For years, Ann Alexander attended the annual sculpture exhibit at the N.C. Botanical Garden to support her artist friends and an organization that she loved.
But last year, Alexander, a member of the garden’s board, and her husband Lex, a longtime art collector, decided to take their involvement to the next level.
SEE THE EXHIBIT
N.C. Botanical Garden through Nov. 19
Weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission is free.
“We thought the show could improve its image in the community,” she said. “We wanted to make the level and the quality of the artwork higher than it had been.”
As a result of their initiative, the 23rd annual Sculpture in the Garden exhibit, which will run through Nov. 19, is the first to include artists by invitation only. The exhibit includes pieces that range in price from $250 to $23,000.
Alexander said she hopes this new selectivity and larger opening event will increase the exhibit’s prestige in the art world and prominence in the community.
The Alexanders established an advisory committee with local art experts including sculptor Thomas Sayre and Ackland Art Museum Director Emily Kass to help select artists to include.
The couple then invited the committee to dinner, and together looked over a list of artists who had been included in the exhibit in the past and added new names. Ultimately, 30 artists accepted their invitation.
Kass said limiting the number of participating artists was a big improvement.
“A show can be too big, and you can get overwhelmed,” she said.
Durham artist Michael Waller — whose pieces “Cosmic Buddha” and “A Gathering” are in the exhibit — said he normally doesn’t participate in exhibits like this, but he was honored to be included and accepted the invitation.
“It’s cool to be in a show where you’re all friends, you all make art,” he said
Kass said limiting the number will also allow a variety of talents to show work from year to year.
“By having other people from the art world involved, it stays more lively,” she said.
The Alexanders also envisioned a more elaborate opening event and bigger monetary awards to generate interest and excitement.
Next year, she said the garden plans to get more sponsors and residents involved to increase the exhibit’s presence in Chapel Hill.
For now, the exhibit offers a chance for two worlds to collide.
“I’ve always loved the botanical garden,” Kass said. “I don’t know very much about botany, so I was glad I could give back in this way.”
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