Mum’s the word

Wade Family Funeral Home Oct 2020

Some things just go together like football and Texas and homecoming mums.

Amy Schultz, Arlington Museum of Art’s first artist-in-residence, is naturally curious and wanted to learn more about the Texas tradition of homecoming mums. In the process, she created Mumentous: the Upsizing of a Texas Tradition which will run Sept. 27-Nov. 23 at the museum.

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Arlington Museum of Art Artist-in-Residence Amy Schultz will be featured in an exhibit, “Mumentous: the Upsizing of a Texas Tradition,” which runs Sept. 27-Nov. 23 at the museum. (Photo: Karen Gavis)

The exhibit will combine photography, text and a 3D installation, as well as a short video about the history of mums. In addition, the artist will recreate a typical scene from a football game or pep rally before homecoming when the extreme floral creations are sometimes grouped together along a chain link fence.

“It’s sort of iconic,” Schultz says of the imagery.

Schultz, whose exhibit is Texas-focused, says she learned through research that homecomings originated around 1910-1920 at the college level, either at Baylor University or in Missouri.

“Mums probably started appearing in the ‘30s” she says of the hearty flowers, adding that as a corsage, they hold up rather well.

Prices can range from $20 for a make-at-home mum to $500 for a high-end, custom-made, store-bought creation. Prices can also vary widely between rural and urban areas, and Schultz says the elaborate, mega mums seen on social media are the exception but not the rule.

During her quest to photograph or collect a mum from 3,700 high schools across Texas, the 54-year-old has traveled both virtually and by car. However, she says she’s more interested in who’s making the mums than the mums themselves. And along the way, she has heard some beautiful and powerful stories.

For instance, when one Arlington High School senior wore a white dress with a spectacular white and silver mum draped over her shoulder with flowers and ribbons cascading down the front and back, Schultz asked her about it. The student replied, “ever since I was a kid, my grandma and I had planned to make my senior mum together, and this is the mum that my grandma and I made together. I’ve been looking forward to this for years.”

If someone talks about a mum long enough, Schultz says a grandmother, mother, aunt or another special woman in her life will enter the story. It’s something she has discovered again and again.

Schultz, whose commercial work consists of studio photography and writing, says she’s thankful AMA has given her a platform to accelerate her work, reach more people and continue learning. Her residency will run through December, at which time she hopes to have completed a book of no less than 150 pages containing photography, storytelling and a bit of a memoir.

“It’s been impossible for me to avoid my own sentimental feelings of my own mom during this journey,” she says.  “Mom and I never made a mum together, but she sure sewed a lot of costumes … and I’ve certainly had similar experiences.”

Still, Schultz says the exhibit is not about her but about the mums, the people involved in the tradition and the jingling sound of the bells that are attached and can be heard whenever the mums are worn.

“Students today are carrying the tradition forward,” she says. “And they’re doing it in their own way.”

Schultz moved to Texas around 2002 after growing up in Florida. Although she now lives in Trophy Club, she says she feels at home in Arlington. Selections of her photography can be seen at Urban Alchemy coffee + wine bar (403 E. Main St.).

UTA April 2020