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Art Alive at The San Diego Museum of Art

Flowers, art, cocktails, a jewelry trunk show -- Art Alive is like an Anthropologie shopper’s image of heaven. A real life Pinterest.

For this annual event at The San Diego Museum of Art, the museum invites local floral designers to interpret works of art from its permanent collection. The floral designs are then placed alongside the works of art for people to see during four days of thematic activities and special events such as Flowers After Hours, an evening cocktail party. This year’s Art Alive will go from Thursday, April 12, to Sunday, April 15.

Portrait of a Lady, circa 1560
Alessandro Allori
Floral Designer: Betty Patterson del Sol

Art Alive

Art Alive photo courtesy of The San Diego Museum of Art

Kathy Wright has been on the flower scene in San Diego for over 40 years. In addition to bringing her floral design to weddings and social gatherings, she has been involved with Art Alive since the beginning. She has designed the rotunda for Art Alive three times and she will continue her involvement this year with a design to match a Dutch painting from the museum’s permanent collection.

I talked to Kathy yesterday about her experiences with Art Alive and her plans for this year’s show.

The process of pairing designers up with paintings is a mutual selection process: the museum sent Kathy several pictures of art works and she selected the one that inspired her the most. Because she is of Dutch ancestry, Kathy said that it was an easy, nearly instantaneous decision.

“The conception of the design starts the second you see the art. I think that’s true of any art field. An artist is inspired by something he or she sees. The instant I saw the art, I was inspired by what I saw,” she said. “And that’s when the design process begins.”

The actual floral part of it will not be completed until just before the opening celebration because the flowers need to last for several days within the museum. Once the designs are inside the museum, the individual designers are responsible for watering and caring for their flowers. Sometimes a mid-week flower change is necessary.

Kathy said that there are size restrictions and some limitations on materials that can be used inside the galleries because of moisture, etc., but for the most part, the designers have freedom to think creatively about their designs and incorporate materials that they wouldn’t use for conventional events.

“The aspect of creative expression is really unique to this event. Our clients don’t usually ask us to be creative; they ask us to do the parts and pieces of the event that reflect their desires. Art Alive allows us to interpret on our own and come up with our own ideas.”

Kathy said that she also enjoys looking at how designers interpret the works from year to year. She’s going more traditional with her design this year by focusing on tulips, the much loved flowers of the Netherlands, but other designers will likely experiment with more abstract designs and materials.

“I’ve been doing this for 18 or 20 years now, and it’s always interesting to look back at the things that have been done for the same piece. Every person who looks at a piece of art is going to see something different.”

Learn more about this year’s Art Alive happenings through The San Diego Museum of Art’s website.

--Maren Dougherty