

Here were some reactions to the floral artworks:

God’s Gift by Tawny Chatmon: “I get this!”

Jar with Dragon and Clouds (Korea): “This makes me smile.”

Alixa and Naima by Swoon: “When I moved closer to the arrangement, I could just feel the emotion the floral artists put into it.”


My groups appreciated the arrangements that captured the essence of the artwork without being overly literal. Often the understated works were the most impactful.

One of my groups was able to connect with floral artist Sue Bagge, who has participated in every Art in Bloom for 39 years. That was a treat! We all learned so much about her experiences, as well as the process for participating. Her Ikebana work is wonderful!



Marne Zafar

After 10 years I finally decided to “take the plunge” and be an AIB guide. I felt that I had much to offer as I am very much a flower person. I am a gardener and visit botanical gardens when overseas for my design business.


Whew! The 3-hour training was a whirlwind and I felt overwhelmed by the details and breadth of the entire event. I stayed in 2 East, as I had trained in Japan and Korea and have a good grounding of China’s history and culture. Soon I was off and running, pairing floral arrangements to the specific art and gathering information that would pique viewers’ interest. With my first tour on Thursday night, I wanted to be ready for just about any query!


And my first tour? A blur! Over 57 attended, and as we walked and exchanged oooooh’s and aaaaah’s, there were lively discussions about culture, religion, what flowers and colors meant, and how each floral artist interpreted a particular artwork. My visitors came away excited to see more.



Rose Stanley-Gilbert

Memorable: An older man chose the Tibetan Buddha Amoghasiddhi for his floral arrangement. He told me that several years ago, he and his wife were both given a terminal health diagnosis. Today they are still surviving well. He practices both Christianity and Buddhism and was inspired and found strength in this Buddha figure with his raised hand gracefully gesturing “have no fear.” I will always remember this.



All Floral Arrangement Photos: Maryam Marne Zafar

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