Anticipation grows for MFA’s spring flower festival

Marisa McCoy of the Wareham Garden Club prepares her Art in Bloom arrangement near John Singer Sargent’s 1895 portrait of Helen Sears. Marisa McCoy of the Wareham Garden Club prepares her Art in Bloom arrangement near John Singer Sargent’s 1895 portrait of Helen Sears. (David L. Ryan/Globe Staff)
By Carol Stocker
Globe Correspondent / April 28, 2011

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The MFA’s new Art of the Americas Wing will be the setting for the majority of Art in Bloom, the museum’s annual spring flower festival, which pairs art masterpieces with interpretative floral arrangements. Art in Bloom has always been a bit like an Easter egg hunt — museum-goers would search less visited galleries seeking the arrangements. Now, the flower-filled extravaganza also presents an opportunity to explore the new wing.

Sixteen professional floral designers will exhibit in the museum, including the new Shapiro Courtyard, while 50 regional garden clubs will provide flower arrangements to accompany art in the galleries. Some of the area’s top arrangers, such as Marisa McCoy of the Wareham Garden Club, have been assigned artworks by the MFA to interpret. McCoy has been participating in Art in Bloom almost since its beginning 35 years ago both as a garden club flower arranger and as a member of the MFA Associates. This volunteer group not only presents Art in Bloom but dreamed up the concept, one that has been duplicated as a fund-raiser by museums around the world.

The clubs are assigned textiles, furniture, and sculpture to interpret as well as paintings. Over the years McCoy has arranged flowers to complement a Chinese scroll, a Greco-Roman sphinx, a mosaic Roman floor, and a wooden Egyptian statue. This year McCoy got John Singer Sargent’s 1895 portrait of 6-year-old Helen Sears in the new gallery devoted to Sargent’s works.

The artist posed the blond girl with blue hydrangeas. “Some people would do an arrangement of blue hydrangeas to go with it,’’ said McCoy, “but I feel that’s too obvious. The point is to see something more.’’ She has chosen to echo the textures of the girl’s white satin slippers and bows with two kinds of white roses and sprays of white dogwood blossoms. “I want elegance, delicacy, and simplicity. She is just a little girl. I don’t want the weight of the world on her shoulders.’’

Art in Bloom kicks off this Saturday with a Family Day of art-oriented programs for children from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. (Giant glass installations by artist Dale Chihuly, who liberally uses colorful plant motifs, will add to the fun.)

The festival continues through Monday when it concludes with a free open house from 5-9 p.m.

Regular admission is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors and students, free to youths 17 and younger (after school hours), and free to museum members. Flower arranging workshops and gallery tours from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily are free with admission, as is an outdoor walking tour Sunday from 3 to 4 p.m., which will include the MFA’s Japanese Garden and the neighboring Back Bay Fens. From 6 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, the museum will be open exclusively for members. There will be floral demonstrations in the new Alfond Auditorium 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday. For more information visit