stephanie domzalskiCreativity takes courage.

For these words to have come from world-renowned artist Henri Matisse, imagine the temerity it would take for a self-labeled numbers nerd to co-produce an interactive pop-up show in 100,000 square feet of park space in one of the nation’s leading art hubs.

If you ask Stephanie Domzalski, ’03 political science and psychology, she’d say it was more excitement than anything else. Fourteen years in on a successful career as an educational psychologist, complete with her own private practice, a back patio lunch with an old high school friend would find the pair a year later hosting BloomLA. Running June 22-24 in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, the pop-up style art show will feature handcrafted, live performance, and interactive art with a floral flair.

“When you’re passionate about something, it’s all consuming,” she says. “And when you go to sleep thinking about it, dream about it, and wake up still excited to pursue it, that something worth paying attention to.”

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An Orange County native, Domzalski spent her undergraduate years as an Anteater at UCI. But it wasn’t art that caught her attention. In fact, one of the classes she remembers most fondly from her time on campus was statistics with social science lecturer Paul Shirey.

“I’ve always loved learning – immersing myself in anything new - but felt early on a kind of reticence to take risks. But Shirey encouraged me to try and he gave me confidence that I had something to contribute and could succeed,” she says. “I felt that way in every single class at UCI – that the faculty and staff valued students and invited us to extend ourselves into areas we didn’t know. It was such an incredibly transformative experience that really shaped my view of the world.”

Domzalski describes her time at UCI as a radical balance between the known and the next. 

“I was 19 when I entered the university – open to everything but completely overwhelmed by how many paths branch from passion,” she says.

Through her honors research with professors Mark Petracca and Geoffrey Iverson and work at the UCI Farm School with Christine Lofgren, she discovered a strong drive to assist students with diverse learning profiles. She went on to earn a master’s degree from Loyola Marymount University and a doctorate from Chapman, and she’s worked with a number of school districts across Southern California. In January 2010, she transitioned into private practice – Southern California Educational Assessment and Consultation – through which she maintains a partnership with south OC school districts while also assisting families on an individual basis.

dandelionsIn recounting her last 14 years as an educational psychologist, Domzalski honed in on a poignant conversation with her mentor, Shirey, where – after assisting with a particularly vexing problem set – he reminded her “to have fun with the data. The numbers need us to breathe life into them.” 

“People before processes and seeing the art in the ambiguity were each critical lessons I took from my time at UCI. It’s what motivated me as a psychologist and what also has helped inspire this new direction with Bloom,” she says.

That new track began innocuously enough as a lunch with April Wish, an old friend from high school.

“We were chatting about this sort of distressing, divisive feeling right now in the world and what we might be able to do on a larger scale to address that,” she says.  “Yet we were so inspired by the acts of courage, of love, of community that were happening across the country. We were working to imagine this space where everyone, even if for a few hours, could celebrate the artistry of each other and those things that bring us closer,” she says. Domzalski and Wish spent the rest of the lunch – and nearly every day since – talking about how to turn that idea into reality.

And BloomLA was born. Featuring more than 15 large scale, interactive installations, BloomLA is a three-day pop-up which includes a 30-foot coloring wall by noted muralist Jennifer Korsen; a Saturday evening summer solstice party; a number of communal art projects; an interactive drumming class for kids; workshops in photography, paper flower making, and essential oils; and musical entertainment from the OC-based Leroy and the Bad Browns and LA band Violets Are. Complete with edible flowers from Gourmet Sweet Botanicalsand other yummy treats from SoCal foodtrucks, the outdoor event is something that both women hope will highlight Los Angeles’s creative culture and unique character while also building community. 

“Two years ago, I’d have been equally likely to believe I’d be standing on the top of Everest as I would being CEO of an LA-based art show with one of my best friends at my side, but here we are and I couldn’t feel more motivated,” Domzalski says.

While her primary roles in BloomLA have been business operations and finance/resource management, she’s also found a love of refurbishing things destined for landfills and making them into art.

handmade flower crownsOne of the biggest pieces that will be transported to the space for the June show is a small home seeming to spillover with flowers. From the kitchen to the bedroom and bathrooms, the curators – Domzalski and Wish – repurposed discarded furniture and appliances into receptacles for roses and bins designated for daisies.

“There’s an armoire so full of flowers the blooms look like they’re bursting from it,” says Domzalski. Guests will be able to “soak” in a full sized tub of lavender scented seeds and snap a few selfies in a king-sized bed of roses. Guests will be invited to make wishes under seven-foot dandelions and tangle themselves in a jungle of handcrafted vines.

The business partners held a preview show in April to much applause; guests loved the interactive displays that allowed them to toss the petals in the air, run though the honeycomb maze, and build terrariums while spending time with their friends and families, creating art together, Domzalski says.

One of her favorite parts of all of the planning has been the growing partnership with local beekeepers, specifically the non-profit HoneyLove (for which BloomLA is collecting donations via their website) and The Valley Hive. Both collectives are committed to urban bee keeping and sustainable, bee-friendly practices for homeowners and gardeners in LA, OC, and the Valley.

“It’s such a natural connection – without bees, we don’t have flowers and without flowers we don’t have food. So anything we can do to help support habitats for native species, protect existing hives and generally bring more awareness to this critical cause, the better.”

It seems fitting that she’s drawn to a community-building collectives; the same type of atmosphere shaped her UCI experience and it’s what she’s trying to build with BloomLA. 

“It’s so exciting to pursue an opportunity that builds community and starts to gain traction. Numbers nerd or not, the effort feels like art when you find your passion.”

-Heather Ashbach, UCI School of Social Sciences.

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For Anteaters – alumni, students, faculty and staff – around LA interested in visiting the show in June, Domzalski is offering a 25% discount using the code zotzotzot. Learn more at www.bloomartshow.com. And be on the lookout for their next stop – additional city scheduling will be released following the Griffith Park opening.

Pictured: Stephanie Domzalski was 14 years in on a career as a school psychologist when she decided to take a chance on a creative endeavor. Guests at the BloomLA preview show donned handmade flower crowns. Guests at BloomLA in June will wander under seven-foot dandelions as they explore the interactive installations in Griffith Park. Photos courtesy of BloomLA and Luis Fonseca, UCI.

 

 

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