Bill McKinley, director of the Benz School of Floral Design at Texas A&M University, plans to bring technology to use in the floral industry.
“The more you use flowers, the more you want to use them,” said McKinley. “Research shows that there is a connection between happiness and flowers. So why wouldn’t you want to have some happiness on your kitchen table?”
When it was started in 1945, the Benz School was one of the first short courses in the industry. It’s founder, M. Buddy Benz, had the goal of teaching excellence in floral design, and the school’s curriculum is based on the solid foundations of classic elements and principles of design. McKinley plans to carry on those ideals to new generation florists and consumers, and he has his artistic eye on a technological way to do that – via the Internet and social media.
Since he became director of the Benz school, the only floral design course in the nation affiliated with an institute of higher learning, McKinley has been pursuing ways to link the tactile nature of flower arranging with the mechanics of technology.
McKinley has already begun to “infuse technology” with current students as well as throughout the industry through collaborations. Among the potential methods are online courses and free video chat rooms.
“Being an art form, floral design is so personal. Whether you like something or you don’t depends on your aesthetics and your background,” he said. “So with respect to color, if I say the color ‘mauve,’ I have a perception of what mauve is, and you have a perception of what mauve is. But they might not be the same. What technology can do for us is provide that point of reference.”
Benz was a graduate of the Texas A&M class of 1932 in landscape architecture. After military service, he established a landscape and floral design business in Houston, Texas. He soon became known for his innovative style and exciting forms.
As Benz neared retirement, he decided to establish a unique legacy at Texas A&M. When he established the Benz School, he also set up the San Jacinto Publishing Company at A&M, giving it the publishing copyrights to his books. Finally, he donated his collection of fine art and photography to the University, now displayed in the Benz Gallery of Floral Art housed in the atrium of the Horticulture/Forest Science Building.
The family of Benz established the world’s only chair in floral design at Texas A&M University following his death in 1980. The first holder of the Benz chair was James L. Johnson, who was personally asked to serve as the director by Benz.
Benz School classes consist of two-week short courses and three-day weekend advanced classes. Two-week classes consist of lectures and hands-on instruction. Students are introduced to every aspect of the floral business – from corsages and wedding bouquets to potted plants and funeral tributes.
As classes are limited in number, the instructors are able to give individual attention to each student’s designs. Principles and elements of design are emphasized and discussed in detail along with flower shop management and basic business practices. Three-day weekend classes consist of topics such as holiday and special event designs.
This is an excerpt from Flowers Go Techno at Texas A&M’s Floral Design School from AgriLife Today.
You can support the Benz School of Floral Design, research and academics in Texas A&M’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation.
Senior Director of Development, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
(979) 845-8161 or (800) 392-3310