Alcatraz Florilegium


Botanical art exhibition of plants growing on Alcatraz opens September 1, 2013

In the Prison Band Rehearsal Room, Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Florilegium, an exhibition of botanical drawings and paintings documenting the plants of the Gardens of Alcatraz, opens on Sunday, September 1, 2013. The exhibition, a project of Northern California Society of Botanical Artists (NCalSBA) in collaboration with the Garden Conservancy, will be open to island visitors through December 31, 2013 in the Alcatraz Prison Band Rehearsal Room. It includes 45 works of art depicting a variety of plant growing on the island. They were created by NCalSBA artists and selected for the exhibition by a jury.
Many of the plants in the exhibition are documented as historic survivors on Alcatraz. In 2003, the Garden Conservancy and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy formed a partnership with the National Park Service and set to work to restore the gardens. Staff and volunteers removed the overgrowth, recovered “survivor” plants hidden beneath the tangled mess, and began to restore and enhance what remained of abandoned gardens that had been created decades earlier by wardens and prisoners. For more than a century, gardens were an important part of everyday life for the officers, families, and prisoners confined to Alcatraz by sentence or duty.
Exhibition entries were selected for criteria of fine art and science, including composition, drawing, technique, and scientific accuracy. NCalSBA artists visited the island—some of them, several times—to view and select a plant to depict, with guidance from Garden Conservancy staff. Artists spent between 50 and 100 hours on each piece of art, in a range of media including watercolor, graphite, and colored pencil.
The organizers of the Alcatraz Floralegium project were NCalSBA members Lyn Dahl, Sally Petru, and Catherine Watters, together with Shelagh Fritz, the Garden Conservancy’s project manager for the Gardens of Alcatraz.
What is a Florilegium?
A Florilegium is a collection of botanical drawings and paintings depicting the plants of an area. A Florilegium can be of plants found in a particular garden, such as the Gardens of Alcatraz, or the plants found on a voyage of exploration such as Captain Cook’s voyage to the South Seas in the 18th century. Historically, Florilegiums were created to document plants scientifically long before cameras were invented. Contemporary Florilegiums continue this tradition.
The Northern California Society of Botanical Artists is a chapter of the American Society of Botanical Society (ASBA), whose mission is to promote public awareness of contemporary botanical art, honoring its traditions and furthering its development.
The Gardens of Alcatraz are a collaborative venture of the Garden Conservancy, Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and National Park Service. In 2003, the three organizations joined forces to restore the historic gardens. Today, a small staff and an army of dedicated volunteers plant and prune, compost and weed, restore and revive gardens that were neglected for forty years.
The Garden Conservancy is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving America’s exceptional gardens. The Garden Conservancy works to save gardens of horticultural and historic significance (such as the Gardens of Alcatraz) for the education and enjoyment of the public, and to provide access to outstanding private gardens through Open Days and other programs.  
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  • The Northern California chapter on Alcatraz for the collection of specimens to be submitted to the first florilegium. (c) 2013 Catherine Watters