Hang it Up

Exhibition, A Publicity Tool 

By Carol Woodin

Originally appeared in The Botanical Artist – Volume 17, Issue 4


Each year when I travel to the Annual Meeting and Conference, I’m struck by how active and varied ASBA’s exhibitions calendar is. With a mission to encourage further development in this art form and to educate the public about the genre, one of our most important tools is the exhibition. It serves to educate our membership as well. Artists learn the nuts and bolts of showing their work in any setting: how to submit materials for the jurors and the show, how to present one’s work according to that exhibition’s individual standards, and how to pack and ship an artwork. 

While observing artists gathered around the Small Works artworks, perhaps the most important educational aspect became apparent. Artists talk to others to understand their vision, techniques, and materials. This active discussion results in an open exchange of knowledge and experience, with all participants learning, whether first-time or seasoned exhibitors. 

How can we increase our opportunities to exhibit, and open exhibitions to more members? This is an ongoing question. Part of the answer lies in the structure of exhibitions within the ASBA, and part lies in the actions of individual members. Detailed below are some of the types of ASBA exhibitions possible and how they come about. 

International Juried Exhibitions: Open to submissions from all members. Held at high-profile venues with specific gallery standards as set out in our guidelines, they can be the result of ideas from participants, Exhibitions Committee, or Board members. The Annual exhibition at the Horticultural Society of New York is an example, as is the upcoming Bartram’s Garden exhibition, conceived and organized by former Board member and participant Ellen Petersen. 

Tailored to reach a national audience, they require a great deal of lead-time, a high level of venue participation, and are increasingly based on a theme. The number of artwork slots is limited by gallery size, and by the number of exhibitions per year. In a year there are about 85–130 slots. 

International Non-Juried Exhibitions: Open to any member who submits, these are enthusiastically endorsed by ASBA participants. Small Works exhibitions are in this category. They have been limited to ASBA Conference participants, and are organized by the Conference host Chapter. The works are limited in size for a variety of logistical reasons, and hanging time is short. Exhibitions have been held at ASBA conferences in Denver, Pasadena, and Boston, with one scheduled in Chicago in 2012. 

This is a great venue for first time ASBA exhibitors; in Boston there were 80 first time. The number of artwork slots, based on this year’s participation, is about 130. 

Chapter Exhibitions: These are exhibitions organized by Chapters or Artist Circles. Generated by members and generally open to members only, these may be annual, quarterly, “oneoffs”, or themed exhibitions. Other chapter offerings ask artists to provide a given number of artworks (1 or 2), and sometimes on-site jurying takes place to winnow entries to a pre-determined number. Occasionally these exhibitions are juried from submissions. For example, RMSBA chapter had a regional “oneoff” exhibition for ASBA artists in the western region of the US, jurored by Dr. Shirley Sherwood and Dr. Brinsley Burbidge. 

These events are valuable to ASBA members. They increase the number of artists able to exhibit in a given year, expose botanical art to viewers where members live, and build relationships between artists and institutions regionally. This vehicle is “robust”, according to an article in September’s Journal by Joyce Westner and Nancy Savage (pp. 21-22). An estimate of the number of slots available in a given year is over 800. 

Other Exhibition Types: Not all exhibitions reported in our Journal are organized by the ASBA. We print calls and announcements for shows organized by member institutions and galleries that hold exhibitions featuring one or more ASBA participants, as space allows. These are further opportunities for our members, and round out a vital exhibition calendar for the genre.