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ABBA Goes to America

Updated: Jan 10, 2020

The president of ABBA, Gaynor Dickeson, joined other members of our society plus many more botanical artists from around the world to help the Association of American Botanical Artists celebrate 25 years since their launch.

The American Society of Botanical Artists, now probably the biggest botanical artists group in the world, just enjoyed its 25th, silver anniversary annual conference, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

ASBA had asked its chapters and circles across the country to help mark the anniversary.  It aimed for a series of rolling celebrations nationwide through 2019, on the theme of Celebrating Silver, complemented by its ‘full size’ catalogue of members work, based on the same theme. 

That catalogue also describes ASBA’s formation and history in a milestone record of its achievements. In her forward to the document, Diane Bouchier ASBA’s founder, describes her aims in starting the association. Her introduction to the meeting proceeded the anniversary video also shown at the meeting.

In this video Carol Woodin highlights one of her favourite things about the Association.

“The community ASBA has created for botanical artists is an inclusive community, we welcome anyone who would like to join”

ASBA’s unstinting, quarter century of warm welcome to anyone interested in botanical art is a tribute to her foresight. It was also an inspiration to the founders of ABBA, the UK’s Association of British Botanical Artists established in 2016.    

All this set the scene for very busy event in Pittsburgh. This stretched over seven days, well past the usual three or four days at ASBA annual conferences.  Over 350 people, who came from across the USA and around the world enjoyed classes, lectures, and workshops.  There were discussions, auctions and an art bazar, as well as lots of networking and the opportunity to meet lots of like-minded people. We all met many old friends and found new ones in all directions. 

Apart from those numbers, more than 100 up on early estimates, and the 25th anniversary celebrations, this was typical for an ASBA annual conference.

And then there was the 2nd International Congress of Botanical Art.  This one-day event, organised by ASBA followed immediately after the regular annual conference.  It aimed to collect and air experiences from the people around the world who’d organised their parts of the 2018 Botanical Art Worldwide exhibition, including a presentation by our President Gaynor Dickeson. 

Second International Art Convention - Gaynor in panel discussion.

The results were fascinating, with imaginative and inspiring differences in approach from the 25 national groups involved. Those exhibitions attracted thousands of visitors in the 25 countries and raised the profile for botanical art in all the 25 counties. 

Everyone in all the groups from around the globe was enthusiastic and delighted with the results and the range of innovative approaches, importantly, all saw the opportunity to learn from each other’s experiences.  

There is a widespread feeling that this success should lead to even more creative approaches to botanical art exhibitions, locally, nationally and internationally.  Already there are early plans to set up a European botanical art group, and hopefully there will be more about that in the future.

Those botanical art exhibitions and the interest they stimulate bring the opportunity to help more people understand the vital role of plants in the protection of our environment.  This should lead to another worldwide botanical art exhibition and more effort to celebrate World Plant Day in mid-May. 

The Second International Art Convention ended with a thought-provoking presentation by Sir Peter Crane, FRS, on the Future of Plants.  Crane, an ex-director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, is now the president of the Oak Spring Garden Foundation in the US and senior research scientist in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University. We all need to hear more scientists express similar views.

Robin Dickeson - November 2019

Pittsburgh University District

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