The third annual Art 'N Bloom had a twist this year. Instead of decking out the LaGrange Art Museum with floral arrangements inspired by paintings and artwork on permanent display at the museum, the pieces were displayed throughout the luxurious castle of Bisham Manor in LaGrange.
Inspired by the Emmy Award-winning TV show “Downton Abbey,” a drama set during the early 1900s in England, the Art 'N Bloom committee chose to try something different this year by hosting the event at the modern day castle, which deemed to be the perfect correlation with the “Downton Abbey”theme, allowing guests to dress up in big hats and attire similar to the early 1900s era.
“It way exceeded our expectations,” said Art 'N Bloom Chair Liz Greer of the Thursday event. “The combo of it being at Bisham mixed with the art, flowers, music, the fashion gave a surreal moment for everyone. It was like we were in a different era.”
Fifteen arrangements were displayed throughout the the main floor of the four-story castle. Participants had to use fresh materials and only one accessory for the creation.
First-timers Rebecca Roth and Nicole Comerford chose the art piece “A Question of Balance” by artist David Bigelow, a painting that shows green pastures and farmland with pigs lined in rows at the bottom.
“We both like supporting local farms and produce and it reminded us of the local organic eating movement,” said Comerford.
The pair used dill, rosemary, basil, parsley and mint to portray the farm and white roses for the pigs, using sunflower seeds for their noses. This was the first time the two had created a floral arrangement.
“We enjoyed it and would definitely do it again,” said Roth. “It was a fun project and a fun way to support the museum.”
Hydrangea Garden Club member Leslie Schwartz's arrangement blended well with the theme of the event. She chose to interpret a yarn painting by Annie Greene entitled “Easter Sunday Morning,” which shows an African American woman wearing a floral print top and a hat brimmed with flowers.
“I love Annie Greene's work so when I saw it I knew that's what I wanted to do,” said Schwartz. “And it kind of has a vintage feel to me and the hat fits well with the theme of this event.”
Her arrangement included hydrangea, gerbera daisy, delphinium, palm and button mum, which she used for earrings and a necklace on the display.
Also on display at the Art 'N Bloom event were old dressed that had been donated for the event and could be viewed on the bottom floor of the 15,000 feet castle.
A black silk dress donated by Julia Hammett awed many of the viewers.
Hammett said the dress embellished with rhinestones, pearls and medallions dates back to the 1920s and was given to her by an aunt in 1960. She said she had only worn the dress once to her husband's law school masquerade party at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., but plans on keeping the dress in the family.
Co-owner of Bisham Manor for several years, Neil Liechty said he and his wife, Trish, are honored to have the event hosted on their property.
“We're blessed that they picked our place,” said Neil Liechty. “I really enjoyed it and love the way they — Art 'N Bloom participants — accented the arrangements. It's one of the most perfect parties that we've done. The theme was great and 95 percent of the people had on hats. These kinds of events is what brings different kinds of people together.”
Liechty said that the 12-year-old castle has hosted several weddings and community and fundraising events in the last several years.
“It's a shame to use this just as a private home,” Liechty said. “It's gotta be shared with the community. We want to share our house with the community.”
In the upcoming months the Liechtys plan to incorporate a day spa at the mansion that will only be open to those with a private membership.
Greer said she is pleased with the turnout at the event due to positive feedback the event may even be back at Bisham Manor next year.
She commended all of this year's participants on their creativity and hard work.
“A lot of people had been intimidated to do it in the past because so many had been in competitive events for so long, but this year people are starting to realize that it's not like that, and we had an influx of younger women coming in and learning from older women who have have done competitions in the past,” said Greer. “To draw that kind of crowd into the museum means that their kids will follow and so on. The ladies that have been doing this for a while have been so willing to help the young ones. It was an overall good experience for everyone and doing so for a good cause makes it more worth it.”
The Art 'N Bloom event this year also served as a benefit luncheon for the LaGrange Art Museum. The museum relies on support from individual donors for nearly 25 percent of its annual budget, according to LAM Executive Director Karen Briggs.