Welcome to WAM Updates

WAM Updates are short, informal posts that put the spotlight on small, but exciting, Museum-related projects, such as the addition of a new painting or sculpture to a gallery. They also serve as updates on staff, new services or programs, and other WAM news.

We hope you like reading the Updates! If you are interested in learning about something specific, or have a suggestion for a WAM Update, please update us at wamupdates@worcesterart.org

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Meet the Creative Minds of Flora in Winter

Every winter, the Worcester Art Museum galleries spring to life through the artistic floral arrangements of Flora in Winter. Meet two of this year's talented designers, Marne Mailhot and Nancy Martin, selected to create original arrangements interpreting select works in our collection. Let's discover  what's inspiring them this year, their favorite past arrangements, and what's behind their passion for all things floral. 

Meet Marne Mailhot, Worcester Garden Club

Years in Flora: Five

Marne with her favorite Flora arrangement,
 “Case of Swords, Higgins Collection," from the 2019 event.

Favorite arrangement: "Case of Swords, Higgins Collection"

We actually had a house fire that year, which started in the mulch on an especially hot June night. When I made this arrangement, we were still living in an apartment while rebuilding our home. I remember feeling a little nervous, wondering whether I could gather the same energy and joy making that year’s arrangement with so many things up in the air.

I went to the flower market to get my flowers, cut and conditioned them in buckets scattered all around our little apartment, with our Golden Retriever underfoot. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself calmed, allowing myself again to be carried along the creative process, even in these circumstances. When I was finished, I remember looking at what I’d done and felt so much hope for our family and myself, with the joy and peace that could be summoned by the beauty of flowers.

Flora 2021 artwork: Caligula (Roman, 37-40 CE)

Marne's inspiration:

I love monochromatic arrangements, and the challenge of an all-white piece. In addition, there is so much fascinating history behind the figure and person of Caligula. Whenever I begin thinking about a Flora arrangement, I research the floral trends of the time period in which the piece was made, as well as the symbolism of the flowers I think may help capture the spirit of the artwork. Caligula was so notorious for lavishness and excess that it will be really wild expressing that through flowers.

Caligula (Caius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) (Roman, 37-40 CE).
Marble. Museum purchase, 1914.23

What's been your greatest challenge as a Flora designer?

WAM sends each of us a folder with a print of our artwork in early fall. I leave the folder open so every time I pass by it I can see the print, and spend time with and get to know the artwork. It helps me get a real sense for what the artist was feeling and trying to communicate—why this painting, or these people? Each year, I hope to make something that has energy the artist himself would recognized and be moved by if he were at Flora.

Marne embraces the creative process
 participating in Flora provides her.

Meet Nancy Martin,  Framingham Garden Club

Years in Flora: Three

Nancy (left) with her favorite interpretative arrangement
of the 
Portrait of Ann Gibbes, John Wollaston the younger (1767)
Flora in Winter 2020. The portrait is on the right.

Favorite arrangement: Portrait of Ann Gibbes, John Wollaston the younger (1767)

Ann has an arresting gaze that draws in the viewer’s eye. In addition, Historic Charleston in South Carolina, where Miss Gibbes lived, is a personal interest of mine!

Flora 2021 artwork: Child’s Mummy Case (Ancient Egyptian, Roman Period, 32 BCE-200 CE)

Nancy's inspiration:

As a designer researching the Child's Mummy Case, I made discoveries that helped me choose the container and flowers I will use to interpret it. I also learned there are few child mummy cases in the collections of some American museums. Regardless of the time period, the loss of a child is heartbreaking for a family. My design will be a celebration of a beloved child’s life.

Child’s Mummy Case (Ancient Egyptian, Roman Period,
 32 BCE-200 CE). Cartonnage. Museum acquisition, 2000.49

What excites you about Flora in Winter?

There is so much energy as the designers complete their arrangements. Seeing other designers’ beautiful creations, I marvel at the materials they’ve used to interpret the art. There are always surprises and ingenious combinations.

What is your most rewarding Flora experience?

Knowing that my arrangement is enjoyed by the many visitors that attend Flora. My husband and I have been members of the WAM for more than 30 years. I'm honored to be chosen as an interpretative designer for Flora, and to help the visitors learn what a wonderful museum WAM really is.

Close-up of Nancy's colorful floral interpretation
of the 
Portrait of Ann Gibbes.

Next week, we profile two more Flora in Winter designers as we countdown to the February 25–28 event. 

Experience the beauty of Flora from the comfort of home by registering for our “Passport to Virtual Flora." It will include all related online programming, plus a virtual tour of the 24 floral arrangements and Japanese table display in McDonough Court, along with a bonus video tour of the professional floral arrangements in the Museum's public spaces. View more details here.   

—Profiles compiled by Sarah Leveille, Digital Content Specialist, with editorial assistance from Cynthia Allegrezza, Marketing Coordinator

February 18, 2021

Please note: All images here are pre-COVID; visitors to the Museum are currently required to wear masks. 

Recent WAM Updates