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Step outside to see the local artists in the 30th Annual Sculpture in the Garden

Botanical Garden 2.jpg

The North Carolina Botanical Garden is a conservation garden dedicated to the conservation of native plants. Photo courtesy of Emily Oglesby.

The North Carolina Botanical Garden will be hosting its 30th Annual Sculpture in the Garden exhibit from September until December. The exhibit consists of 52 different installations of sculptures by 30 North Carolina artists. 

“They range from small, whimsical figurative pieces to really tall abstract forms,” Emily Oglesby, the coordinator for the exhibit, said. “There are pieces that are made out of steel, concrete, ceramic, glass, wood, granite and marble – there is something for everyone.”

The show will display pieces from different North Carolina artists, some who have been professional sculptors their whole lives.

“The purpose of the show is to provide people with new ways of looking at both sculpture and the natural world, and the relationship between these two things,” Oglesby said. 

Ken Moore, the first full-time state employee to work for the N.C. Botanical Garden, said the exhibit has an interesting background.

“The Sculpture in the Garden exhibit started in 1988, and my wife was a student in the art department at the time,” Moore said. “A bunch of the students, including my wife, were judged into the Durham Arts Show one year, and several students saw their pieces and realized that their pieces needed to be outside in the landscape." 

Moore said at that time if anybody put out pieces of art on UNC's campus, they were vandalized almost immediately. 

“They realized they could not do an outdoor sculpture show on campus because of the risk of vandalism,” he said. “Because I was the assistant director of the Botanical Garden, I said ‘Well, we have an area that has a big fence around it and it’s always protected, so why don’t we use the Botanical Garden for a sculpture show.’” 

Moore managed the logistics and his wife curated the show. She invited artists from South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia to display their sculptures.

Over the years, the exhibit has placed an emphasis on North Carolina artists, and submissions for this year’s show were invitation only. 

“We have a working list of people who do outdoor sculptures in our area, and we try to get a wide variety of art and include as many people as we can,” said Oglesby.

Moore said that it is worthwhile to visit the exhibit at least four different times – once in September, again in October, again in November and then again in December.

“The pieces of sculpture change in their visual appeal based on the fact that the plants around them change,” he said. “It’s really magical.”

Jennifer Peterson, the communications manager at the N.C. Botanical Garden, said that the environment within the garden contributes to the art itself.

“It’s really interesting to see how the scenery of the exhibit changes as different flowers and plants start blooming,” she said. “They really give the sculptures a new perspective.”

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