Botanical Beauties

By: Jane Weinke, curator of collections/registrar on June 19th, 2019

For years I’ve referred to myself as a real estate hog. What does that mean for a curator? Well, anytime I see a wall in the Woodson Art Museum sans artwork, I look to enhance it with selections from the collection.

It started simply. My first challenge was to select colorful works for the walls of one of the Museum’s classrooms. The goal was to provide inspiration for workshop and tour participants during art-making programs. Building on that first installation, the exhibitions – like the current Botanical Beauties – complement themes of temporary exhibitions on view.

While the Woodson Art Museum’s collection focuses on art of the natural world with an emphasis on birds, a number of artworks also include native and tropical plants and flowers. The richness of the collection is thanks to gifts and bequests. From those, I discovered twenty-three works – enough to fill both Classroom 1 and 2. Booyah!

The artworks in Botanical Beauties, complementing this summer’s botanical art exhibitions, include tropical and native plants and flowers, including orchids, milkweed pods, montrichardia, and bromeliads. A few of the artists included are Don Richard Eckelberry, Owen J. Gromme, Virginia Nepodal Eckelberry, and Manabu Saito. Each artist spent hours observing the plants and have beautifully depicted them in a variety of mediums.

But, wait. There’s more.

The search for the botanical themed works also revealed eleven pastel drawings by Arthur Singer. These design proposals were for an edition of porcelain collector plates for National Audubon Society and the Franklin Mint. I shared images at a curatorial planning meeting. My very talented colleagues Shannon Pueschner, Dave Jones, and Lisa Hoffman incorporated them into Art Park, our interactive family gallery.

The physical spaces are enriched but why stop there? Let’s go virtual.

Ashley Jablonski, Visitor Services staff member, suggested we use social media to share images and information about artworks currently in the galleries. Thus, was born Artwork of the Month shared via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

For now, I’m content.

Oh, but an additional project using collection works is in development: the location and theme will be revealed in due time. After all, sharing the beautiful works from the collection is my joy, and enhancing visitor experiences is our goal. I’ll try not to over-fill the real estate.


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