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Fairies flutter amid flowers at Montgomery Museum

Fairies flutter amid flowers at Montgomery Museum

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Blacksburg area artist Robi Sallee contributed a two-story fairy house to the new "Mushrooms and Fairies" outdoor art show at the Montgomery Museum of Art and History in Christiansburg. The show starts April 1 and runs until June. Tonia Moxley/The Roanoke Times

CHRISTIANSBURG — "Wouldn't it be fun?"

A year into a global pandemic, that thought was all the impetus Outdoor Art Coordinator Diane Relf said she needed to mount a new exhibit at the Montgomery Museum of Art & History.

"Mushrooms and Fairies" went on display on April Fools' Day in the museum garden and will run through June, Relf said.

A dozen artists from the Blacksburg Regional Art Association have contributed a range of sculptures and "found art" pieces done in a variety of mixed media. 

The fairies are thought to have first moved into this garden tucked behind the downtown commercial district when Beth Umberger wanted to keep festival-goers from trampling the plants.

Umberger, a Master Gardener, leads a crew of volunteers who maintain the garden. But visitors to the annual Heritage Festival sometimes took short cuts through the flower beds.

So Umberger built a brick folly to redirect the traffic. She intended to take it down, but then a young volunteer wanted to fill it with soil and plant a garden for the little people, Umberger said.

Now several miniature homes have sprouted amidst the folly’s succulents and small trees. There’s even a town clock on one of the wee buildings.

And this month they've attracted other magical visitors, such as the life-sized “Flutter the Flower Fairy” art sculpture by Pam Goff and strange fungi like the “Coronaroom," a gourd fashioned into a mushroom made to look like the coronavirus by Riley Chan.

The neighborhood has expanded to include Robi Sallee's two-story Fairy Home with three families in residence: the metal fairies, the feather fairies (and their two featherless babies) and the seashell fairies. Their new bark-clad home has chairs, a dining table and a moss-covered bed.

"I got a little carried away," Sallee said.

And Relf has contributed about two-dozen mushroom sculptures done in everything from concrete to rusty metal.

Relf, a retired horticulture extension specialist began working with the Montgomery Museum about three years ago, when she convinced artists to paint scenes on a stack of old windows, which Relf and handyman husband Dave installed around the grounds. 

“She has a lot of energy,” museum Executive Director Sue Farrar said. “She never gets a no from me.”

Relf has also helped arrange outdoor exhibits at the Blacksburg Museum and the Hahn Horticulture Garden at Virginia Tech and is working on projects for the Floyd Art Center.

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