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Vintage San Diego: Art Alive


Art Alive in May, 1982 | Photo courtesy of the San Diego Museum of Art

By the Numbers

$1 million: The record-breaking amount raised in 2015

200+: Volunteers who help make Art Alive happen

40,000: Estimated number of stems used in the rotunda floral display

107: Floral interpretations of artworks in 2015

$250: Cost of a ticket to the Bloom Bash

20,000: Number of pieces in the Museum of Art’s permanent collection

We’re not sure what we love more: the fact that this model reminds us of the cool girl in Sixteen Candles, or her perfectly feathered Farrah Fawcett ’do. Or perhaps it’s the pleats and those dramatic poufy sleeves.

Fashions may have changed a lot since 1982 (or have they?), but one thing that hasn’t changed from the above photo is the majesty of Balboa Park. The image captures a stylish moment from the San Diego Museum of Art’s annual event, Art Alive, during its very first year. The fundraiser and exhibition, now in its 35th season, features live floral interpretations of the museum’s permanent collection. Over the decades it has become a fan favorite and the museum’s biggest moneymaker.

Art Alive was the brainchild of Nancy Bildsoe, who’d been inspired by a similar event at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. She served as chair of the inaugural event, which also included a fashion show (above) and lectures on the art of bonsai and Japanese floral arranging. As Art Alive evolved, the fashion shows continued intermittently, with the most recent one occurring in 2002.

Back in 1988, then-aspiring hostess extraordinaire Martha Stewart gave talks on two of her favorite subjects—weddings and entertaining with style—followed by a reception and book signing in the Sculpture Garden Café. The café is now the ultra-hip gastropub Panama 66, with an all-craft-beer tap selection and rotating cocktail specials based on the museum’s exhibits.

This year’s Art Alive will take place April 29–May 1. Jim Lennox and Ben Lucero of Pacific Event Productions will create the floral centerpiece in the museum’s rotunda, themed around the museum’s upcoming exhibit of Chinese paintings, Brush and Ink. In addition to the floral arrangements, guests can also attend the Bloom Bash on Friday night and the family-friendly Garden of Activities on Saturday.

Bon anniversaire, Art Alive! Here’s to 35 years of getting San Diego to stop and smell the roses.

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