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Hastings artist’s work gaining national recognition

It’s been just over a year since Hastings resident and artist David Cook started planting flowers around the metro area. The flowers, brightly colored blooms that sometimes stand taller than an average adult, appear in all sorts of locations. They started in a junkyard and have migrated to beaches, hospitals, schools, roadside snowbanks, corporate headquarters, city halls and more.

Cook’s flowers exist for one reason: make people smile.

“Nobody sees these and frowns,” he said.

“It’s a beautiful simple thing, and that’s what people love and need and want.”

While catching some sun on Florida’s Coacoa Beach recently, the flowers caught the attention of Florida Today, a daily newspaper covering Brevard County, Fla. From there, they were picked up by the Associated Press news service, and the story spread to a few large news outlets, including USA Today and the Houston Chronicle.

Cook was in St. Louis, Mo., visiting the Gateway Arch, when he got a message on Facebook telling him how far the story had spread. Seeing his work earn national recognition was a bit of a surprise.

“I was just shaking, I couldn’t even hold my phone,” he said.

Although he was initially excited when he first found out his work is starting to go viral, Cook is back into his normal routine, making flowers and finding places to put them on display.

“I’ve got to keep doing it,” he said. “I can’t rest on my laurels.”

Work in progress

When Cook started making his flowers, they were made of cardboard and duct tape. They were flat, so he had to install them, for the most part, in a straight line if they were to be seen easily.

Since the beginning, though, the flowers have been ever changing. Now he’s using wire, so he can create a more 3-dimensional look.

He also added butterflies.

A couple months ago, he said, he considered leaving flowers and his nickname, the “flower bomber,” behind and trading them in for butterflies. The shift didn’t stick, though, and now his duct tape gardens are full of flowers and butterflies.

He’s also moved his work out of his garage and into a formal studio space. Cook now makes his flowers in the back of the Spool House building at Fifth and Vermillion streets.

“It’s like the best space in Hastings,” Cook said.

Planting new gardens

Deciding where to place his flowers and butterflies is a little less planning and a little more whimsy.

“Wherever I go, I flower bomb,” Cook said.

On his trip back home to Hastings after his stay in Florida, he planted flowers pretty much anywhere he stopped. One of those places was the ShurTech headquarters in Avon, Ohio. ShurTech manufactures the Duck brand of duct tape. The impromptu garden earned him a few cases of free Duck tape, Cook said, which has definitely helped his budget.

“I spend all my money on duct tape,” he said, but that’s OK with him.

“I’m just the broke flower bomber, and that’s OK,” he said. “All my needs are met. … I just want to spread the word. This is my mission.”

Now that he’s back in Hastings, Cook continues to find places for his colorful creations. He has a huge installation in the lobby of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, on display for the showing of the Children’s Theatre Company’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar. The display will be up until Feb. 28.

Cook also has a musical opening this fall in Minneapolis. “Lemonade for the Lawnboy” is based on his book of the same title, which was co-authored by Cook and Janet Letnes Martin, who is also a Hastings resident.