Natalie Gill Selected as Art Alive Rotunda Designer

Render of Art Alive floral installation in San Diego Museum of Art

A beloved San Diego tradition, Art Alive is the San Diego Museum of Art’s annual fundraiser that provides support for arts education and special exhibitions. Each spring, the museum invites florists to create stunning floral interpretations of artworks in the museum's collection. The masterpiece of Art Alive is the museum’s Rotunda, filled with an epic, two-story floral installation that highlights the work of one floral designer.

We are thrilled to announce that Natalie Gill, founder of Native Poppy, has been selected by the San Diego Museum of Art to design the floral Rotunda Art Installation for the Art Alive 2023 exhibition. 

Along with her team of skilled floral designers, Natalie will create a floral installation that will serve as a stunning, immersive experience for the museum’s guests. Participating in Art Alive has long been a goal of Natalie’s, and her team is ready for the challenge.

Art Alive floral installation rendering

“When we first attended Art Alive at the San Diego Museum of Art, Carlos from Green Fresh Florals was exhibiting in the rotunda,” says Natalie. “I was in awe of how big it was, how many flowers he got to use, and what it took to build that large of an installation. That time in my career I was doing small arrangements, and the thought of getting to do that large of installation was daunting and overwhelming, yet I thought it would be such an honor to get my artistry and business to that large of a scale! Native Poppy was just a baby business then, and I wasn’t doing large hanging installations yet, but we were able to learn and work with larger teams, and bigger budgets, and we’re ready to take on this monumental project.”

90 other florists will participate in Art Alive by creating small-scale floral arrangements that interpret or complement an artwork from the museum's collection. The floral designs are displayed in the museum alongside the original piece, allowing visitors to experience the artwork in a new way. Art Alive is an opportunity for the community to come together and celebrate art, culture, and flowers.

Over the last 42 years the event has become highly anticipated for San Diegans, who look forward to seeing the museum transformed by the stunning floral displays. “It’s more overwhelming than any other installation I've ever done,” says Natalie. “It’s such a huge honor and I just want to do an amazing job! We’ve always made it a goal to do this exhibition and it’s very wild that it’s finally here!”

Put Natalie in the same room with flowers and lock the door; you’re bound to see a work of art. Think of her as a young Georgia O’Keeffe… but her medium is flowers!

Natalie founded Native Poppy in 2014, aiming to share her love of floral design with the San Diego community. What started as a small flower stand has blossomed into three flower shops across the city, named best florist in San Diego by both San Diego Magazine and SD Reader.

wedding and event planning dragon table floral arch

Planner: CCL Weddings and Events Photo: Paige Nelson Photography

Art Alive isn’t the first time Natalie and the Native Poppy team have pushed their petals beyond their comfort zones. In 2018 they opened two new flower shops in two months! Native Poppy has flowered for many high-profile events in San Diego and beyond. Their reputation for quality and creativity has made them one of the most sought-after floral design companies in the area.

“When I first started working with flowers, it was only me,” said Natalie. “I started with weddings and pop-ups, but I was very intrigued by weddings because I saw there was an opportunity to do large-scale installations and work with my hands and create large-scale art. I loved the concept of the styling tables, elaborate installations, you name it! I saw an opportunity to serve my community by opening retail shops where I could share my love of flowers every day. But weddings and events are where I get to take my creativity even further.” 

Art Alive flower crown making class

This isn’t Natalie’s first rodeo working in collaboration with the San Diego Museum of Art!

Native Poppy has hosted multiple workshops in partnership with the museum, to build excitement and anticipation for Art Alive. “Native Poppy’s co-owner Meg Blancato led a flower crown making workshop in 2019, and in 2020 I taught a flower arranging class in a remote environment,” says Natalie.

“In 2022, SDMA came to us with the brilliant idea of doing ‘Petal Pops’! Leading up to Art Alive, we went around San Diego and installed these surprise art installations, where the community didn’t know when or where they were going to be installed – they just magically appeared," she says.

Natalie standing under Petal Pop in 2022

Petal Pops will be returning this year, led once again by the Native Poppy team!

“We are donating our time with our team and a ton of amazing freelancers where we’ll be popping up around iconic San Diego locations to install petal pops this year,” says Natalie. “But it’s a secret as to when they’ll appear! We’ll announce the day of. We’re trying new and wild installations that we’ve never tried before and all of our flowers get donated from our long-time partners, Cali Wholesale Flowers,” she said.

Art Alive Petal Pops made by Native Poppy

The Rotunda Art Installation at the San Diego Museum of Art will be one of Natalie's most impressive projects to date! The installation is a stunning display, featuring a lofty structure of cascading blooms in pink, coral, blush, berry and crimson. The design is meant to complement the museum's collection of art and to create an immersive experience for visitors. “We will be incorporating the Pantone color of the year, which is magenta! We will use hot pink, cherry blossoms of spring, coral tones, and our signature color: peach,” says Natalie.

Floral installation mood board

Natalie and her team have spent months working on the installation design, carefully researching which flowers and foliage will be used. They worked with the museum's staff to ensure that the installation will be seamless, protecting both the priceless artworks, and the living blooms.

“One of the most challenging things we have to do is keep the installation fresh all weekend long. We have been working hard on our water source and using materials that will last,” she says. “A base of tumbleweeds that I will spray paint will be a lightweight structure. We are trying to approach this project as sustainably as possible. There have been talks about using reusable water tubes and moss, and staying away from floral foam which is toxic for the environment.”

Native Poppy's growth and success can be attributed to Natalie's passion and dedication to her craft. She has created a company that values creativity, quality, and commitment to excellence. They are constantly pushing the boundaries of floral design and are always looking for new and innovative ways to create beautiful and unique installations.

Natalie Gill standing in front of Native Poppy's flower delivery van

Photo credit: Brogen Jessup

Being selected for Art Alive 2023 as the main florist for the Rotunda Art Installation is a testament to Natalie’s passion and creativity. Her vision, combined with the skill and dedication of her team at Native Poppy, is what keeps the company blooming. This will be Natalie’s first art installation since welcoming her beautiful baby girl, Hazel, and we can’t wait to see her knock us off our feet with this extraordinary display.

To learn more about how you can collaborate with Native Poppy’s full service floral design team, contact!


See you at the museum,

- Liz