Gwen Morovitz, Editor in Chief

Homecoming is a tradition celebrated annually across the nation, regardless of the state you live in or school you attend. When one thinks of homecoming, some might picture a football team or a parade Amy Schultz pictures the incredible tradition of mums.

To honor this unique tradition, Schultz and her team in Arlington have created “Mumentous,” an exhibit featured at the Arlington Museum of Art from September 27 to November 24. Featured in the exhibit are numerous photographs taken by Schultz to commemorate mums and the mum-making process in all its glory.

Gwen Morovitz
The wall of mums and garters displays a variety of mums ranging from freshman to senior levels and some from before the 2000’s as well.

The exhibit begins with a beautiful representation of homecoming day. Surrounded by the audio of bells and ribbons clashing together, one is immersed into the experience as if reliving a homecoming night. The chain link wall of a total of 94 mums and garters displays examples of incredible creations from nearby high schools, with mums dating back to the 1980’s, including one specifically designed for a girl with cerebral palsy and wheelchair bound. The idea of the art is inspired by enhancing a tradition.

Next to a display of bleachers and astroturf, the mum exhibit continues with photographs of how schools mass produce mums as fundraisers for various organizations. Nolan Catholic is one of these schools, reaching upwards of $15,000 a year based on mum sales alone. 

“Much more profitable than cookie sales,” Schultz said.

Schultz uses black and white filters on all of her photos as a way to neutralize the story. By keeping the school colors out of the photos, each piece is united in harmony to focus the eyes of the beholder on the art of the mum, rather than its association by school.

Upstairs holds the heart of the exhibit, opening with Schultz’s “Madonna piece” as she so creatively puts it, which shows a high schooler posed in a photograph with a mum made by her mother, and a photo of the mother and daughter as the centerpiece in the creation. Schultz wanted to highlight the importance of the moms, aunts, and the numerous women who have dedicated hours upon hours of their time, money, and effort into creating such incredible works of art to uphold this beautiful Texas tradition. 

“This tradition and all traditions revolve around a strong woman central role,” Schultz said. Without this role she believes none of this would be possible.

Some women have taken this once a year tradition to a whole new level. Kisha Crooks is the founder of the organization Mums Inc. She is one of many women who took the art of mum making and found ways to make a living from it. The men at her original IT job used to joke with her about her hobby; however, this so-called hobby has effectively funded her mortgage and provides her with plenty of profit.

The money isn’t the objective of Mums Inc. The organization holds meetings and conventions where mum business owners from all over the state meet and share ideas, tips, tricks, and techniques as a creative way to learn from other artists and business women.

Schultz’s favorite mum in the exhibit is the origami mum, made by Ellen Fithian for her daughter, Kiana Fithian at Flower Mound High School in 2017. 

“It is so unusual and very inexpensive to make, and yet it is so incredibly special and nothing will ever be like it,” Schultz said.

Schultz also sheds light on what she calls the “Alt Mum Movements” such as Keller High School’s Drop the Mum initiative. Such a controversial topic in the mum making world is something you wouldn’t expect in a mum-glorifying exhibit, but Schultz says it’s all a part of the ever-evolving tradition. 

“I prefer the programs that still build on traditions, rather than replacing them completely. Such as Reedy High School. They use real chrysanthemum flowers and sell them for 30 to 40 dollars. Most of that money goes to local food banks.” Schultz said. 

She loves the idea of preserving that tradition whilst still providing help to those in need. 

“Why not downsize your mum and still give to charity?” Schultz said. “it allows a diversity of opinion creativity and welcomes alternative points of view.”

The hardest part was branching out from her niche of writing and photography. Turning two-dimensional art into a three-dimensional experience is not an easy task. 

“I’ve never done anything like this before,” Schultz said, “once I realized I was telling a story it got easier.”

What Schultz might not have expected was not only telling one story, but many stories, from mum makers, to high schoolers, to charity work, “Mumentous” has told the story of many, all surrounding the same incredible tradition. 

“If I limited myself to only a photographer and writer, this would have been a completely different exhibit,” Schultz said.

Working at The University of Texas Arlington for 13 years in community relations helped Schultz branch out to not only use her own journalistic talents, but also allowed the community to feel involved in the process of bringing this project to life. The emotional commitment to each of the 94 mums and garters lovingly hung on the wall truly represents the effort of the community to telling the same story that she is trying to convey.

“This exhibit is to evoke sentimentality,” Schultz said.

And that it does. From the Whataburger garter provided by Keller student Matthew Scoma, to the dated mums with dried flowers still attached, one can truly experience not only the creative process of mums, but also the inclusive history and ever changing tradition that is in no sight of ending.