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From trash to treasure: NCMA celebrates eighth 'Art in Bloom' festival

"Every vessel is an opportunity to put flowers in," West Queen Studio owner Morgan Howell Moylan said.


Morgan Howell Moylan, owner of West Queen Floral Studios in Hillsborough, NC, works on a centerpiece on Friday, April 8, 2022, for an upcoming wedding.

Last month, local artists used an unlikely display for floral bouquets around Chapel Hill: trash cans. 

These "flower flashes" were used to advertise the North Carolina Museum of Art's eighth "Art in Bloom" festival, which ran from March 16-20. 

The event consists of floral arrangements created by artists based locally and throughout the greater Southeast region. Proceeds are used to fund general programming and other exhibits for the museum.

Laura Finan, director of stewardship and special initiatives for NCMA, started the exhibit in 2015. She said she hoped visitors were able to see art from a new perceptive. 

“Hopefully, they notice works of art that they have not necessarily looked at before," she said. 

To help expand the program, Finan said, the museum has hired new staff and increased social media engagement in hopes of attracting more local artists. 

And those efforts have proven effective. Finan said the museum has gained recognition from artists across the state.

“Anything that we can do that can lift up the level of excellence for the state and statewide makes it, makes the state, shine,” she said. 

'Pedestals and platforms'

The exhibit includes two types of pieces: pedestals and platforms. Pedestals are arrangements created to look like artwork already located in the museum, while platforms are larger pieces that allow the artist to draw inspiration from elsewhere. 

Morgan Howell Moylan is the owner of West Queen Studio in Hillsborough and participated in the festival. She said "Art in Bloom" gives floral artists an opportunity for creative expression they don't often get in their day-to-day work.

“You’re really truly creating art," she said. "You can go in so many different directions. With the platform pieces, it’s even more so truly creating art, so it was an opportunity for me to really push the envelope.”

Howell Moylan’s piece, inspired by the culture and flowers of Kenya, won the People’s Award. She also helped advertise the event by creating a flower flash, a piece with a trash can filled with a bouquet of flowers. 

She said the pieces allow her to share her art so that anyone can see and challenge the concept of where flowers belong.

“I love bending the concepts of where you can put flowers because, in my mind, every vessel is an opportunity to put flowers in,” she said. “I don’t care if it’s a trash can, or a coffee cup, or a boot.”

West Queen Studio worked with the Town of Chapel Hill to determine where to put the piece, she said. 

Steve Wright, public art coordinator for the Town, said public displays of art like Howell Moylan’s provide an interesting intervention to otherwise mundane infrastructure.

“It enlivens the town, as well, to have public art in public spaces,” he said.

These public pieces, and "Art in Bloom" in its entirety, allow the presentation of a unique medium of art. 

“I consider this one of the best things I’ve been able to contribute with my life,” Finan said. “On a very personal level, it makes me extraordinarily happy to know that at any point in 'Art in Bloom,' somebody can have a joyful moment and I had a hand in making that happen.”


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