San Diego Museum of Art blossoms with floral displays at Art Alive
by Martin Jones Westlin
Published - 04/11/07 - 03:19 PM | 1280 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Most of the time, the San Diego Museum of Art can look forward to 8,000 to 12,000 visitors for Art Alive, its annual installment of floral displays inspired by the museum's works of art. That's a pretty healthy count for something that lasts only three days "” but this year, another exhibit may steal some of the thunder, prompting one museum official to lightly invoke "crowd control" as the mantra of choice.

The 26th Art Alive, set for April l3 to 15, is running concurrently with the final few weeks of the very popular "Annie Leibowitz: A Photographer's Life, 1990-2005," which closes on April 22 and then leaves Southern California for good. And on top of that, the annual EarthFair will take place in Balboa Park on the same day.

Meanwhile, 12,000 visitors "” a whopping 3 percent share of the museum's annual foot traffic "” can't be wrong.

Chris Zook, the museum's senior communications officer, said that the show, which includes displays by dozens of artists, is worth braving the crowds. He noted that floral arrangements are as legitimate a medium as the paints and canvases that advance any artistic endeavor.

"If you look at art, flowers have been a major motif that artists have depicted for centuries," Zook said, pointing to Dutch still-lifes, the Impressionist movement and Japanese art.

On the floral designers, Zook said that many are professionals or trained in ikebana, a major flower design school.

"They're sculptors," he said. "Their medium is flowers, but they create a sculpture."

Organic Elements, this year's designer of the museum's rotunda fountain, plans to keep things close to home. In the process, the North Clairemont firm is casting an eye toward environmental health. According to owner Sharon Mintz, Organic Elements will incorporate a lot of succulents and orchids this year, particularly local varieties that are often overlooked in San Diego's backyard.

"If you look carefully, you'll find them in all sort of colors and styles," she said. "Some look like rocks and hide their fruit from their prey. Some have prickly edges. It's just neat, and it offsets a little bit of the [transport] fuel consumption of the flowers we're importing from New Zealand."

Succulents are markedly long-lived and contain great quantities of water in their leaves, stems and roots. The family includes about 1,000 species, among which are begonias, aloe and most cacti.

The intended effect, Mintz said, is "upper East Side New York chic," referring to indoor gardens.

"We're trying to bring the outside in," she said.

That's where the fountain enters the picture. Each of its three tiers will be filled with some sort of iron-based urban component, replete with flowers and plants. San Diego's CQ Welding is supplying the fixtures.

Meanwhile, Zook said, Art Alive represents "a value-added kind of thing. You get to see the art, of course, but you get to see the incredible floral displays. When you combine a floral arrangement with a masterpiece of art, it's a perfect marriage."

Art Alive will also include an April 13 lecture and demonstration by designer Nico de Swert and an April 14 Floral Fete, featuring live entertainment and hors d'oeuvres.

The Art Alive exhibition will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday at the museum, 1450 El Prado in Balboa Park.

Admission is $12 for all adults, military and students with ID. Youths 6 to 17 will pay $5; museum members and children under age 5 are admitted free.

For more information or a schedule of events, call (619) 232-7931 or visit
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