Surreal reinterpretation

By Kai Oliver-Kurtin

Art Alive partners floral exhibits with the work of masters and other artists

Organizers of the 36th annual Art Alive exhibit at San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA) expect to draw more than 13,000 people to experience the museum in full bloom April 27–30.

Guests celebrate outdoors during Art Alive’s Bloom Bash at San Diego Museum of Art. (Courtesy San Diego Museum of Art)

About 100 local and regional floral designers will select artwork from the museum to serve as inspiration to create their own floral interpretation based on the chosen work of art.

“It’s a great way to experience the art in a different way,” said Sarah Grossman, manager of special events and corporate relations at SDMA. “We were one of the first museums to do floral exhibitions, but most haven’t taken it to the same level that we have.”

The 2017 Art Alive theme is surrealism, which is very different from the literal themes of years past.

“It’s going to be an immersive, multi-sensory experience like you’re in a dream,” Grossman said. “The exhibit serves as a bridge for some people to understand the art.”

The official opening party, Bloom Bash, takes place April 28 at SDMA with floral-infused cocktails, food from local restaurants, craft beer, entertainment, live music and dancing. This year they are adding private tiki-themed cabanas in the garden as a VIP option.

“Bloom Bash is my favorite party of the year,” Grossman said, “I call it my rainbow, Technicolor, wiz-bang-wow party. It encompasses what we’re all about, and includes contemporary artists that we may not necessarily show at the museum.”

Art Alive typically includes an educational component, and this year SDMA is adding a terrarium-building workshop to the lineup of events on April 29. Partnering with local retail store Pigment for the workshop, SDMA will allow participants to select a succulent and a color palate for their terrarium.

The entire SDMA staff is involved with planning the Art Alive exhibit and related events. The long selection process includes inviting floral designers to participate, having them choose their artwork, and ensuring artists’ sketches meet the curatorial team’s approval. Designers who have participated in past exhibits have priority when choosing their artwork.

“It’s great to see what the floral designers are able to pull out of the art that you didn’t see,” Grossman said.

Between the events, museum admission, underwriting and gifts, Art Alive serves as SDMA’s signature fundraiser.

Museum admission to the floral exhibition is free for members, $25 for nonmembers, $5 for youth ages 7 to 17, and free for children ages 6 and under. For more information, visit

—Kai Oliver-Kurtin is a local freelance writer. She enjoys covering events, restaurant news, culture and entertainment. Contact her at

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