Floral Art Steals the Show in Raleigh

Last week in Raleigh, roughly 15,000 people saw flowers in a new light: as a gorgeous medium that can be molded into fine art.

For the third year, the AIFD Southern Chapter and the North Carolina State Florists Association collaborated with the North Carolina Museum of Art to present “Art in Bloom.”

The four-day affair, March 30-April 3, included headline presentations by Hitomi Gilliam, AIFD, co-creator of the European Master Certification and Shane O’Connolly, florist to the British royal family; three main-stage programs (on Ikebana, tabletops, and spring designs); hands-on workshops; lectures; and a fashion show. Sponsors included Smithers-Oasis, Lihmil, Cleveland Plant and Flowers, Golden Flowers, Potomac Floral Wholesale, and Delaware Valley Floral.

“The vision for the festival was twofold:  to have designers interpret art from their permanent collection into flowers and to have a series of speakers and demonstrations on various topics related to art and flowers,” said Teresa Godfrey, AIFD, president of the Southern Chapter.

NCMA chose 45 items from its permanent collection to be interpreted in flowers. The AIFD Southern Chapter provided 22 designers to create designs displayed on pedestals. Artwork was assigned using a lottery system; each piece was assigned a number, which designers pulled from a basket.

Designers received a package with a photo of their artwork, information about the piece, a map of the museum, rules, and a timeline for installation and breakdown.


The runway fashion show, “Horti-Couture: Floral Fashions by Tahiti” sold out, a first for NCMA at an Art in Bloom event. Sharon McGukin, AAF, AIFD, PFCI, commentated while the audience ogled creative floral garb by Francoise Weeks and others.

“The audience was visibly engaged with the program as it unfolded,” McGukin said. “Botanical couture was obviously a new concept for many attendees. It was fun to watch their faces register surprise, pleasure, and awe. They clearly enjoyed the imaginative floral outfits presented.”

The florists’ relationship with the museum has been amazing. “It’s their biggest fundraiser of the year,” Godfrey said. In 2015, they expected 700-1,000 attendees and got 10,000. This year, approximately 50 percent more people turned up.

“It was fantastic PR for AIFD,” Godfrey said. (In fact, NCMA gave the Southern Chapter a $1,000 scholarship.) “Events like these really show off the scope of designers’ talents. This makes people think of florists not as tradespeople, but as artists.”