‘Art of Flowers’ returns to Featherstone

"Patchwork," acrylic on canvas.

Every May for almost 20 years now, Featherstone has celebrated the spring by filling its main gallery with flora of all sorts depicted in just about every possible medium. As with all of their themed shows, the arts campus welcomes all artists, from novices to professionals, to participate, and the flower show tends to attract the most contributors.

A Singapore orchid in full bloom. —Jennifer Smith-Turner
A Singapore orchid in full bloom. —Jennifer Smith-Turner

“The interesting things about this show is that it really does bring new people in,” says “Art of Flowers” curator Holly Alaimo. “It just encourages new people to feel comfortable about showing their work. Most artists at some point have painted or photographed a flower. It seems to suit all media.”

Last year about 70 artists participated, bringing photos, paintings, sculpture, jewelry, clothing, and accessories, cards, and even a few more unusual items, like a flower design tic-tac-toe set. Ms. Alaimo anticipates another record turnout.

Some of the artists who will be showing off their work include Featherstone teacher John Holladay, whose profusion of red and yellow zinnias should evoke memories of summer; Jennifer Turner, who looked to the exotic in photographing a stunning multi-bloom orchid in bright pink; and Donna Straw, whose “Patchwork” incorporates dozens of individual mini flower paintings combined in a grid pattern. Featherstone will also be raffling off a fairy/flower sculpture by Island artist Valentine Estabrook.

Ms. Alaimo hosted the first May flower show at her former space, the Dragonfly Gallery in Oak Bluffs, 21 years ago. “It just seemed like a great way to start the season with color,” she says. “It was cheery. The kind of thing that everybody needs this time of year — a burst of color and flowers.”

Zinnias —John Holladay
Zinnias —John Holladay

When Ms. Alaimo sold the gallery in 2010, the show moved to Featherstone’s Virginia Weston Besse gallery. “I was inviting all Island artists,” says the show’s curator. “I used to do two other shows that were open to everybody. I wasn’t jurying out anybody.”

That formula was a perfect fit for Featherstone, which takes a very democratic, all-inclusive approach to the majority of their main gallery shows. The “Art of Flowers” and the Columbus Day weekend “Art of Chocolate” shows are two staples of the Featherstone season. “The flower show is sort of the unofficial kickoff to the Featherstone summer season,” says Ms. Alaimo.

Not only does the annual show inspire artists, the opening generally brings out a huge crowd of those needing a dose of color and a good excuse to get out and visit the beautiful arts campus. This year, visitors will also get to enjoy a first glimpse of Featherstone’s latest addition — a huge barnlike structure which will house a gallery, two large classrooms, offices, and a teaching kitchen. Guests will have the opportunity to tour the interior with Featherstone staff members and learn more about Featherstone’s extensive campus construction project, which will also include a new pottery studio.

The new art barn is being built at Featherstone. —Ann Smith
The new art barn is being built at Featherstone. —Ann Smith

Construction of the new buildings began last December. The Art Barn is projected to be completed by mid-August. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the pottery studio will take place on June 11.

Ms. Alaimo also has a new project in the works. She has spearheaded, and is overseeing, an artists’ cooperative, which will be housed in the former Pik-Nik gallery and boutique on Dukes County Avenue in Oak Bluffs. A dozen Island artists will be displaying their work, which will include painting, photography, sculpture, jewelry, and clothing. The initiative, named simply the Art Gallery, will be funded by the Center for the Visual Arts, with the participating artists and artisans splitting time in the gallery and covering the costs of marketing.

Ms. Alaimo, who also works in real estate, is excited about the new project and the opportunity it will provide both the artists and herself: “Between ‘Art of Flowers’ and the new gallery, I’m so busy right now. It feels great to be in the art scene again. Featherstone has allowed me to stay involved in the arts all this time.”

The 21st annual “Art of Flowers” show at Featherstone, May 14-31.