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A Q+A bouquet with the CMA’s Della Watkins

We sat down with the Columbia Museum of Art’s executive director to learn everything we could about the 2024 installment of Art Blossoms, the limited-time exhibition fundraiser making the move to March in its fourth year.

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Della Watkins, executive director of the Columbia Museum of Art, wears a floral-patterned dress and talks with three museum guests next to a floral arrangement

We appreciate Della Watkins, executive director of the CMA, taking the time to talk to us about this year’s Art Blossoms exhibition and fundraiser, happening March 21-24.

Photo provided by the Columbia Museum of Art

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Educator, Virginia native, and executive director of the Columbia Museum of Art Della Watkins moved to Soda City six years ago. One of the many things she’s done since then? Establishing one of the CMA’s newest and most beloved traditions, an annual fundraiser for the museum that combines flowers, art, and an exciting roster of can’t-miss events: Art Blossoms.

While we eagerly anticipate this year’s installment, happening March 21-24, we sat down to pick Della’s brain about all things Art Blossoms. These are excerpts from our conversation:

What does Art Blossoms mean to you?

“I have been very fortunate over my career in museums to participate in these kinds of art exhibitions and fundraisers. And that’s what Art Blossoms is: an exhibition and a fundraiser. I have a huge interest in the symbolism and power of flowers, and what they can do for your mental and physical health. An art exhibition with flowers had never been done at the CMA, so I brought it forth as an idea for a fundraiser. And off we go into our fourth year.”

Several fan-favorite events from previous years are back, and we see some exciting new ones on the schedule as well. Which event are you most looking forward to, personally?

“The foraging walks are new, and I think it’ll be hugely fun to see what’s in our own backyards and parks. Now, the night before is always an exciting time for me, because we kick off with our first-look preview party, the flowers have just moved in, and the museum smells so good. We also have two big speaker events this year I want to tell you about: Floral Flair and Punk Ikebana.

Floral Flair is about how any room can be boosted cost-effectively with flowers. It’s being presented by Stephen Ford of Stephen Ford Interiors, a local residential and commercial interior designer. He’s going to stage three rooms for us, live, teaching the basics of design principles like color, line, shape, space, and scale.”

For the past three years, Art Blossoms has happened during Mother’s Day weekend. This year, it’s happening in March. Can you tell us a bit about that decision?

“Well, as we started the first one, it was during the pandemic years, and it was a chance for us to get our sea legs under us, figure out the program, how to involve garden clubs and flower shops, etc. A big reason we switched the date is the price of flowers triples during Mother’s Day. The other thing we found is that Mother’s Day has aligned with pre- or post-graduations — it was a competition in time. So, when’s the next best time? Let’s usher in the spring.”

What do you hope people leave talking about after experiencing Art Blossoms this year?

“I hope people walk away thinking creativity shines in all kinds of unexpected ways. This art form is such an outlet, and it uses the same things as every other traditional art form around principles of design, you know, balance and rhythm and pattern and color. It’s the same thing in a three-dimensional form — it’s like a sculpture.

I want people’s minds to be open, and I hope they’ll be inspired to go home, gather up six or so things from their garden, and try their own piece. It’s so joyous for me to have visitors walk out saying that was interesting, or cool, or different, because that’s what we try to do every day: connect people through art.”

When you’re not at the museum, what are some of your favorite things to do in Cola?

“I’m a huge walker (I love the Riverwalk), and I also participate in yoga. These are my ways to decompress. And I wouldn’t call myself a foodie, but I am an… experimental taste tester. I’ll go to the newest place from the littlest dive to the greatest restaurant, and that’s super fun here. On weekends, I try to go to a new place in the state. I’ll go to lunch here, I’ll go to a play there — I’m trying to learn my state. I’m very interested in what makes a region proud.”

Speaking of what makes a region proud, tickets are on sale now for everything happening during the four dazzling days of Art Blossoms, which directly supports arts education and programming in the Greater Columbia region.

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