Lewis Miller is a floral designer by day. But by night, he’s known as “the Banksy of Floral Design.” Perhaps you have happened upon one of these striking floral creations that materialize (as if by magic) in our neighborhoods, and thought you had reached nirvana, or heaven, or somewhere other than New York City. But these flower explosions are neither happy accidents, city-sponsored beautification, nor magical thinking. They are installations — living works of art that blossom over garbage cans, manhole covers, construction sites, subway entrances, traffic signs — and are the brainchild of Lewis Miller. He calls these creations Flower Flashes. This writer can attest that there truly is nothing quite like the experience of happening upon them, and you are lucky if you do!
Miller describes himself as a person in “constant pursuit of beauty.” Born and raised in California farm country amid olive, almond, and peach orchards, he developed a respect for nature at an early age. At eighteen, he moved to Seattle, where he studied horticulture and landscape design. After a few years of pursuing his interests in design, flowers, and event planning, Miller moved to New York, where he worked for one of the city’s top floral boutiques. In March of 2002, Miller’s vision of country life in a metropolitan setting inspired him to create Lewis Miller Design. His goal is to elicit a positive, emotional response with flowers…and that is the main message of his guerilla-style floral installations that pop up all over our streets. His Flower Flashes began as a random act of kindness, and a random act of flowers.
While his professional business began to bloom at 441 East 12th Street in the East Village, and as he gained more and more illustrious clients, he began to feel the urgency to find a way to offer something back to his newfound community. After an event he produced in 2016, he was riding home on the subway with an arm full of showstopping peonies. As heads turned and craned to look his way, he realized that the people were not looking at him, they were looking at the flowers. The popping peonies were on their last glorious legs — big and fluffy with blown-out petals, and breathtaking. He realized at that moment that flowers had become like wallpaper or furniture to him. Working with them every day, he had become desensitized to their allure and attraction.
He thought “How better to counter my professional norm of throwing extravagant parties for my fortunate clients (and then throwing out the phenomenal flowers) than by giving something just as gorgeous to the everyday New Yorker? He decided that he would begin to repurpose the blooms to create random positive experiences throughout the city.
Mr. Miller has been particularly busy during the pandemic. His pandemic-era flashes have more and more centered on hospitals and places of health care with an aim toward honoring the healthcare front-line workers. These have been met with particular enthusiasm. Social media viewers from around the world have sent him hundreds of heartfelt letters and fan art. Bette Midler (a former resident of Barrow Street, by the by) raves about his work on Instagram.
This installation popped up as a tribute to Ukrainians and those suffering the scourge of war in that country. The photograph of the installation is available for purchase on his website. This is a very special and rare print and proceeds from the sale will go directly to Ukraine relief, specifically the United Nations Refugee Agency, a non-profit organization providing urgent humanitarian support to those suffering in Ukraine, with a focus on food, water, medicine, clothing, and shelter.
“During good times, flowers are awesome, we all know that,” Mr. Miller said. “But now more than ever, we need flowers in the city. Who isn’t looking for a little joy?”
Thank you, Lewis Miller, for bringing us random acts of joy! And kindness without boundaries.