2019 in Review & What Is Ahead at NYBG
Carrie Rebora Barratt, Ph.D., is CEO and The William C. Steere Sr. President of The New York Botanical Garden.
Reflecting on a rewarding year at The New York Botanical Garden, we express gratitude and are inspired with forward-looking energy. Thanks to your support we are at the center of the conversation about plants, people, and the planet. Highlights from 2019 include:
Caring for Our Living Collections
The renovation of our Enid A. Haupt Conservatory palm dome exemplifies our dedication to past and future: a complex project that first and foremost cares for our treasured Conservatory and its collections. The capital project replaces the compression ring and provides necessary upgrades in heating, offices, and restrooms. Every element of our mission—plant research and conservation, horticulture, and education—converges in this New York City landmark. During the project, we were inspired to celebrate our collections by highlighting staff favorites in our ongoing exhibition, Biophilia: Sharing Our #plantlove.
With the palm dome project underway, we took our world-class exhibition program out into the Garden to create a beautiful Brazilian modernist landscape, designed by Raymond Jungles channeling his great mentor, Roberto Burle Marx. Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx was a great success, with more than 200,000 visitors who were transported to Rio in the Bronx. Next, as fall’s changing leaves, giant pumpkins, and scarecrows evoked awe and wonder, our first Composer-in-Residence, Angélica Negrón, activated our landscape with her participatory, site-specific Chorus of the Forest. Her composition situated several local choral groups throughout the Thain Family Forest, combining their voices with the sounds of nature, creating a wondrous experience of the Garden’s complex ecosystems.
Educating Students of All Ages About Plant Science
NYBG is the country’s premier environmental education institution for students of all ages and skill levels. In 2019 the Garden provided hands-on science and edible gardening programs to 330,000 children, families, students, and teachers. In June our Edible Academy celebrated its one-year anniversary and reached its 100,000-visitor milestone, each and every visitor engaging in the future of food, sustainable agricultural practices, and nature as horticultural therapy. Over the year, I watched children propagate, plant, nurture, grow, harvest, and cook vegetables of all kinds; families in rapt attention watching bees and other pollinators; and many other visitors engaged in activities central to our health and well-being.
This year also marked the 100-year anniversary of the Garden’s offerings of formal continuing education classes, including horticultural therapy and professional training for veterans returning from World War I. As we look forward, we will continue to expand our cutting-edge educational programs, reaching plant lovers from children to adults in life-changing ways, transformative ways, including a new program for veterans in 2020.
Serving Our Bronx Community
Bronx Green-Up, the core of NYBG’s community gardening outreach programs for over 30 years, supports our neighbors turning vacant lots into a network of flourishing vegetable gardens, where the NYC Compost Project, hosted by NYBG, also thrives. Our Wellness Wednesdays program flourished with activities focused on healthy choices for mind and body, from local food at our Farmers Market to forest bathing, all on the day when admission is free to all. Our annual Community Holiday Open House delighted Bronx families by providing thousands of complimentary Holiday Train Show tickets through local organizations dedicated to serving our Bronx community.
Protecting Earth’s Biodiversity
The Garden’s critical work both locally and abroad to promote plants and the importance of plant life reached new heights this year. As part of our commitment to conservation and the environment, NYBG increased its participation in Climate Week NYC in conjunction with the UN Climate Action Summit. On the day of the 2019 Global Climate Strike, the Garden granted free admission to all visitors. Throughout the week, NYBG hosted special programs and activities that inspired visitors to value the vital role of plants in the world, including a special viewing and discussion in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library of important holdings related to ecology, the environment, and botanical conservation efforts.
In September, NYBG’s Center for Conservation Strategy hosted the Second Annual New York City EcoFlora Conference, the theme of which was The Historical Flora of New York City: Implications for Conservation Action. The Conference recognized the contributions of Citizen Scientists, past and present, in helping to document the City’s plant life. The Garden will now scale up this project nationally by expanding to four other botanical gardens: Chicago Botanic Garden, Denver Botanic Gardens, Desert Botanical Garden, and Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. These organizations will implement the same research techniques, which will inform how communities study and conserve their local environments.
NYBG scientist and Amazon expert Dr. Doug Daly continued his important long-term project in the Brazilian state of Rondônia—the epicenter of this year’s forest degradation and fires in the Amazon. He mobilized local colleagues to implement a new strategy for sustainable forest management focused on training community members. More trainings with local collaborators are planned for the new year and the years to come, in the Amazon and other areas of botanical concern.
Dawn of a New Decade
2020 marks the beginning of a new life cycle for our iconic living museum, enhancing our focus on innovative education programs, plant science, and enriching the Garden experience. We are engaged in a strategic planning process, setting the course for continuity, stewardship, and growth for years to come. Our dedicated Board of Trustees as well as our staff across the Garden are engaged, energized, and deliberating about the present and future of our venerable institution.
Looking ahead to a new year for our renowned exhibitions program, the extraordinary Jeff Leatham is Guest Designer for The Orchid Show, a not-to-be-missed kaleidoscopic spectacle that opens on February 15. Beginning May 9, we will see the natural world through the eyes of internationally celebrated artist Yayoi Kusama. Our exclusive presentation places an array of her work across our landmark landscape and buildings. Kusama will reveal her lifelong fascination with the natural world in-depth through multiple installations, immersing visitors in plants—at a time when plants are ever more vital to the health of the planet and all of us.
We look forward to seeing you at the Garden often. We thank you for your support as we look to the new decade with a shared and urgent responsibility, both locally and globally.