Winter can be cold, dark and desolate, with bare trees and flower gardens stamped out by the weather, but local artist Hilary Zelson is bringing life and light to Brookline this holiday season with her installation “Winter Blooms.”
Between now and the end of January, those who walk through Coolidge Corner will notice flowers and foliage hanging on light posts and in shop windows. The flowers, crafted by Zelson out of silicone, appear white during the day, and glow with colored LEDs at night, switched on at the same time the streetlights illuminate.
Zelson, 28, was inspired by Brookline’s own agricultural history and specifically witch hazel, a flower found in Massachusetts that blooms during the winter.
“I was spending a lot of time doing research, looking at parks, floral gardens, arboretums, and somehow came across this witch hazel flower,” Zelson said. “With snowmageddon, or ‘snowpocalypse,’ pretty close in our past, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be great to take this idea of a flower that blooms in the winter and bring that into the display, and use that flower to give life to this neighborhood.’”
Zelson had to submit a proposal for the project, which is supported by the town of Brookline, the Brookline Arts Center and the Brookline Commission for the Arts, and won out amongst other local artists.
She knew that the commission wanted a piece that would also show up at night, since it gets dark so early in the winter. The LEDs that show through the flowers bring that brightness, turning the white flowers into purple, red and yellow blooms.
“It brings really a vibrant color palette, and is something that gets people excited when they’re walking through the area,” Zelson said. “Everybody loves holiday decorations, and this has a lot of similar characteristics of traditional holiday decorations — light, color, wrapping greenery — but with a little bit of a twist.”
Zelson has created public art pieces around Boston and across the country before, like the floating styrofoam sheep that appeared in Fort Point Channel. It’s important to her, she said, to make pieces that really integrate into their environment, matching the spirit of the community — another aspect of the Coolidge Corner installation is the wondrous “storybook” look this adds that is associated with New England towns.
It’s also important, she said, to have public art, in general.
“We’re all living such busy and active lives, and public art brings art out into [people’s] daily interactions,” she said. “Someone might not have time during the month to go visit an art gallery or go a museum. This way they’re able to experience something creative and exciting just when they’re out going to CVS to pick up whatever they need.”