Art blooms at West Tisbury’s Old Mill

An arrangement by Katherine Long — Linda Chapman

For 40 years the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has hosted “Art in Bloom,” an annual event in which garden clubs and professional designers from throughout New England create and display floral arrangements inspired by the museum’s artwork.

For many years now, the Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club has sponsored its own version of the popular event with a weekend-long show called “Blooming Art.”

This weekend, 25 members of the Garden Club will present their interpretations of artwork by 42 Island artists at the historic Old Mill in West Tisbury.

The Garden Club invites Island artists to contribute work — painting, photography, or sculpture — to the show. The artwork is all for sale. The profits are split between the club and the artists, with the proceeds used for the upkeep of the Old Mill.

Each work of art is handed over to a different floral designer, who has one month to plan an arrangement. The result is a space filled with the output of dozens of creative Vineyarders and a very interesting look at the collaborative efforts of fine artists and those working in the floral medium.

The setting itself is worth a visit. The rustic stone building dates from 1848, when it was a working wool cloth mill. The structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Garden Club purchased the building in 1948. Only twice a year is the Old Mill open to the public: for the annual plant sale and for the “Blooming Art” show.

The Martha’s Vineyard Garden Club, which counts over 200 members, was founded in 1924. It is an active organization which meets once a month, and is dedicated to conservation, gardening, and maintaining the Vineyard environment. Previously, the “Blooming Art” show was held only every other year, but as of last year, the club decided to make it an annual event due to its popularity.

The Garden Club members take their arrangements very seriously, coming up with an appropriate design, shopping for the perfect container and various organic elements. They spend the entire day on Thursday pulling it all together. The results are attractive on their own, but paired with the artwork, they make for a unique and colorful exhibit.

The Garden Club has been invited to participate in the MFA’s annual “Art in Bloom” exhibit for a number of years — a real honor for a local organization. Wiet Bacheller recalls assisting longtime Garden Club member Mary Lou Perry in a few of the MFA projects, including a floral interpretation of an ancient sarcophagus. Ms. Perry found a container whose shape was similar to the artifact, and painted hieroglyphics on it. She conducted extensive research to discover what type of plants would have been available in ancient Egypt.

At last year’s “Blooming Art” event, Ms. Bacheller was given a colorful tropical painting by Genevieve Jacobs to interpret. “I looked at the colors and also the feel of it,” she said. “I didn’t want to make the arrangement look like a parrot. To me, it felt feathery, but also had some solid components. I focused on the way the birds were sitting on the branches.”

With the help of Mariko Kawaguchi at Donaroma’s, Ms. Bacheller selected a combination of exotic plants and flowers including pink ginger, anthurium, and various types of tropical foliage. She supplemented these choices with things like thistle, holly leaves, and ferns. The container came from Chicken Alley Thrift Shop. This year, Ms. Bacheller will be creating an arrangement based on a painting by Lesley Baker.

According to club member Nancy Cabot, the goal is to be “interpretive rather than literal.” Generally, members focus on color and form. The effects show the variety of creative inspiration in the arrangers as well as the artists. The exhibit truly represent the collective imagination and skill of the floral designers.

This year’s participating artists are Joan Apt, Leslie Baker, Sandy Bernat, Benjamin Cabot, Eva Cincotta, Margot Datz, Paul Doherty, Angela Egerton, Valentine Estabrook, Margaret Emerson, Sheila M. Fane, Joann Frechette, Mary French, Debra M. Gaines, Roberta Gross, Genevieve Jacobs, Jay Lagemann, Washington Ledesma, Kanta Lipsky, Ilka List, Doris Lubell, Thaw Malin, Marjorie Mason, Joyce Maxner, Ellen C. McCluskey, Marianne Neill, Dorothy Petell, Kathy Poehler, Debby Rosenthal, Judith Drew Schubert, Ed Schulman, Alison Shaw, Susan Silva, Donna Straw, Jane Thame, Katy Upson, Fern Vaughan, Vineyard Colors, Wendy Weldon, Jules Worthington, and Peggy Zablotny.

Floral arrangers include Joan Apt, Wiet Bacheller, Pat Bartoloni, Cynthia Bloomquist, Judy Bryant, Nancy Cabot, Nancy Caraboolad, Joan Carey, Lynne Caroline, Brenda Celeste, Mary Ann Dolezsar, Diane Drake, Anna Edey, Joan Eville, Lee and Mark Foster, Margaret Gallagher, Leah Smith, Bonnie George, Alice Goyert, Rozetta Hughes, Kathy Kitsock, Katherine Long, Pat McCracken, Linda McGuire, Madeline McKay, Elaine Pace, Mary Ann Palermo, Helen Parker, Mary Lou Perry, Joan Potter, Andrea Quigley, DiAnn Ray, Martha Schmidt, Linda Shaw, Susan Silva, Darleyne Smith, Gay Smith, Fern Vaughan, Deborah Wass, and Anda Woodward.

“Blooming Art 2016” begins on Thursday, June 23, with an opening-night reception from 5 to 8 pm. Tickets are $50. To purchase tickets, contact Vito Palermo, treasurer, at 508-939-9522 or email The exhibit is open on Friday, June 24, and Saturday, June 25, from 10 am to 5 pm, and on Sunday, June 26, from noon until 3 pm. Admission is $5.