Your Impact: 2022-2023 Report
Engaging Exhibits and Returning Audiences
“Artistic Pilgrimages” to the Glass Houses Become a Rare Opportunity for Burgeoning Artists to Showcase Their Work
Susan Montgomery, Lecturer in Art, took her Drawing I class to Lyman Conservatory for the first time in the Fall of 2021 looking for a convenient place for beginning art students to hone their artistic skills and be inspired. The visits kept coming, growing to include students in Montgomery’s Studio Art Foundations course and stretching over three semesters as multiple classes explored how artistic representations can be a vehicle for artists–and their audiences–to connect meaningfully with place, space and each other. “The garden gave students a place to create expressive, site-responsive pieces and be excited about the natural world,” said Montgomery.
With support from a botanic garden curricular enhancement grant and lessons from expert botanic garden staff about plant morphology, adaptation, and what a plant’s form tells botanists about its ecology and place in the world, these “artistic pilgrimages” as Montgomery describes them grew into an exciting and exceptionally rare opportunity for emerging artists to display their work, experience bringing a show to life, and see how their work was received by viewers.
Montgomery wrote in the show’s accompanying website that “the opportunity to escape to the otherworldly charm of the conservatory and interact directly with the space, its collections, and with the people responsible for its care was meaningful to all of us. The students worked in every plant house and lab, even having a few nighttime drawing sessions when the inside was lit up and surrounded by the outside darkness.”
The sentiment was shared by Isa Norris-Howard ’26 and Ciara McKay ’24, two of Montgomery’s students who wrote about the experience, “The plant houses became our studio as we spent time observing, sketching and sculpting within the glass walls. We took inspiration from the scientific makeup of plants, plant structures, the repeated forms in nature, and the beautiful, whimsical nature of the rare and more common plants that we learned about.”
Into the Glasshouse was on display in the Church Gallery from January 20 to June 8, 2023.
Other Original Exhibits from 2022-2023
October 19, 2022 to December 16, 2022 – Developed by the Pioneer Valley Workers Center with support from the Botanic Garden of Smith College, the botanic garden’s first ever fully bilingual exhibit portrayed the experiences of local farmworkers in Western, MA. Through the words, portraits and audio recordings of members of our community, No Somos Máquinas explored the broken immigration system, the exclusion of farmworkers from basic labor protections, and the conditions that have compelled them to rise up.
June 20, 2023 to August 4, 2023 – Designed by Botanic Garden Student Educators and created as a way to invite children into the botanic garden, Exploratorium was a multisensory experience anchored on five children’s story books and featuring a number of activities related to these story books including scavenger hunts, a scent exploration table, and opportunities to “please touch!” odd and interesting materials from the gardens. The indoor and outdoor exhibit aimed to foster curiosity for and connection to the natural world through storytelling, play and exploration through reading and sharing stories about habitat, home, a sense of place and family. Explore the archive of the exhibit.
Scenes from the 2022-2023 Exhibits
Visitation Returns to Pre-Pandemic Levels
Lyman visitors, ↑ 108% over the prior year
Friends of the Botanic Garden fueled our work
public school visits brought 887 students to the botanic garden
Student Leadership Opportunities by the Numbers
Number of students who worked as educators, horticulturists, researchers, and science communicators
Botanic Garden Student Educators (BoGSES) organized 65 potting up appointments and 32 workshops
Exceptional Living Collections
- Over 7,500 individual plants make up the botanic garden’s collections.
- The collections contain 4,712 unique taxa from 220 plant families.
- In 2022-2023 alone, curators added 227 new taxa to the collections including five species added to our germplasm collection*: Chamaecyparis thyoides, Magnolia fraseri, Magnolia ashei, Quercus arkansana, Quercus macrocarpa.
*The botanic garden's germplasm collection is composed of groups of plants collected from wild populations that are genetically diverse enough that they can serve as germplasm for ecologically sound and evolutionarily functional reintroductions in the future.
Escaping the Escalator to Extinction: A Species in Need of Protection Finds an Advocate
Landscape Curator John Berryhill took his first trip to Virginia's Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in 2021 in hopes of answering a simple question with a profound implication: was climate change altering the distribution of Magnolia fraseri, aka mountain magnolia, on the mountain slopes it was confined to? Two more trips would follow, both of those including student co-investigators. Their work revealed a startling pattern: while mature trees were still found throughout the species’ historic elevational range, seedling distribution showed a dramatic shift towards high elevations. This kicked off an ambitious project to better understand the effect of climate change on the future range of this Appalachian mountaintop species which, unlike species found in wider ranges including lower elevations with flatter terrain, cannot simply migrate to cooler climes further north.
In 2022 and 2023, Berryhill and his student researchers sent 700 mountain magnolia seeds to seven partner gardens for safe keeping while expanding their research area to include sites in West Virginia and Georgia to better understand the breadth of the extinction threat. The work also caught the attention of the Global Conservation Consortia for Magnolia who asked the botanic garden to take a leading role in the Global Conservation Consortia’s Magnolia group crafting a conservation action plan that will not only serve this species but, being the first of its kind, will function as a blueprint for action plans for magnolias around the globe.
Botanic Garden Supported
courses taught by
Memberships & Gifts (20%)
Memorial Trees (3%)
Internships & Work Study (7%)
Collections Management (3%)
Exhibits, Shows & Education (3%)