Ready to party like it’s 2019? That’s almost a reality.
Opportunities to experience the work of Western North Carolina’s rich arts communities aren’t quite back to pre-pandemic levels, but as statewide restrictions lift, arts organizations just outside of Asheville are reopening. And some of their upcoming events are providing a welcome blast from the past.
The COVID-19 pandemic was no match for Black Mountain Center for the Arts’ annual Art in Bloom fundraiser. Though event organizers were forced to go digital for the 2020 edition — turning the planned tour of six local gardens into an online experience — the support they received proved that would-be attendees were committed even in times of duress.
Now in its 15th year, Art in Bloom is back as an in-person offering throughout July, though with a few modifications.
“It was tricky back in January to predict what the guidelines would be in summer,” says Jessica Klarp, BMCA events coordinator. “We usually have the event in June but pushed it to July, hoping more people would be vaccinated and more willing to gather a little later in the year. We were right, but it also shifted our event more outdoors.”
Responding to what Klarp calls “people’s deep need for connection and community and continuity,” this year’s Art in Bloom features multiple signature components. In addition to garden tours featuring en plein air painters at work, attendees may partake in flower-themed workshops focused on creating clay flower pots, nature journaling, flower painting and mosaic pot making. Arguably the most popular and distinct component, however, involves 20 floral designers from the ikebana traditions and Western flower arranging professions each interpreting a different work of art selected from a variety of regional galleries.
“We look for work that floral designers can play off of, or that spark the imagination,” Klarp says. “Work with strong lines, bold colors and gestures that can be repeated with organic materials. We try not to select works that are floral.”
On the morning of Thursday, July 8, in the BMCA’s upper level, 225 W. State St., the floral designers will unload buckets of flowers and position containers in front of their assigned artwork. Their creations will be complete by that afternoon and available for viewing at that evening’s preview party. But after Saturday, July 10, the interpretations will be taken down, adding a time sensitivity to the occasion that Klarp feels enhances its allure.
“There is such enthusiasm for this event because the floral designers are so talented and creative, and the designs they produce range from exquisite to mind-blowing,” she says. “Some are grandiose, some are whimsical. Some capture the work with three sprigs of grass in a perfect container, and some haul in a giant frame and fill it with sand and fully grown trees. It’s ephemeral and never the same.”
Tickets range from $5 for access to the gallery exhibit to $50 for an all-inclusive pass. Workshop tickets are sold separately. To learn more, visit avl.mx/9nw.
By contrast, the Madison County Arts Council’s Midsummer Market is in its inaugural year, but the celebration of local artists has its roots in a tradition that’s been in effect nearly as long as Art in Bloom.
Erich Hubner, program director for MCAC, explains that the showcase — which starts Monday, July 12, at the nonprofit’s arts center, 90 S. Main St., Marshall, and runs through the end of the month — was inspired by MCAC’s pandemic pivot during its annual holiday sale. Instead of its usual two-day event, packed with artists and shoppers, MCAC concocted a holiday market that spanned three weeks.
“The artists set up booths and marked the inventory, and we handled the sales and enforced strict safety protocols, such as limiting the number of people in the building and requiring masks,” Hubner says. “This allowed shoppers to browse safely, and the community here responded very enthusiastically.”
A similar model is in place for the Midsummer Market. The event’s 20 booths showcase the work of MCAC member artists working in disciplines including photography, quilting, metalwork, beaded flowers, painting, fabric, handmade brooms, jewelry, gemstones, pottery, basket weaving and furniture. MCAC’s goal is to provide income for these artists, while also connecting them with the public. And while the creators won’t be staffing their booths every day, Hubner notes that many will be present on Thursday, July 15, 5-8 p.m., for a reception that MCAC is hosting as part of Marshall’s Third Thursday event series.
“The money spent at these types of events generally recirculates in the local community, so sales like this become a win-win,” he says. “It’s also psychologically important as a sign of hope for togetherness. The year of COVID-19 isolation has affected people in many ways. These kinds of events help folks feel kinship with their neighbors.”
For more information, visit avl.mx/9nx.