Last year I started our festive season letter with this:
"Well what a year it has been. Little did we know in early March that the next nine months would see the world change, probably forever. It has seemed a little surreal but as a primarily online botanical art group, ABBA has thrived which might have something to do with long periods locked up in our homes with less of the hustle and bustle we normally have to deal with."
It's twelve months on and we are still living in what seems to be a surreal world. Jabbed we may have been if we are lucky, but here in the United Kingdom we are facing the festive season dominated by another variant of Covid-19. There is still a lot of the Greek alphabet to go. However, the opening words last year are still true - it has been a fantastic year for ABBA. One significant element has been the growth in our international members who now comprise around 40% of our botanical art community with members from 33 countries. We are really pleased to see this growth as it is one way ABBA can bring together our members and showcase their work to an international audience. When you think about it, a physical exhibition may last a few weeks or at most a few months and is geographically restricted to those who can attend. They are gone in a flash and mostly are never seen again.
We now have seven online exhibitions and all of our members artwork is still available for viewing in the ABBA Gallery. These exhibitions represent over 300 pieces of submitted artwork and over time, ABBA will build a great collection of botanical art from across the world that will always be available for your enjoyment.
Speaking of exhibitions we are really pleased with our current gallery - "ReflectionS". In collaboration with the Shirley Sherwood Gallery and Royal Botanic Gardens Kew we decided to do something a little different and challenged our members to produce thought provoking pieces of work based around the theme of the impact of a changing climate on our flora. We particularly liked Nereide Gilhead's suggestion for a sub theme of "no plants - no planet". The topic was specifically chosen to coincide with the United Nations COP26 held in Glasgow in October 2021. As the hustle and bustle of COP26 fades from the media we are very proud to have on permanent display the ABBA members' contributions to the conversation about our changing planet.
A big thanks to Charlotte Brookes, Mary-Ellen Taylor and Martin Allen who acted as judges to select those digital works that are currently on exhibition in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery. As you know Charlotte and Martin are ABBA Trustees and play a key role in the smooth running of the association while Mary-Ellen is the Chair of the Chelsea Physic Garden Florilegium Society.
If you have not viewed ReflectionS I really encourage you to see the artwork, there are some stunning pieces. If you live in the U.K. then try and get to the Shirley Sherwood Gallery for the Zadok Ben-David - Natural Reserve, Elegant and Enchanting and ReflectionS exhibitions. They are open until March 27th, 2022.
We are so pleased with ReflectionS that we are seriously considering producing a hard copy as both the artwork and accompany stories are one of those exhibitions worth having on the coffee table for a good read. All entries to ReflectionS will be included as we support all members who submit work regardless of where they are in their botanical art journey. We expect to make the final decision in the next few weeks but if you think this is a good idea then drop us a line firstname.lastname@example.org. The publication would be made available to ABBA members at an "interesting" discount. If you are interested in a copy of any of the artwork then contact us and we will put you in touch with the artist.
In 2022 we are planning two exhibitions and the ABBA Team has agreed that each exhibition will open around the same dates each year so that our members will have plenty of notice. This means an exhibition starting in May and our main exhibition at the beginning of November. We can reveal that our exhibition in November 2022 will be called "Miniscule" so look out for more details and the specific criteria in early January. After much discussion we think that setting criteria for our main exhibition each year in November and a less formal exhibition in May will hopefully cater for all our members. We have to keep reminding ourselves we are a botanical art association so that already sets the basic criteria.
On another note 2022 will see ABBA apply for charitable status. This will have many advantages moving forward as an organization since we will have access to resources that would otherwise not be available. In the U.K. amongst other advantages, charities are often able to raise funds from the public, grant-making trusts and local government more easily than non-charitable bodies. They are able to give the public the assurance that they are monitored and advised by The Charity Commission and charities benefit from public recognition and trust often being recognised for the social benefit they provide. Moving to a charitable status will also involve some changes to the association that we see as beneficial to our members. More details to follow.
A great series this year has been the live Zoom sessions hosted by Pam and Annie, relating to a particular botanical topic. These have been so popular they are usually booked out within 48 hours. In 2021 Pam Taylor and Annie Morris
have run four events with more than 200 members participating. These informal sessions are both educational and fun, they run for an hour and involve a relaxed exchange of ideas around a plant group. Since these sessions have been so popular we intend to run them again in 2022.
Speaking of educational events focussed around botany and botanical art, we have decided to form a small group within the ABBA Team who will develop this educational aspect of the association. Pamela Taylor and Annie Morris will be joined by Emma van Klaveren. Emma is currently a member of our Social Media Team and we are very happy she has agreed to lead the education team, working with Pam and Annie to introduce some new opportunities for our members. Any ideas are very welcome so if you would like to see more educational initiatives then drop us a line. Even better if you would like to get involved with the new team we would love to hear from you.
Our social media team have also transformed the way ABBA communicates with its members and followers. One of the key elements are regular posts on topics or artwork that are of interest, particularly the Facebook series managed by Emma van Klaveren and the Instagram page maintained by Marie Batters. Our twitter account managed by Martin Allen completes this very active team and a big thanks is due for the effort they have put in in 2021. Subscribers have ballooned since the Social Media Team started and we now have 2000 Instagram, 3500 Facebook and 1200 Twitter followers.
If you have forgotten we also have a YouTube Channel where our video's have a home. This channel is not intended to compete with many fabulous online botanical art resources but to fill a little botanical niche. This is a starter collection that will grow over time. There is one more video to publish in the 3 B's series which will be added to the channel early 2022. If you have any ideas on topics you would like to see please let us know. Even better if you would like to pop up a video you have made or would like to make send us your ideas.
And finally, look out for a big announcement in the New Year.
We hope you have a peaceful, healthy and happy 2022 and we are really looking forward to your company for another fruitful year of botanical art.
All our best wishes, stay safe.
President - Association of British Botanical Artists