ArtBeat: The Bridge of Flowers a gallery of art

  • A woman pauses to take a close-up of a flower on The Bridge of Flowers on a sunny day last week. For The Recorder/Trish Crapo

  • A bee burrows deep inside a blossom on The Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls. Crapo For The Recorder/Trish Crapo

  • The Bridge of Flowers was created on an abandoned 400-foot long trolley bridge over the Deerfield River in Shelburne Falls in 1929. For The Recorder/Trish Crapo

  • A vivid dahlia caught my eye and I stopped to photograph it. For The Recorder/Trish Crapo

  • Two buds criss-cross each other in the Bridge of Flower gardens, creating a delicate composition. For The Recorder/Trish Crapo

  • Trish Crapo

For The Recorder
Published: 9/13/2017 9:36:45 AM

Most often, preparation for an ArtBeat column brings me to an artist’s studio or a gallery or museum. Last week, when a couple of column ideas fell through, I found myself wandering across The Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, trying to come up with another idea. In was mid-day, mild and sunny. At any given time, about a dozen other people walked the transformed trolley bridge, many of them, like me, camera in hand.

A vivid dahlia caught my eye and I leaned to photograph it. A bee flew into another nearby flower and I photographed that too. Then I became engrossed, barely looking up at the larger scene as I worked my way down the row of flowers, composing close-ups that played with the vibrant and varied colors and textures of the garden beds. I’m not sure how long it took before it occurred to me that I was in an outdoor gallery of sorts. Its medium was not paint and canvas or stone or metal but living plants. The aesthetic enjoyment I felt was, if not “the same” as I might experience in an art gallery, of equal interest to me. And it was refreshing that there was no human ego involved here.

You could say I was enjoying the artwork of Mother Nature but that would belie the work of the many volunteers who plant and tend over 500 varieties of annuals and perennials on the 400-foot long bridge every year. The brainstorm of Antoinette and Walter Burnham, the first iteration of The Bridge of Flowers came into being in 1929, transforming an old trolley bridge, built in 1908 and abandoned in 1928, into an attraction that the pamphlet you can pick up at either end of the bridge declares is, “…the only one of its kind in the world.”

One visitor, Kathy Woods Masalski from Amherst, concurred, telling me that she had once brought some friends from Connecticut to see the bridge, “And they’ve never let me forget it. Who’s ever heard of a bridge of flowers?” she asked with a laugh.

Originally spearheaded by the Shelburne Falls Woman’s Club, the bridge is still under their leadership through the Bridge of Flowers Committee, a 501(c)3 organization that can receive tax-deductible gifts that help to keep the gardens stocked and blooming.

Enjoy my photos taken at the Bridge of Flowers and, if you get a chance, stop by and take some of your own. With temps dropping cooler at night and signs of color coming into the trees at higher elevations, we may not have much longer to enjoy this unique treasure this season.

Find the Bridge of Flowers at 4 Bridge St., Shelburne Falls. Visit the website for more history, including archival photos of the Bridge, as well as ways to contribute or volunteer:

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