Sunday, February 22, 2009

New York In Bloom revisited

Arrangement by Mary Bohnet of the New York State Capital District Sosetsa Study Group, in front of an untitled 1968 work by Donald Judd.

I went back to New York in Bloom, the New York State Museum's annual fundraiser for its after-school programs, to see the displays I missed yesterday. I'm glad I did: the State Museum is located in the same building that houses the State Archives and State Library, but I rarely have time to visit it. I'm always surprised and pleased to see how my State Museum colleagues have modified existing exhibits and created new ones, and now that planning is underway for a major renovation, I want to see the existing exhibits while I still can.

The State Museum is U-shaped, and most visitors enter via the West Gallery and proceed to the Adirondack Hall, Native Peoples, and natural history galleries, and end with the New York Metropolis gallery and Fire Engine Hall. I followed this path yesterday, but today I began with the New York Metropolis gallery -- I got to spend only a few minutes in it yesterday afternoon.

The World Trade Center exhibit is one of the newest sections of the New York Metropolis gallery. It is a solemn place; as people enter it, conversations taper off and parents shush their children. I have boundless respect for the State Museum colleagues who recovered artifacts from the WTC site and the Fresh Kills processing facility and then put together this exhibit. They spent years doing this heartbreaking work, and they're still reaching out to first responders, survivors, victims' families, and other people who have artifacts relating to the events of 11 September 2001.

The above arrangement, by Merilyn Niles, Jane Arseneau, and Marge Lansing of the Blue Creek Garden Club, sits beneath a flag that the State Police recovered from the WTC site and next to a canister used to contain suspected explosive devices. The canister is dedicated to the two bomb squad technicians and the bomb-sniffing dog lost on 11 September 2001.

The Fire Engine Hall, located next to the WTC exhibit, is invariably a big hit with kids, and this arrangement, created by Anthony Macarelli, captures the elegance, color, and gloss of these vehicles.

Another arrangement in the Fire Engine Hall, this one created by Andrew Kochn of the Mohonk Mountain House.

Jeanine Grinage, who works for the State Museum, and Stephaun Grinage created this cluster of sunny-day arrangements for the Sesame Street exhibit in the New York Metropolis gallery.

An Ellis Island display, with an arrangement by Marilyn Ryan of the Garden Club of Kinderhook.

An elevator car from one of New York City's first skyscrapers is pressed into service as a display platform for this arrangement by Mark Felthausen of Felthausen's Florist.

This spiral arrangement, created by Craig R. Waltz Jr. of Designs by Craig, complements the storefront of the Tuck High Company of Chinatown. This store is likely the oldest continuously operating Chinese-owned business on the Eastern Seaboard; loosely translated, the store's name means "honesty and high integrity."

A Fifth Avenue department store display window, ca. 1925. Its nicely complemented by this arrangement, which was created by Brian Schell of Bountiful Blooms Florist.

Tim Wells of Crazy Daisy Flower Shop created this arrangement, which sits in a nook of a recreational boating display.

The replica dinosaur fossil at the entrance of the Ancient Life in New York gallery, with an arrangement by Michelle Peters of Ambiance Floral and Events.

A striking arrangement by Ann Pastore.

Members of the Museum Club, the State Museum's after-school program for children aged 8-13, created this arrangement. Using the Textural Rhythms: Constructing the Jazz Tradition exhibit as a springboard, the kids were exploring the interplay between color, texture, and design, and their work sits in front of Liz Pemberton's So Jazzy! (l.), Keisha Roberts's Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, and Theresa P. Shellcraft's The Regina Cloth (r.)

Walking through the State Museum's galleries, I spent a lot of time thinking about the Museum Club and the Discovery Squad, the State Museum's program for young people aged 14-18. These programs serve children and teens living in Albany's poorest neighborhoods, and they achieve fantastic results. These programs were started because staff noticed that more than a few young people were idling away their afternoons at the State Museum. Instead of seeing them as a problem and shooing them away, staff recognized that these young people were there because the State Museum met a need -- it was an interesting, safe, no-cost place to go after school -- and set about ensuring that the kids got help with their homework, started thinking about and planning for their futures, got lots of adult guidance, and had fun while learning.

The staff of the State Museum's Youth Services unit deserve tons of kudos for the great work they're doing, and I think that other curators, librarians, and archivists could learn from them: I've met a number of Discovery Squad and Museum Club alumni, and all of them raved about these programs and the State Museum itself. These young people will likely be lifelong museum-goers and museum supporters, and they'll no doubt take their own children to museums . . . .

New York in Bloom is now over. The floral designers are dismantling their displays. When the State Museum opens tomorrow morning, almost all of the arrangements will be gone, as will the admission fee. This blog will return to its usual archival focus, and will be text-centric once more. I hope that you've enjoyed this floral interlude as much as I enjoyed putting it together. I'll leave you with an image of the display in the main lobby of the State Museum. It was created by David Michael Schmidt of Renaissance Floral Design, and it's like a promise of spring . . . .

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